Encouraging Academic Progress
As we move through the winter months the transition to a new calendar year often brings with it discussions of goals or resolutions for the New Year. In families with students in school, these discussions often include a conversation regarding academic grades. These conversations will take place in a variety of settings as parents work to determine how to best encourage and support the academic success of their children. In order to make those interactions as productive as possible, here are some principles to keep in mind. I’ve shared these in this column before, but they bear repeating as we progress through a new year.
- Talk about grades as feedback instead of labels. discuss the learning that the grades reflect. By focusing on the learning that is taking place instead of just on the grade we help our children stay focused on the purpose of school, and instead of talking about what can be done to “raise the grade” we can focus our discussions on what can be done to improve learning. Focusing on learning instead of grades promotes better long-term attitudes about school, and less stress related to the overwhelming need to get a specific grade.
- Emphasize the importance of effort and gorwth. Low grades are not always bad, and high grades should not suggest students have reached the pinnacle of their potential. All children should be engaged in challenging activities that push them excel. A love of challenges will help students develop academic and behavioral skills that will support their future achievement. In the words of Dr. Carol Dweck, “If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”
- Listen. When we have discussions with our children about grades, whether they be high or low, we should try to spend more time listening than talking. By asking questions that probe how a child feels about their grades, school, and their interests, and then actively listening, we gain a greater understanding of their needs and how we can best support them as parents. Children and adolescents don’t respond any better to conversations they perceive as “nagging” than adults do, and listening can help ensure the conversation doesn’t go that direction.
These three simple principles can help any parent ensure that conversations surrounding achievement in school remain positive, and support ongoing success for children. Good luck!
Superintendent, Logan City School District