The Tutoring Center, Sugar Hill GA

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10/30/2013
School started in August, so you will be soon receiving your student’s first report card of the year.  While we all wish our student had excellent grades in every subject, it is possible that one or more of them may not meet your expectations.  When this happens, here are a few suggestions for parents. 

1. Celebrate the wins: Congratulate your child on the grades that were above, or met, your expectations. It is important that your student knows that you are proud of their successes, even if few.  Find something good to say about their report card, first and foremost! Your student needs to realize that you support their efforts and hard work, even if they don’t meet all your expectations at this time. Circle the good grades and post them on a refrigerator to show them you are proud of them. Ask your child how (s)he feels about the school term before discussing the report card. Be sure to let children know that discussing concerns is good. This way they will be more likely to let you know if there are any problems. Also ask them about any “easy A’s” they got – is the material too easy for them? Are they bored? 

2.  Don’t Panic, Don’t Over-react: If the report card has several disappointing grades, don’t panic, and definitely don’t over-react! While either is easy to do, and are often our instinctive gut reactions, studies have shown that either such reaction may well mean worse grades in the future.  It is perfectly acceptable to show concern to your child about the poor grades, but only after you have congratulated them on their good ones.  Once you have said good things about their report card, feel free to talk to them about it in a concerned tone, and then start the process of setting up a plan for success in place.

3.  Find the root of the problem:  Every failure has one or more reasons. Your student may not understand the material being taught in class, may not have attended the session where some critical material was covered, may be generally inattentive in that class, have a focus/concentration issue, may not understand material from the previous year and is unable to understand the current material, etc.  As a parent, you need to talk with your child, and help figure out the root cause of the problem(s).  It is only by identifying the few root causes of the poor grades in each subject that you will be able to come up with possible solution options to consider.  A very valuable resource in finding the root cause(s) will be your student’s teacher, who will be able to give you good inputs about your students performance, attitude and abilities.  Listen carefully and take notes without becoming defensive or trying to find excuses for your child’s poor performance. While not every teacher will work with you extensively, be aware that your student’s teacher has as much interest in your child’s success as you do, if not more!

4.  Set a plan in place: Once all the root causes have been identified for each poor grade, work with your student to set a practical, achievable, time-bound plan in place that addresses each of the issues.  Your plan must have specific and reachable goals to be achieved by a certain point in the near future, and must have measures of success (grades, % of homework completion on time, etc.) clearly defined. For example, it is probably unrealistic to go from a "D" to an "A" on the next report card; a “C”, however, may be much more realistic, and a “B” grade on the next report card a good stretch-goal. Completing all homework on time or achieving an "A" on two or more assignments is another possible goal. In all instances, encourage your child to do their best.  Also ensure your child has a quiet place to study, and a regular time after school when they do so. Consider buying extra workbooks in the subject, or downloading work sheets from the internet for your child to practice with. 

5.  Stay in touch: We all lead very busy lives, so gradually drift out of touch with what is going on in our child’s school life. It is important to stay the course till you not only see a change in your students grades, but well after, otherwise your student may well regress.  It is important to communicate with your child’s teachers and tutors, and your child, on a regular basis, on each of the subjects being taught in school.  Your student will pick up on the continued interest, and stay diligent in pursuing the plan put together for his/her success. 

6.  Positive and Negative Incentives: Some people think that incentives are a poor way to make your child improve – let me assure you that they are not.  Every person gets incentives at some point, whether in the corporate world, in business for themselves, or in school.  Positive incentives help a student work harder; negative incentives (removing something they like) also help a student work harder to get them back. Examples of positive incentives include something special that your child enjoys, like a favorite cookie showing up as a surprise in their lunchbox, some special time alone with a parent or grandparent, the chance to go somewhere with friends, etc.  If your child's grades don't improve, take away something (s)he likes or enjoys doing, e.g. a game controller or a computer or a favorite TV show. Be sure to tell your child that if you see improvement with their grades in two weeks or so that they can earn some of their time back on the things that they enjoy doing. Above all, both parents need to be firm in implementing both positive and negative incentives, and staying the course. 

7.  If still needed, hire a tutor: If your child is truly having learning problems and you are just not able to help them, consider hiring a tutor. There are several reputable tutoring services in your community, as well as college goers or a family member who may be willing to tutor someone in Elementary, Junior High or High School for free or for a low fee. Ensure that your child’s tutor is able to focus exclusively on your child – each student is different, and needs exclusive and specific attention in their weak areas.

8.   Remember to reward results: When your student achieves their goals, reward the results quickly and fairly. Surprise them with a small gift, or some special time, or something they like for having done well. Exhort them to continue to do better, and ensure you praise effort and improvement along with good grades. Children should want good grades in school our of pride in themselves as well as an understanding that success in school is necessary for later success in life.

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