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Hi, Team! This is a special occasion for me today. I’m bringing you a guest post from a close friend, published author, English teacher, and candidate for Virginia Senate – He’s my brother-in-law (@ronnierossva)! Ronnie has been an educator for nearly a decade and he knows how to prepare a successful student. Whether you’re returning to your school for a new year or starting a different journey at a new school, Ronnie has you covered below! Hint – it has little to do with “Back to School Supplies”. Take it away, Ronnie:
(Photo by Al Emmert)
Ronnie Ross is a new father who, along with his wife and son, lives in the Piedmont area of Virginia. A teacher and school administrator, he spends his days helping young folks read, write, and think “better.” Recently, inspired by the birth of his son, he announced his candidacy for the Virginia Senate.
It’s August, which means, for many folks, it’s that time of year: back-to-school shopping! In an effort to ready their kids for the upcoming school year, parents are buying everything from pencils and pens to jeans and, well, whatever the latest fashion trend might be. Whether you’re shopping at Target, Staples, Goodwill, or somewhere else, money is changing hands. The National Retail Federation estimates that shoppers will spend $82.8 billion on back-to-school purchases, from kindergarten through college.
However–and surely this won’t be shocking–there is no evidence to suggest that right shoes or binder lead to a successful student
Now, that is not to say that there is no importance here. Certainly, students need supplies; if a child doesn’t have a calculator, she will be shut off from being able to do certain things. Moreover, having appropriate clothes ties into self-esteem, which is quite important.
That being said, when we look at academic success, those kinds of things do not predict it.
We do, though, know what does predict scholastic success, and that thing is attachment. The more attached a student is to his or her teachers, school, and friends, the more likely that student is to succeed at school. How wonderful to know that something non-academic leads to academic success! Moreover, beyond academics, the attached child is less likely to get into disciplinary trouble and more likely to get involved in school life. Here, I should note that being attached is especially important when a student enters a new school.
So, rather than make a list of back-to-school essentials–and thereby further fuel the academic-industrial complex–I thought I might offer some ways to build attachment to your student’s school, and thereby, hopefully, further guarantee you have a successful student in the new year
1.) Understand what attached teaching looks like
In order to have productive conversations with your child’s school and teachers, you need to know what attachment looks like in the classroom. Study after study has confirmed that teachers who facilitate attachment are those who understand child development, are prepared for class, hold students to high expectations, provide choices for students, and avoid coercion when possible.
Moreover, attached teachers are available for their students outside of class hours, either for academic or social help. Attached teaching also means showing up at students’ extra-curriculars. Notice, here, that content knowledge is not on this list. There are interesting studies that show how familiarity with a teacher produces greater learning than content knowledge does.
2.) Encourage your child to participate in extra-curriculars
A child’s school day should not end with the last bell. Rather, participating in something after school makes it less likely that a student will drop out or be depressed. These effects were especially big for the least academically successful students, and effects can be seen with just one extra-curricular. So, get your child to participate in something, anything.
3.) Understand what numbers are important
In this era of high-stakes testing, there is an increased emphasis on SOL scores, SAT scores, and the like. However, to focus on those are a grave mistake. For instance, the greatest predictor of college success is not a standardized test score, but rather a student’s GPA. This is because a GPA measures things like, grit, resilience, and ability to get along. These are the skills that lead to success after high school, not the ability to perform well one time on a test.
In the middle ages (grades 5-8), don’t worry so much about GPA. Students form their attitudes toward school during this time. Instead, focus on forming positive beliefs about school. In the lower grades, focus on literacy, numeracy, and positive social-emotional development. All of these skills are learnt through attachment, so measure a student’s success based on them.
4.) Know how to talk to your child about their day
Refrain from asking how their day was. It is too easy for that question to earn a simple “okay” or “fine.” Instead, ask them to describe parts of their day.
Some good questions are:
- What was the best thing that happened today?
- Who do you sit with at lunch/in class, etc.?
- What’s something you learned today?
- What’s something weird that happened today?
- When were you the most bored?
- Who did you help today?
- Who needs help [either adult or student]?
And there are so many more questions to ask! At first, your child will be resistant, but keep it up. Getting answers takes time. And, perhaps obviously, really listen to what they are saying. Don’t make it cursory.
So, to sum it all up as clearly as possible
If you want to prepare a successful student, don’t worry about the measurables. Instead, focus on the way they are bonding with their school and the people in it.
Have you helped prepare a successful student at some point in your life? If so – what do you think about Ronnie’s emphasis on attachment? I know that his opinions help shape the way we’ll develop our kids. And I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below! Let us know.
Thanks for reading!