It feels like we just headed back to school, but time is flying and report cards are already making their way home. This can be a stressful time for students and families, when the first indication of how a child is doing at school becomes apparent in ink. As a child enters a new grade, it can be hard not to be shocked by what is coming home on the first report card. You know that your child is smart and that they have succeeded in the past, but maybe this report card is sending red flags and you don't know what to make of it.
Instead of letting this one piece of paper set your household in to a tailspin, there are a few things that you can do to set your child on the path to seeing better results next grading period. It is always important to remember to encourage your child, even when they bring home grades that are undesirable. As adults we have seen our fair share of failure, and have used that failure to direct our efforts and teach us lessons..this moment is a perfect opportunity to share insight about moving on from failure with your child. After having this chat, consider some of these options to to set your child on a better path for next grading period, and/or find out what is really going on behind the grade.
Communicate with your child
Talk to your child about the report card and see what they have to say. They may be just as surprised as you are, or they may not be surprised at all. Ask them how the subject is going in school, what they feel like when they are in class, and what is going on around them when they are learning. It could be that they sit next to someone who is too noisy for their concentration level, can't see the board, can't hear the teacher, don't understand the material or a number of other things. Your child may tell you something that gives you really great headway on how to help remedy the situation, or something that you can discuss with the teacher to find a fix.
Set a goal
Maybe you find out the reason for the unexpected grade is that your child didn't do all of the homework, or that they did not get enough practice with the material to master it. You can help your child set a goal to fix the problem, and then hold them accountable for reaching that it. This may even be a good time for you to set a goal that your child can also hold you accountable for. Make sure to discuss and write down the steps or behaviors that will need to be accomplished in order for the goal to be reached. For example, if the aim is for your child to complete 95% of the homework assignments and get them turned in, the steps or behaviors might be: Get the homework folder out and complete all assignments right after school. Let someone in the family check or look at my homework. Check to make sure all homework is back in my bag before bed time. Hand in my homework when my teacher asks me for it. Sometimes writing steps down can help a child see that accomplishing their desired behavior is achievable and also can help them remember what they need to do. After setting the goal, show support for your child by asking them "How can I help you reach your goal?" or "How can I help you be successful?". These questions help you show support, while still keeping your child responsible for their own goal. Obviously, your assistance depends on the age of the child.
Communicate with the teacher
Reach out to the teacher and see what they have to say about your child's grade. Since the teacher is the one who is up close and personal with your child's school work, they may have some insight as to how to remedy the situation. You can also communicate to the teacher what your child feels they are struggling with in class. Collaborate with the teacher to see what you need to be doing at home, and they may decide to also do something different with your child based on your insight as well. Make sure not to sound accusatory or blame the teacher for your child's grade or performance. Also remember to give the teacher a few days to get back to you after you first reach out, report card time can get VERY busy for teachers. Chances are there are some other parents also contacting the teacher with concerns.
Make adjustments to your routine
Sometimes the report card can be a sign that the routine is just not working for your child in the same way that it did last year. The new demands of a new grade, or extra after school activities may signal time for a change in the routine. Consider changing the time at which you do homework. Maybe your child will get more done if they do homework right after school, while they still have momentum from the school day. Alternatively, you may discover your child gets more done if they have a 1-2 hour break to clear their head and recharge before they try and tackle their homework. If homework isn't the issue, consider bed times, breakfast, or nightly routines. Play around and see what is going to work best for your family this year.
Seek outside help
You may find that your child has gaps in their learning that are making it hard for them to succeed at the level that their grade is currently working. Or your child may need more practice with subject matter than they are getting at school. Seeking help from a tutor can be a great option for students who need extra practice, or who need to fill in gaps in learning. A tutor is able to help your student learn in ways that work for them and create activities and practice that cater to your child's learning style. When I am first meeting with clients, I always make sure to ask what specific areas the parent is worried about in their child's academic progress. Make sure to communicate with your tutor often to ensure that everyone is on the same page. A tutor can help your child in a way that can greatly impact their experience and performance in academics long after tutoring sessions have ceased.
There is no guarantee that these suggestions will work in your individual situation, but I have found that they are always a good place to start. When dealing with your child's academic struggles remember that you are not alone. You have a community of teachers, tutors and mentors right around you.