The Sweet Smell of Student Success Starts at Home

The fact is that student success is more highly correlated with the parent than the teacher. A 2005 study through Harvard (Parental Involvement and Student Achivement: A Meta-Analysis) that looked at all research studies about parenting and school success found that:

“Two of the patterns that emerged from the findings were that the facets of parental involvement that required a large investment of time, such as reading and communicating with one's child, and the more subtle aspects of parental involvement, such as parental style and expectations, had a greater impact on student educational outcomes than some of the more demonstrative aspects of parental involvement, such as having household rules, and parental attendance and participation at school functions.”

Have you ever heard the statement: “How do children spell love T-I-M-E”

Well, you can now say: How do children gain success: T-I-M-E.

Is it any surprise that it is the same answer?

The Sweet Smell of Success
After the football game Thursday night I smelled horrific. Not just bad but locker room bad. Three days in a gym bag bad. My sweaty 6'6″ almost 200 pound junior got to play in the second half of the game. Not just play but he had a great game, opening up a hole for a touchdown run and playing as part of our team.

The other team is from a school twice our size and in a higher division. We won by 1 point last year in the last 2 seconds. Every game with them is a killer and it is a great rivalry. We are 14-0 from last year and this was our 15th win — WE WON! My son was part.

My son has to work hard for what he gets in football. It has been very hard the last two years seeing him give every thing he had just to be a practice dummy for our state football team. He played a little last year and even started one game (but that is another story.) It is hard seeing your kids work hard and not get “what they deserve.” But not once have I or my husband discussed playing time with the coaches.  I am convinced that is NOT what good parents do.

Good parents help their kids prepare.
Good parents help their kids see that hard work and goal setting does show rewards.
Good parents help their kids see that life isn't always fair.
Good parents believe in their children to work through things and seek wise advice and step in only when necessary and in that case, very rare and most often not telling their children they did it in the first place.

So, that sweat smelled good to me. It meant that his hard work has paid off and he got to play and contribute on the team.

Bring it on. I'll take that sweat any day.

Because when I see my children when they are 40 (God willing) I will think they are successful if they are doing WORK worth doing and contributing to a team. Do they make the world around them better? Do they stand up against injustice? Are they making a difference in the world? Are they investing their lives long term in their own children?

Success Starts at Home
The fact is that success starts at HOME.

You can say, “Oh, Vicki, you don't understand, I have this problem or my child has an LD.”

Two of my three children have “learning differences” and I refuse to call them disabilities because my children can learn and they are smart – they just learn differently than their classmates. It is my job to help their teachers and to help them see their own genius. Yes, all of my kids are honor roll or headmaster's list and they have worked for every moment.

10 Tips for Starting Student Success at Home

1- My goal is to help my child learn and find their strengths. 
I will be positive and not let my tired-ness at the end of my day prevent me from my most important job: being a parent.

2 – I will NEVER do their homework FOR them. EVER. 
My job is to help guide them to do their homework so that they can become efficient and successful and so that eventually they don't need me. (It annoys my daughter to no end. She is one of the top students in her class and the other kids say that I do her homework for her. She has been doing her homework herself since elementary school  and her father has stressed that for someone else to do your homework is cheating – even if Mom and Dad do it. It makes her furious because she has earned what she has. Parents doing homework for their children are causing their children to be cheaters. period.)

3- If I have a problem with a teacher, I will not let my child know. 
I will not undermine a teacher or principal with my words at home because I know that children do not have filters and my words will be echoed in theirs in the classroom and it will negatively impact their success. I also know that should I darken the door of an administrator or principal on an ongoing basis that I will become a nuisance and harm my child in the classroom because it is hard for human nature to overcome an ongoing negative experience with me. I can harm my child if I try to be a guardian angel hovering over my child every moment. I may be a guardian but I'm no angel and I have to let my children learn to live life.

4 – I will tell my child that success in the classroom is not just mastery of the subject matter but mastery of their relationship with their teacher because relationships are part of life. 
They have to get along with people they don't like for the rest of their life and classroom is life. They will have bad bosses one day and they may have a bad teacher today. I am preparing them for how to deal with a bad boss when I teach them how to deal with a bad teacher. Sometimes my child can learn more from a bad teacher than a good one if they learn to be strong, do the right thing, and work hard. I cannot always insulate my child from such experiences but can help give them perspective.

5 – I will create an area that sets them up for success at home. 
This is our “study center.”  I know that a well-equipped study center at home shows that I expect them to bring work home. (Note to readers: I've filmed this study area for you this morning and posted it to youtube and embedded it above, I hope this helps you see what I've done here. Every circumstance is different.)

6 – I will read with my younger children and let them see me read.
Reading is part of life and being a lifelong learner. It has a revered place in our home as something that we all do. I will read a variety of things and let them see me do it. Sometimes they learn more about who I am when they catch me reading my bible at 6 am or reading Consumer Reports before buying a washing machine or reading Educational Journals cover to cover when I'm lucky enough to get on a list for them.

