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4 ways to help your kid succeed, according to local teachers
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Martina Hewitt, a fifth-grade teacher at Gainesville Exploration Academy, and Renee Boatright, principal at Gainesville Exploration Academy, left, go over last year's student performance. - photo by David Barnes

Teachers may have the most direct impact on a student’s education, but most will quickly say they can’t do it alone.

In addition to other teachers, coaches, tutors and mentors, teachers say they need parents who can work with them to help their children succeed. The Times asked teachers to share advice they would give to parents to help their children succeed during the 2017-18 school year.

1. Get involved

“Parental involvement is one of the keys to their success,” said Martina Hewitt, a fifth-grade teacher at Gainesville Exploration Academy. She recommended attending open house and addressing needs early.

Lara Mallard, a language/composition and American literature teacher at Gainesville High, also encouraged parents to stay involved.

“We have many opportunities for parents to stay involved and in touch with what their children are doing in school, including Powerschool access for parents, school and district calendar of events on our website, email access to teachers, teacher websites and automated phone calls/email messages. Students who have parents who stay involved are significantly more successful in school.”

Courtney Hagans, an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Gainesville Middle, said parents should make it a priority to find out which way a teacher prefers to communicate.

2. Make a routine

Michelle Conable, a seventh-grade life science teacher at South Hall Middle School, encouraged parents to have children set aside time for homework each day.

“I think the parents should go ahead and set aside 15-20 minutes every single day whether they have homework or not,” Conable said. “If they don’t have homework, you can say, ‘OK, you can read, you can do multiplication facts or you can study science or social studies notes. That way they’ll learn to say, ‘You know, I actually do have homework. Let me take this time to do it.’ That would really be helpful.”

She added that parents should look at their child’s agenda or journal to see if there is homework.

“They should not trust their kid when they say they don’t have homework,” Conable said. “They can go back and look.”
Hagans suggested parents require their kids spend 30 minutes reading at home.

“This is not just for elementary school,” she said. “We all learn as we read. Encourage them to read things that are not easy for them to muddle through. If they get to words they do not know or understand, they can use clues within the text or even use a dictionary to look up the definition. They can read something as simple as a newspaper article or a magazine.”

3. Offer help when it’s needed

Conable also encouraged parents to teach good study habits.

“(Students) can read through the notes and not pay attention to what they’re reading,” Conable said. “If the parent will quiz them, then they will comprehend better and practice, and they’re learning how to study.”

Hagans said parents can also learn about services the school provides.

“Most teachers offer tutoring or extra help,” she said. “Find out at open house what each teacher’s tutoring times are. This way, if the need arises, you know exactly how to get help for your child.”

Mallard said parents can help their child learn time management skills.

“One of the biggest struggles we see with high school students is learning time management to handle school work and extracurricular demands,” she said. “A great thing that parents could do is to help their children learn time management skills such as keeping a calendar of due dates and events. This calendar could be a written calendar in a notebook, agenda, or on the refrigerator at home, or it could be a digital calendar that students can easily access on their phones or other devices. With a digital calendar, students can set up alarms to remind them of upcoming due dates and events.”

4. Prioritize learning

Parents can help set the tone at home for the importance they place on their child’s academic success.

Hewitt listed some ways parents can do this: “I think overall just holding their kids accountable for reaching their goals, setting goals for their kids and thinking of ways to reach their goals and once they get there, going back and reflecting.”
Mallard said the most important thing parents can do is stress the need for their child to learn something everyday.

“While test scores can be a valuable assessment of skills, the classes that students take in high school are about much more than just the test,” Mallard said. “The growth and learning that takes place in these classes is so much more important to students’ long-term success. Supporting and championing your children in their journey and struggles of learning new ideas, concepts and information can foster a desire and love of learning that will be invaluable to them in the future.”

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