March 4, 2011

Tips for parents to help their children make the most of school

By John Shaughnessy

Marsha Sander is the parent of four children who have graduated from college in a wide range of majors.

She has also been a teacher for 29 years.

With that combination of experiences, the English teacher at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis has a number of tips for parents—to help their children make the most of their education.

  • “Be aware of how your child is performing in school via parent/teacher conferences. Readily ask questions of importance to you.”
  • “If online grades are available, check twice a week—Monday and Friday—to promote discussion about what is happening at school, and how your son or daughter feels about that week.”
  • “Feel free to e-mail your child’s teacher. We are usually busy all day and do not have time to talk. Yet we are able to check e-mail and respond expediently if a parent leaves a message. Certainly face-to-face time is vital. Let’s schedule that time together.”

Here is more advice for parents from the four other winners of the Saint Theodora Excellence in Education Award for 2010-11.

Reach for the best

“I would like to tell parents that in order to improve their child’s educational experience, they must first accept the child for the gift that he or she is, and the gifts that he or she has been given,” says Patty Mauer, a fourth-grade teacher at St. Patrick School in Terre Haute.

“Then guide him or her with great values and love—sometimes even the tough kind—to reach their best. With these things in place, a child’s educational experience can improve because it won’t be measured solely by the letters placed upon a report card.”

Focus on nature and family

“Keep your children connected to the natural world by spending a lot of time outdoors,” says Lisa Hannon, a first-grade teacher at St. Malachy School in Brownsburg. “Appreciate and honor creation. Get scissors, crayons and paper in their hands at an early age. Use technology as the wonderful tool it is, but keep it in perspective.

“Talk to your children. Dine together. Enjoy the simple pleasures of family life. And don’t cave in to the pressure of signing them up for every extracurricular activity out there.”

Spark the wonder

“I advise parents to read early and often to their children, and keep reading out loud together as long as they will let you,” says Mary Rose Collins, a high school English teacher at Lumen Christi School in Indianapolis. “Talk about the stories, question your child’s understanding and have fun with the books.

“Grades are not nearly as important as understanding. You are the one who will begin to nurture curiosity and a sense of wonder in your child. School is just part of it.”

Foster a team effort

“A family must be part of their child’s education by getting involved in the school, supporting the school and academics, keeping the lines of communication open, and making their child’s education a team effort between the school, teacher and family,” says Stephany Tucker, a junior high teacher at St. Anthony of Padua School in Clarksville. †

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