Anoka to Little Falls, educators thank, offer specific suggestions for families

What can families do to help make this a great year for their youngsters?  School leaders from around the state other school had creative and sometimes unexpected suggestions when asked about this last week.

John Phelps, principal at Blaine High School recommended, “Don’t ask if they have homework, ask if you can see what they have been or what they are doing in class. Ask your student to teach you what they learned today, you might already know the material but by teaching you they are learning it better.”   He also urged parents to “Contact your teachers early, let them know you want to support them and ask them how.”

Jerry Hansen, Milaca District Superintendent wrote, “The advice I have comes from my mother.   When your children come home from school, ask them what they learned not what they did.  This helps increase retention and understanding because your child will have to recall and explain what they learned.  If/when they say “nothing” ask about each class and wait for an answer.  In the future when you ask they, will be sure to have an answer because they will not want to sit and go through their entire day.”

“The second bit of advice comes from something my mother did.  When I would mention an upcoming test, project or paper she would write it on her personal calendar.  Later in the week, at dinner or in the car she would ask how the project was coming along, if she could read the rough draft, or how studying for the test was going.  I never did figure out how she knew and remembered what my assignments were and it kept me on my toes.”

Linda Madsen, Superintendent of Forest Lake Area Schools suggested that families “Contact staff sooner rather than later with a potential concern or question to avoid or lessen frustration and miscommunication.”

Jeff McGonigal, formerly a principal, now Anoka-Hennepin interim associate superintendent wrote, “ I am passionate about getting parents connected to the growing number of online resources.  One suggestion is for parents to gain understanding of the tools available through the Internet… In many counties free homework assistance is available through the library system.  In Anoka County that service is called “Homework Rescue.”

McGonigal continued, “…there is good information now available to parents including gradebooks, lunch accounts, etc.  Still, wouldn’t it be nice for a parent to help their student at home before a poor grade emerges in that online gradebook?  They often don’t realize the information now available on some teachers’ web pages can include entire lessons.  Assignments that were misplaced at school can often be printed at home.  Entire websites provide new instruction at no charge including HippoCampus which is funded by the Minnesota Learning Commons.”

Finally, “These new resources are available to the 80% plus of parents who already have an online provider.  If families cannot afford a computer or service, corporations like Comcast now provide both at very low cost to families who qualify.  I highly recommend that parents become familiar with online resources and talk with each teacher to learn what they offer.  The Internet offers significant resources to parents as well as students.”

Jamie Steckart, Director, Northwest Passage Charter, had different, but equally specific suggestions:  “Parents need to realize that they are the most important educators in their children’s lives. With my own family, I make it a point to have healthy positive meals with my kids at least 4-5 times a week.  Continue to read to them even when they are old enough to read on their own.  As children grow into adolescence it still important to maintain and grow a positive relationship with your kids.  No one knows a kid like their parents.  Help your kids’ teachers by maintaining frequent and positive communication with them.  It is easier to make small corrections in progress rather than being caught by surprise at the end of a reporting period.”

State Representative,  House Education Committee chair, and educator Sondra Erickson wrote,

“Communication is essential between parents and their children as well as between parents and teachers. I know from my years in the classroom that it is imperative that parents know the progress of their student. If a school offers communication through the web, please take advantage of it. Or, simply pick up the phone and make a call to the teacher. Teachers want nothing more than involved parents.

Talk to your students about what they are learning in class every day so you engage them in what they have learned. Guide them when they have homework but do not do it for them. Attend their school events and encourage them to participate in school activities because this is their time to be a part of their school community but that takes parental support as well. Ask questions, let your child explain and give examples if necessary and by all means ask yourself: “Does this learning meet my expectations of the school curriculum and of the teacher/s?”

Tim Bjorge, principal at Little Falls High School has ” two key pieces of advice for parents….” Attendance is the most important factor to help ensure success in every class across the curriculum. Parents need to make attendance a priority for the child and the family. Don’t allow your child to miss school to do something that could be done after school or on a weekend. Students who have excellent attendance are 4 times more likely to graduate from high school than students with poor attendance.

Parental involvement is the other key ingredient in student success. Support your child unconditionally. Be their advocate and teach them to accept responsibility for their decisions and actions. Have open lines of communication with your child’s teacher and school. Support and reward your child’s efforts in the classroom and in extra curricular activities. Your presence and support is all the reward they need!

Finally, Pierz Superintendent George Weber thanked many parents: ” There are many great parents who help schools… through volunteering in classroom, helping in activities and by simply supporting their child’s teacher and the value of education.  I have great respect for what so many parents are already doing.”

Everyone is busy.  But I think these ideas can both save time and really help young people have a more satisfying, successful year.