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Building the Team

A new book called How Children Succeed by Paul Tough does a good job of explaining how certain character traits factor into a child’s future success as much—if not more than—IQ or academic aptitude. Character traits such as resilience, grit and curiosity help children succeed no matter what their socioeconomic background. In How Children Succeed, Mr. Tough discusses how during the Clinton administration there was a wave of school programs that attempted to raise the character bar in students. Sadly, he also explains that many of these programs do not make a measurable difference. Some schools, however, are making inroads and it is exciting to learn about what they are doing. (I strongly recommend the book to learn more.) What else makes a big difference? Parenting, of course. Parents’ ability to partner and work as a team with their child’s school is powerful in helping to shape a child’s experience in school, a child’s character and a child’s success in the future. With parent-teacher conferences coming up for many parents in the next few weeks, this awareness is especially relevant.

Although frequently limited in time during parent-teacher conferences, try to get a full picture of your child at school from your child’s teacher. Does the teacher seem to know your child? If not, is there anything that can be done about it? How does your child learn? Is your child a self-starter? Does your child participate in class? When does your child struggle and what is being done to help him or her through these rough spots? Very importantly, how can we (parents) work at home to support the teacher’s efforts and make our children stronger, more consistently enthusiastic and resilient?

Once you learn as much as you can, be thoughtful and intentional in how you talk to your child about what you and the teacher discussed. Ask your child some of the same questions you asked his or her teacher. Find the overlap, the misinterpretations, the frustrations and the aspects of school that your child most enjoys. Make your child feel like he or she is somehow a part of the “continued” conversation with the teacher. Doing so, will introduce a sense of teamwork vs. the parent(s) and the teacher making judgments and drawing conclusions behind closed doors. Teams work together and enjoy working together. Teams get better with practice and time. Approaching problem areas as a “team” will help your child feel that the setbacks are not permanently “set,” but something that can be reworked and improved. After all, it’s only October. There’s work to be done this school year, even if that work is to continue to do well. Every member of the team is going to need grit, resilience and enthusiasm to get it done.

[AUTHOR: Hilary Doubleday]

October 23, 2012

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