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Score High with These 4 Middle School Study Tips

October 29, 2015

By Jessica Vician

Score High with These 4 Middle School Study Tips | Middle school signals the beginning of an adult approach to academics and studying. The switch to multiple classes with different teachers prompts students to juggle deadlines and learn valuable time management skills. That’s why it’s critical that they develop strong study skills now to help them through middle school, high school, college, and beyond. | Two middle school students study in the library.

Middle school signals the beginning of an adult approach to academics and studying. The switch to multiple classes with different teachers prompts students to juggle deadlines and learn valuable time management skills. That’s why it’s critical that they develop strong study skills now to help them through middle school, high school, college, and beyond.

Here are four tips to get your student started.

Determine Learning Style
Is your child a visual learner, an auditory learner, a kinesthetic learner, or a combination of those styles? Once students know how they learn best, they can use learning techniques that complement their needs.

Read up on how to find and adapt to your child’s learning style.

Eliminate Screens
Televisions and smartphones are distractions that hinder good time management. Set up a study room away from the TV and ask your child to put his or her phone in the kitchen.

Encourage your child to do as much studying or homework as possible before doing any research on the Internet, which can break concentration and lead to surfing. If he or she has a paper to write, your child can create an outline first and then do the online research once he or she has a general idea of how the paper is laid out.

Start with Short Study Periods
If your child is having trouble with motivation or focusing for a longer period of time, start small. Ask him or her to go to the study area and work for 15-20 minutes. Then your child can take a short break, perhaps to play a quick game on the smartphone, and return to studying for another short interval. Gradually increase these intervals to 30 minutes, then 45 minutes, and on.

Be Strategic
Which option would motivate your child more: starting with a subject he or she doesn’t like, so that the reward comes by eventually getting to the subject he or she enjoys; or would starting with the subject he or she likes get the studying underway sooner?

Research effective reading and memory improvement techniques to help your child be efficient when studying. This website offers tips on acronyms, acrostics, and how to read effectively.

Making an effort to help your child improve his or her studying skills is the first step to achieving academic success as an independent teen and adult. These skills will help your child for years to come, so start today.

For more tips on helping your child through the middle school years and reaching academic milestones, read the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher books, available on Amazon.


My Story: I Was Bullied in Middle School

October 20, 2015

By Jessica Vician

My Story: I Was Bullied in Middle School | Middle school is an awkward time with puberty and grooming issues. It's ripe for bullying. Here's one person's story about how bullying gave her four stitches in her head. The author also offers tips on how to address it with your middle school student. | Two students make fun of another student in the hallway.

Friendship in middle school is a complicated thing. Casual friendships can end with a mood swing or a sudden need to be more popular. But these mood swings or changes in social status can result in something more dramatic and way less cool: bullying.

I transferred to a new school district for middle school. It was hard for a new kid to make friends, but I was fortunate that a group of people welcomed me into their circle. Unfortunately, the day came that one of those girls decided to bully me.

She was the girl who chose to pick on someone new each day. I knew she did that and didn’t agree with it, but since my friend options were limited, I never stood up to her or defended those she would bully.

Inevitably, one day it was my turn. While in the library, she walked up to me and started threatening me. I was confused and asked her why she was acting like that. She responded by pushing me. I tried to leave, but she pushed me again; this time with such force that I tripped over a cart and my head hit a table. At the emergency room I received four stitches on the side of my head.

I have other, less dramatic stories about girls making fun of me because of awkward grooming issues, like knowing when to shave my legs and how to pluck my eyebrows. These comments not only injured my self-esteem, but they led to an overwhelming feeling of isolation and suicidal thoughts.

While my parents obviously knew about the bullying incident in the library, how would they know about the smaller, less severe but more frequent episodes? Like many kids, I didn’t want to tell my parents because I was ashamed and embarrassed. Instead, I acted like nothing was wrong so they wouldn’t notice. So how can parents help their children if they don’t know what’s happening in the hallways?

Worried about elementary school bullying? Read this article.

Know your child’s popularity.
According to a UCLA psychology study, popular students are more likely to become bullies, and students often become more popular if they bully others.

It seems silly to pay attention to things like popularity, but if you know where your child is on the social popularity scale, you can look for signs of being a bully or a victim.

For instance, if your child isn’t in the popular crowd, it’s important to get a sense of how he or she feels about that. If your child isn’t happy with his or her friend circle, look for signs he or she might be bullying others or be a victim of bullying.

Pay attention to behavioral changes.
Talk to your child about his or her friends and the other kids in school. Get an idea whether your child feels like he or she fits in.

If your child was once confident and starts to lose self-esteem, ask about their friends. Is your child trying to change social circles or is your child happy and satisfied with his or her social life?

If your child won’t speak to you about it, talk to his or her friends’ parents to see if you can get an idea of what’s going on. If that’s not an option, share this woman’s story about middle school bullying—it might spark a conversation and help you find out how your child is doing.

