How to Help Your Kids Succeed in School (Six Insider Tips from a Middle School Teacher)

Jerrah Lee BroeskyFeaturedLeave a Comment

We’re one month into school, folks!

With the kids wading into the new year, it’s easy for parents to lose touch with what they’re doing in school, and can be even harder to know how, as a parent, to pitch in and help your kids succeed.

So, as we finish our first month, I thought I’d share a few thoughts from teacher world at this time of year.

From my teacher heart to yours, here are a few insider tips on how you can help your kids have an excellent academic year.  

Encourage Food and Water (No, It’s Not as Obvious as You Might Think)

I know, this sounds obvious but I don’t think it is. I wonder how many parents are aware that some kids walk into school at 9:00 am drinking a can of pop. On a normal morning I see a few students eating a granola bar at morning recess break, but more often I see chips, other treats, or nothing at all.

Teacher Tip #1: Encourage your kid to make healthy choices at school. Stay hydrated with water and eat food that fuels you. A full belly = more focus, better behavior and a boost in cognitive function.

Teacher Tip #2: We believe so much in the connection between food and learning that most schools have programs in place for families who may need help with securing food. Lots of schools in our area can offer kids a discreet way to have a free daily lunch. If you are struggling, please call your school. We want to help.

Readers are Thinkers – Let’s Get Them Reading

Yep, you’ve probably heard this since kindergarten. Your kid needs to read. A lot.

I actually don’t care about reading logs, parent signatures and special prizes for reading 5 days in a row. I don’t care (that much) about your monthly reading projects. I don’t care about what happened on page 58 in your monthly novel.

Here’s what I, your teacher, really care about and want:

  • I want your kid to love reading.
  • I want your kid to understand what they read.
  • I want your kid to think deeply and critically about information presented to them.
  • I want your kid to ask questions about what the read.
  • I want your kid to know how to find answers to their questions.
  • I want your kid to have knowledge and vocabulary so they can hold their own in tough conversations.

Now, that’s not to say the means to get there doesn’t come with reading logs and monthly projects. But please know there is a reason. Different teachers have different means to getting there, but we have the same goal. We want to raise a generation of thinkers.

Teacher Tip: Do whatever you can to help your kid read. Buy them books. Let them listen to audiobooks. Listening to audiobooks is completely legitimate. Did you know that listening to a book can activate the same parts of your brain with the same level of intensity as reading words on a page? Talk to your kid about what they are reading. Let them watch you read.

Live By Example – Invest in Your School

Something happens in middle school: we suddenly don’t see as many parents around our building. I get it – not as many teachers are asking for parent volunteers. We don’t need as many parents on field trips. We don’t have a ton of jobs for you in the classroom like in an elementary school.

I think it’s something we all need to work on. As a teacher, I want you in the building. I want to email with you. I want you to comment on your kid’s work when they post on Seesaw. I want you to show up if I invite parents to an afternoon of their kids presenting their learning.

Teacher Tip: Take advantage of any opportunity you can to be involved in your child’s learning. If your child is in middle school or high school, please be patient with us teachers as we find more ways to get you involved.

Don’t Stress About Term 1 Report Cards

Not all report cards are created equal. I wish term 1 and term 2 report cards (speaking for early years and middle years here) weren’t called report cards. It sounds so official. Think of it more as a snapshot. When your term 1 snapshot comes home, it’s merely showing you where things are at. Your kid has the rest of the year to work on what that final report in June will say.

We are sure busy in September and October. Do the academics matter? Yes. But we are also doing a whole lot of other important work in the first few months: trying to get to know your kid, develop a relationship and create a classroom culture where your kid can thrive.

Teacher Tip: Stay in the loop. Likely, a lot of their work stays at school and isn’t coming home. That’s probably okay. Want to know how your kid is doing? Have a relationship with the teacher. It’s totally good to email your kid’s teacher at the beginning of October and say “Hey there! Just wondering how my kid is doing? Is there anything I can do at home to help?” Throwing in a compliment about what’s going well won’t hurt either.

Encourage Your Kid to be Kind and Courageous

Character matters! As the teacher, I’m watching to see which kids I can count on to come alongside others. School can be tough. There are kids from hard places who need a friend. Teach your kid that every person at school matters. Teach your kid how to make conversation with anyone. Teach your kid to speak up when necessary and walk away when the time is right.

Teacher Tip: Parents, talk to your kids about what happens at school. Specifically, ask them what’s happening on the playground and in the hallways. Challenge them to find the kids who need a friend. At school, we can’t force kids to be friends with each other. We can’t even make them be nice. The best we can do is encourage respect and inclusion. You have the power here to raise a kind and courageous kid.

Keep These Away From Your Kids In School

Can I just say, please don’t send your kids to school with phones. Unless your kid’s teacher specifically asks them to bring it for a project, it’s usually pointless. Either it sits in their locker, at-risk of being stolen, or they’re using to go on social media, play games, and text.

Is that stuff bad? Nope.

Does it really need to be at school? Sorry, nope.

 Need to get in touch with your kid? Call the school. We’ll make sure they get the message.

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Jerrah-Lee Broesky

Jerrah-Lee is a middle school teacher with two young kids. She’s been married for nearly 12 years to her husband, Kevin. She loves learning and in recent years has focused her attention on brain science and healthy family relationships. She also enjoys learning about how to organize her family life in a way that is practical and balanced.

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