For most schoolchildren, December marks the midpoint of the school year. As kids rush home with their report cards, are their minds focused on their grades and continued studies? Of course not! They're focused on the holidays ahead!
But parents and teachers will be focusing on those report cards. They'll be examining the grades and comments, analyzing what they represent, and looking for opportunities to maintain the momentum or make positive changes. The goal is to avoid that post-midyear slump.
Is a slough off after midyear a real syndrome?
According to Jennifer Cross, M.D., a specialist in Pediatric Behavior and Development at New York City's Weill Cornell Medical Center, almost all kids have a honeymoon period at the beginning of the school year, as they get to know their teachers, classmates, and schoolwork. Around midyear, things change. Lack of physical activity and holiday distractions affect kids who started off working hard. They tend to get complacent and slough off, but they usually do pull it back out at the end of the year. "It's a pretty common scenario," Dr. Cross says, and not just for the students with learning or behavioral issues.
Read and follow up on midyear report cards
Georgia, a NYC teacher, urges parents to pay attention to midyear report cards and all they signify. "Make sure you ask for the report card, and really read it, and that you come to parent-teacher conferences." She puts at least three targeted comments on each report card and says parents should follow through on them. For instance, if it says your child needs extra help, see if you can get a tutor. If the economy is a factor, contact the teacher (parent coordinator or principal) about extra help and study groups. "Almost every school offers some kind of free day session," Georgia says. If they don't, they'll usually start one to accommodate parent requests. Parents in need can also look into Young People's Academy, a supplemental educational services program from The United Federation of Teachers (www.ufttc.org).
Take advantage of technology
Use the electronic system your school set up to review records. If it's a NYC public school, ask your child for the ARIS code he/she received, and use it to check on grades or missing assignments. Find out if the teacher maintains a blog or other on-line communication tool. E-mail teachers with questions and concerns - the standard e-mail address format for NYC schoolteachers is first initial, last name @schools.nyc.gov. Investigate sites like www.languagegames.org, www.studyisland.com, and www.homeworkspot.com for interactive course reviews and standard test practice.
Getting and Staying Organized is Key
...says Dr. Cross. She underscores the value of planning and organization, and a parent's role in maintaining them:
- Designate a special workplace and keep it free of distractions like TV, radio, or family traffic
- Use visual aids, like a big monthly wall calendar, to schedule and track homework, tests, and longer-range projects
- Limit computer use during homework time. Younger kids should not turn on the computer at all; ensure that older students who work on computers close their Facebook and AIM applications
- Have all supplies (e.g. calculators, scissors, graph paper, highlighters/crayons, textbooks, index cards, and glue) readily available
- Color code work, papers, and folders so children can file old papers away and know where to find them again
- Use end-of-chapter questions and old notes to practice for exams (and review them regularly)
- Try to involve multiple senses: integrating analytical thinking, writing, drawing, talking, and physical movement helps children absorb material
Explore all avenues for better grades
Getting a tutor or extra help might be the solution when your child hasn't grasped a concept, yet there are other reasons for less-than-perfect grades. Some teachers simply don't give out the highest possible grade in early marking periods, so the child will keep striving. It's helpful to know whether the teacher has a rubric or standards sheet that explains all the criteria for a grade. Sometimes, a poor grade is due to a missed or late assignment, or absence - if so, arrange for students to make up the work. If participation is an issue, coach your child on confidence and public speaking.
When your child comes home with his midyear report card, praise the good, reward the effort, and discuss the deeper meanings and changes. And don't forget to map out a strategy for the second half of the school year.