Look for physical signs of bullying. 
If your child is being physically bullied, it won’t be difficult to spot the signs: bruises, scratches, ripped or unusually dirty clothing. But if your child is being verbally bullied, it will be harder to recognize the signs.

Many children who are bullied will start feeling physically ill before returning to a place where they have been bullied. I used to get horrible stomachaches before going to the classes where students would tease me. If your child starts having more instances of upset stomachs, headaches, colds, etc., ask if kids are making fun of them. They might not expect that question and are likely to give you an honest answer.

Understand that bullying can happen anywhere: in the hallways between classes, at the desks before class starts, on the walk home from school, even—in my case—in the library with teachers looking on. Recognize the signs and reach out to your child before it takes a toll.

Learn more about bullying and how to help your child develop a healthy self-esteem in the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher book series, available on Amazon.


5 Ways to Celebrate World Teachers’ Day

October 1, 2015

By Jessica Vician

5 Ways to Celebrate World Teachers’ Day | Honor your child's teacher with one (or more) of these 5 easy ways to say thank you on World Teachers' Day. | Illustration of a tree of knowledge courtesy of UNESCO.

On Monday, October 15, we celebrate World Teachers’ Day. With UNESCO’s 2015 theme, “empowering teachers, building sustainable societies,” we will honor the great impact teachers have on our society.

Your child’s teacher is more than just a teacher for a class or for a year, but a teacher who can help change the world for the better through their teachings. According to UNESCO’s website, “teachers are not only a means to implementing education goals; they are the key to sustainability and national capacity in achieving learning and creating societies based on knowledge, values, and ethics.”

Celebrate them on World Teachers’ Day with one (or more) of these five ways to say “thank you.”

  1. Send your child’s teacher an official World Teachers’ Day e-card. UNESCO will post it on their website and send as an e-postcard on October 5.
  2. Write a thank you note from both you and your child. On the top half of the card, tell your child’s teacher how much you appreciate his or her efforts, expertise, and patience. Express the value of what the teacher does for your child and how his or her work impacts the world. Read this article if you need suggestions on what to say.

    On the bottom half of the card, ask your child to write his or her favorite thing about the teacher or the classroom and say “thank you.”
  3. If your child is in middle or high school and has multiple teachers, ask him or her to write a short thank you note to each teacher and deliver it before or after each class on Monday. A brief recognition and expression of gratitude demonstrates to each teacher that they are important and valued.
  4. Email the students’ parents in your child’s class and ask each person to donate a few dollars to get the teacher flowers or a plant. Through crowdfunding, no one will need to spend much money.

    If the florist is too expensive, visit your local nursery or home improvement store and purchase a plant, pot it yourself, and drop it off at the school. It takes a little extra time and effort, but will save you and the other parents money on delivery services.
  5. Send an email to the principal, copying the teacher. Tell the principal how helpful the teacher has been over the past month or so and share the qualities both you and your child appreciate the most. This public acknowledgement honors the teacher while letting his or her supervisor know you appreciate the work.

These are five simple ways to express your and your child’s gratitude for his or her teacher. Celebrate World Teachers’ Day by taking a little extra time this weekend to prepare one of these recognition gifts and send it to school with your child on Monday.


Special Needs: How to Advocate for Your Child’s Education

August 27, 2015

By Lynn Samartino

Special Needs: How to Advocate For Your Child's Education | All parents should know how to advocate for their child's education, but it's especially important for parents of children with special needs. This special education teacher takes you through three key strategies to advocating for your child. | A teen sits with his head in his hand while struggling to take a test.

All parents should know how to advocate for their child’s education, but for parents of children with special needs, it is especially important. As a special education teacher, I want to get to know the parents of my students, build a rapport with them and involve them in their child’s education.

Many parents focus on their child’s social, emotional, and physical well-being at home (which is very important), but leave the entirety of education to teachers. As the YOU Program demonstrates, these pieces go hand-in-hand, so a teacher-parent partnership is critical for a child’s academic success.

To ensure your child receives a highly qualified education in accordance with their special education services, work on these three things: knowledge, involvement, and communication.

To advocate for your child, you must educate yourself on school details and your child’s educational rights.

  1. Understand your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).
    All students receiving special education services have an IEP. Each year, you will review that IEP with necessary school staff to ensure your child is making progress through goals and objectives. This is the guide to your child’s education.

    Prepare for the annual meetings by learning what the IEP fully entails, why your child has one, what the components mean, and how it is implemented. The IEP lays out the framework for your child’s education and the school should follow everything outlined in it.

    If you need help understanding the IEP, meet with your child’s teacher or a staff member who can explain each section. Although it is discussed thoroughly during the IEP meeting, if you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to schedule a follow-up meeting.

  2. Speak with other parents at the school.
    Get to know other parents of the school community. You can learn from each other, including how to successfully advocate for your child’s education (and possibly what doesn’t work as well).

When you are involved in your child’s education, you are well informed and have a better understanding about how to advocate for your child. When teachers and staff see and know that you’re involved, we can better collaborate and partner with you.

