Top 3 Insider Tips From Teachers For a Strong Start to the School Year

teacher classroom

How to Supercharge Your Child’s Education in Under 15 Minutes Per Week

If you’ve seen the recent headlines about massive teacher shortages affecting schools nationwide, you might be wondering how your child could be affected and what you can do to support them this school year. 

That’s why HHER went straight to the source! We asked experienced Houston-area middle and high school teachers for their top tips for parents on how best to support students in a shifting school environment. Check out their top three insider tips on how you can make sure your child is set up for success in15 minutes or less.

How Teacher Shortages Change The Classroom

Following the improvised year of online learning in a virtual classroom that made 2020 so challenging for teachers, students, and parents alike, many experienced teachers left the profession. When there aren’t enough experienced educators to fully staff the schools, it changes the dynamic in the classroom. Class sizes grow larger, leaving less time to give each student individual attention, which makes it more challenging to motivate students towards goals. Meanwhile, when there are more new teachers and substitutes in the building, consistency and classroom habits tend to take a hit.

1: Make it Easy for Your Child’s Teachers to Contact You

Larger class sizes place extra demands on teacher planning time and obstacles in the path of smooth communication between school and home. You can make parent contacts much easier, and therefore much more likely, in under 5 minutes by sending a note or email introducing yourself to your child’s teachers. 

For bonus points, tell your kids you’re doing this too! Nothing motivates students quite like an alignment between teachers and families. When parents and teachers are working together, it sends students the message that school really is important, giving students an additional reason to do well in class. Meanwhile, the added layer of accountability encourages students to make good choices. 

Your message to teachers should include: 

  • Preferred methods of communication (texting and email work best for teacher schedules because they don’t require quiet or privacy)
  • Your child’s name, and what they like to be called (add a picture for bonus points! It helps when teachers are trying to learn everyone’s names)
  • A statement about working together, opening the door for teacher updates
  • Any relevant information about your child that can help a teacher set them up for success, such as interests and goals (or a lack thereof), strengths, and areas for growth.

Any information you can give teachers about who your child is as a person helps a lot too! Crowded classrooms make it more challenging to build teacher-student relationships, and those relationships are one the biggest drivers of student achievement. Help teachers out by providing some of your child’s likes and dislikes, so teachers know in advance where they can start building connections.

2: Familiarize Yourself with the Online Grade book and Learning Management System 

In the wake of Covid, many schools adopted some form of blended learning and incorporated more technology in the classroom. Set aside some time to explore the learning management system (LMS), which is where your child receives and completes classwork in many school districts. Many learning management systems allow you to see your child’s classwork, assignments, upcoming due dates, and upcoming tests. 

Some schools have separate online grade books, and it’s worth your time to learn to navigate these as well. Monitoring your child’s grades and classwork can help you identify early on if they need help with a subject or catch slipping grades well in advance of report cards. It’s best to keep these interactions positive even if your child has not been making the best decisions at school, and save report cards for serious talks if needed. That will keep your involvement a source of encouragement, rather than adding a negative association to discussions of school

3: Talk to Your Child About School

Once you’ve learned your way around the world of education software, you should be able to get a sense of your child’s progress in school in the time it takes you to drink your Saturday morning coffee. For maximal impact, spend some time checking in with your child about his grades once you’re properly caffeinated.  Even better, ask your child to show you what they worked on that week. Have them pick the assignment they’re most proud of and an example of an assignment they struggled on. 

Just knowing that you look from time to time and follow up is enough to motivate most teenagers to be more engaged in class. Moreover, by asking follow-up questions, you also encourage your child to start thinking about the learning process itself. Research has demonstrated that students who are aware of the process of learning do better than students who don’t, and simply by asking about it regularly you’ll be encouraging your child to start setting themselves up to do well in class independently.


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