For most students, the end of the school year is almost visible. After nine long months filled with homework, tests, projects, and countless extra-curricular commitments, most of our students are in fact looking forward to a well-deserved break. The good news is we are almost there. In another few weeks, carpools will be put on hold, lunches can be left in the fridge, and we will not have to get up at the crack of dawn, to get ready for school. Sounds amazing, but while we are almost there, we still have a few more weeks to go before the end of the school year. These last few weeks can often be the most challenging time for parents, but we must make sure that our children stay focused and committed until the very end.
Yes, it’s true… teachers actually expect students to try until the end of the year. As a high school teacher, I have actually had students say things like, “it’s May, you don’t actually expect us to do work??” Statements like this one, do not generally come from disrespectful students, but rather from kids who are jumping out of the gate a bit too early. Parents, grades are still being determined at the end of the year. A student who shuts off too early could see a drop in his average that could easily be avoided. Sure, when the kids come home and the weather is nice out, homework is about the last thing on their minds. Parents however, need to make sure that the children are keeping up with their responsibilities, even when they may not be as forthcoming with information as we would like.
Being a teacher myself, I can pretty much speak for other teachers out there when I say, that at this point, the chances of students having no work to do at all are pretty slim. During this point of the year, most teachers are trying to finish their required curriculum, before the end of the year. The students are not sitting in most classes with nothing to do. So, when your child tells you he has no homework to do, you may want to double check with the teacher or even with another parent. In my house, my wife implemented a policy that has been extremely effective, especially during this time of year. Every evening between the hours of 5 and 6 PM, the kids have their dedicated academic time. During most nights, there is homework, or tests for which to prepare. Even if there is no assigned work, this is the one hour of the day, where the kids need to read a book, or do a similar academic activity. No computers, TV, or IPad devices are allowed, unless they can show that they are needed for an assignment. The kids were not happy with this new schedule at first, but after a few weeks, it has become part of the regular routine. At 6 PM, they can go outside, or do other non-work activities.
This is also a good time for parents to be a bit more pro-active than we may normally be at the end of the school year. With the end of the year deadlines and final exams piling up, try to reach out to some of your child’s teachers to find out what you can do to help at home. Most teachers will be more than happy to have the extra support and may keep you more in the loop than you would be normally. If there is a subject which has been especially difficult this year, you could actually help your child’s cause by reaching out to check if there is anything that can be done to ensure a strong finish. This does not mean that we can expect teachers to place all of the grading emphasis on the last two weeks, but for a student who has had “up and downs” in the effort department, a clear level of commitment at the end can never hurt. If the school is deciding on class placements for the next year, a greater effort at the end, can also help push your child into the higher level class.
Finally, as the end of the year is approaching, make sure the basics are checked off the “to-do” list. Every year, there are always a handful of students who end up failing subjects because they did not turn in missing work, or because they did not prioritize studying for the final exam. Most schools publish final exam schedules online. Make sure you get a copy and place it some place that everyone can see. One of my students recently bombed her final exam, despite a review sheet and two optional review sessions. While the student did not show up for the review periods, I was not overly concerned, as she had a pretty decent track record. As I graded her exam though, it became clear, by the fifth or sixth question, that she came to take the test completely unprepared. I continued to grade her paper, and at the end this student received a 44%, which was actually somewhat of a gift in itself. I was genuinely surprised, and I knew there had to be more going on. As it stood, because she was a strong student, the poor final exam grade, would not prevent her from passing the course. Going by the numbers though, she would see her grade fall from an “A” to a “B+” which was a shame, because she had done the work until this point. With the principal’s permission, I reached out to the student to find out what had happened. She explained honestly, that with no formal classes taking place, and without a requirement to actually come to school during finals week, that she was just not focused. The student informed me that she had not set an organized study program, but that she now saw that she should have done things differently.
This student will be okay, as she will learn from this experience. I also received special permission to give her some extra credit to get her back into the A- range. This student though, clearly needed someone to help make sure she was on track.
It is easy to look outside and to get swept away by the fresh air. There is nothing wrong with looking forward to the summer break, but as parents we must remember that school is not over until the last bell rings and until the last exam has been completed. Only then, can we truly allow our children to switch to vacation mode.