  1. Volunteer in the classroom.
    By volunteering and occasionally being present in the classroom, you can ensure that your child’s IEP is being implemented appropriately. If you have a paid job in the classroom, you can help support the IEP implementation. Through these opportunities, you can communicate regularly with the teacher to make sure the appropriate services are being provided in the least restrictive environment.
  2. Attend parent-teacher conferences and school-sponsored events.
    Plan ahead and attend parent-teacher conferences, family reading night, or any other events offered throughout the school year. Build rapport with the community, school, staff, and teachers at these events. You can learn more about education and how the school operates.

Whether asking questions, communicating your child’s needs, or just discussing an assignment, communicate regularly with all the teachers and staff that your child works with daily. Technology provides ample opportunities for communication, so use it to your advantage.

  1. Email key staff members.
    You or your child’s teacher can start an email chain with the necessary school staff so that everyone can work together for his or her educational success. Regular emails are convenient and make it easy to check in quickly.
    At the beginning of the school year, share your email address with the teacher so they can keep you regularly informed. Ask the teacher if they have a website for you to view assignments, important dates, and lesson materials.
  2. Say hello during pick-up and drop-off.
    If you pick up or drop off your kids at school, have a brief chat with the teacher every so often. Many things can be communicated in just a few minutes and issues resolved. It is great for me to quickly touch base with my students’ parents before the day begins or at the end of the day to inform them of the accomplishments made during class time.

Think of the process of advocating for your child’s education as a three-legged stool. The stool supports us when we need to sit, but it must have all three legs to balance and stand. Those three legs are parental knowledge, involvement, and communication. By practicing those three “legs,” your child can succeed in school, no matter what his or her needs are.

Lynn Samartino, M.A. is an upper inclusion special education teacher for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students at Chicago Public Schools. In her 10+ years of experience, she has spearheaded after-school programs, developed the Inclusive Model, and managed the integration of new technology into academics.

She holds certifications in general and special education with endorsements in middle school, language arts, social science, and English as a second language (ESL).


Build a Strong Relationship With Your Child’s Teacher in 4 Steps

August 18, 2015

By Jessica Vician

Build a Strong Relationship With Your Child’s Teacher in 4 Steps | Beyond the first impression, you need to establish a good ongoing relationship with your child's teacher to demonstrate your respect and dedication to your child's education. Here are four ways to do that. | A mother extends her hand to her child's teacher in a vector image.

Arrive on time. Respect and listen to the teacher. Say please and thank you.

These three simple tips are a great way for your child to make a strong first impression during the first week of school. These tips also help you make a good first impression with your child’s teacher.

Beyond the first impression, you need to establish a good ongoing relationship with your child’s teacher so that they know you respect them and care about your child’s education. It also communicates to your child that you value his or her education and performance. Here are four ways you can start building that relationship.

1. Pick up your child from school one day to introduce yourself.
Introduce yourself to the teacher and communicate that you want to help them by making sure your child is prepared to learn when he or she comes to school in the morning. Letting the teacher know you both want the same thing—for your child to learn and succeed—is a great first step.

2. Provide your contact information and an open invitation to connect.
Yes, the school office already has your contact information, but giving it directly to your child’s teacher with the invitation to reach out if they have any concerns or successes to report shows them that you’re open to talking, you take your child’s education seriously, and you’re an engaged parent.

3. Show your appreciation.
Send thank you notes from you and your child with his or her homework every few months. Let the teacher know that even when you’re not there, you appreciate what they do for your child.

Need more ideas to show appreciation for your child’s teacher? Try these 9 suggestions, courtesy of a teacher.

4. Be respectful and start with the teacher.
If you learn of an issue in the classroom or with your child’s academic performance, talk to the teacher before anyone else. You demonstrate respect by honoring their expertise first and not immediately rushing to the principal.

If you’ve tried this method and you’re not satisfied with the teacher’s response, then let them know that you would like to discuss the situation with their supervisor. Being honest about taking the discussion to someone else maintains transparency and invites the teacher into that conversation to better resolve the issue.

Language Barrier
These are simple ways to establish a good relationship with your child’s teacher, beginning in the fall and continuing throughout the school year. But what happens if you don’t speak the same language as the teacher? You can still make the same efforts, but it will require a little planning on your end to get started.

1. Ask the school to provide a translator.
Ask the school’s translator to be present when you introduce yourself to the teacher and give both the teacher and translator your contact information. Work with the translator to find an effective method for open and, if necessary, frequent communication between you and the teacher through the school’s translator.

2. Find a friend or family member to translate your thank you note.
You can write it in your language at the top of the note and then have your friend write the English translation at the bottom. This way, the teacher sees your writing and your intention, but also understands your message in their language.

Teachers want to build a good relationship with you just as much as you want to build a good relationship with them. Start with these steps and you will notice a difference with both the teacher and the student.

The relationship with your child’s teacher is important, but did you know that your child only spends eight percent of their time at school? Learn how you can support their education the other 92 percent of the time in the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher books, available on Amazon.

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