7 – I will give honest, sincere praise.
Praise for the sake of praise itself makes you a liar. Not everything is praiseworthy because not everything is good. But I will work hard to find the good things that my child does, notice it and share it. I will speak well of all of my children in a way that is honest, true, and reflects well upon them as a person.

I will know their limits.I will be careful to not make my child think that my love is conditional upon their success. Unconditional love is important to me and to my child. We have way too many people who think they are good at everything and don't have to work for it and consequently are good for nothing and no one wants to work with them.

Sometimes you can't get a word in edgewise because your children are so angry at their actions, they don't hear your words. That is when you can go buy their favorite thing at the store, put it in the fridge with their name on it and the words “I love you.” I did this with my teenage son a few years back when he and I in a room were like gasoline and a match. I'd put the stickers on the thing I knew he loved and would write his name.

To [insert name] I love you. Mom

At first those would be crumpled up and put in the trash. Then, I'd find them on the counters. Then, I found a few in his room. There are ways to communicate love. Sometimes it isn't for what they DO but who they are. Your child is YOUR child. A flesh and bone part of YOU. They deserve love because they are human beings made in God's image. (Yes, I believe that.) It is your job as a parent to LOVE your child as a human first.

8 – I will criticize the action NOT the child as a person.
Children make mistakes. I make mistakes. My love for my child is not conditioned upon their behavior and yet if I love my child, I will discipline him/her. I need to send my children into the world with as many things that will cause them to self-inflict pain buffed down and acknowledged. Things like tardiness, disrespect, laziness, unethical behavior, self-centeredness and the like.

I know that the things I repeat over and over will come back into their minds long after I'm gone. Things like “I'd rather have an honest C than a cheatin' A” or from my husband “only speak the truth” or our favorite Churchillian quote “Never, never, never quit.” These are flaws and it is my responsibility as a parent not to send my child into the world without working on these areas.

9 – I will know that there are two sides to every story.
All of my sisters and my Mom are teachers. I'll never forget the story from one of my sisters about a middle school student who turned in  a poem beginning:

“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by…”

 She gave the child a zero only to have the Mom call for a conference. She brought her son, the handwritten poem and herself trouncing into my sister's desk and smacked the poem onto my sister's desk like someone playing in the last round of slapjack.

“My child wrote this poem and you ARE going to give him credit. Son, tell your teacher who wrote this poem:”

“Me. I wrote it.” He mumbled sheepishly.

“My son doesn't lie and he wrote this poem. Now what are you going to do about it.”

My sister got up from her desk, walked over to the corner and slid out a book. She opened to a page with the poem Sea Fever by John Masefield and opened it beside the poem.

“If your child wrote this poem he is not only a genius, he is a mind reader because his poem is in this book and was written by John Masefield.”

“All I know is if he says he wrote it he did, and you should give him credit.”

The Mom never backed down but my sister never did either. The child kept the zero but was taught by his Mom that it is OK to lie.

Children lie. Adults lie. And your children know that the biggest threat to their self-preservation and status quo is if you actually start talking to their teacher. Get both sides of the story before painting yourself in a corner.

I know many teachers that tell parents in open house:

“If you give me the benefit of the doubt and don't believe everything your child says about me, then I won't believe everything your child says about you. Let's communicate.”

They are children. Sometimes they are right. Sometimes they are wrong. It is your duty as a parent to do due diligence.

10 – Parenting is my most important job.
My husband always uses one guideline for his life. He says

“My first responsibility is to my Creator. Then to my Companion. Then to my children. Then to my occupation and then to my church.”

Next to serving God and my husband, my job of service to my children is paramount.

If my kids don't get unconditional love from me, then where will they turn?
If I don't love them, who will? Can they love themselves?
If I don't care for them, who will?
If I don't care about their grades, they won't either.
If I love them, encourage them, help them, and be there for them then they have a chance.
If I don't pray for them, who will?

What you pour into your child will usually be paid back to you with your child is an adult. That is what is so senseless about those horrible parents who abuse their children. Who do they think will take care of them when they are old? Someone they victimized as a child? They are worse than evil they are also fools. These are their precious, wonderful children given to them by God and they will slap them or steal their innocence. Such parents bring shame upon us.  Yet we will not judge all parents by those parents who are bad parents just as we will not judge all teachers by those teachers who are bad teachers.

Make parenting a top Priority. More important that PTA you need the PCA: Parent Child Association. Connect with your child. It is never too late to start today.

Prologue to Parenting
You also have to know that as a parent you can work your hardest and do your best and still have a child who doesn't turn out “right” by earthly standards. I have three children and sometimes it is shocking to me that they have all been brought up in the same house! They reflect on my husband and me but they AREN'T me. I can do all I can and then one day they have to make their own way and make their own name. There aren't any do-overs but there is always do-today. You can call them and tell them you love them.

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  (Prov 22:6)

That is the verse I claim.

I am giving all I have right now. I have a year and a half more with my oldest and two and half with my middle child and eight and half with my youngest. These are the best days of my life. So what if I could write more books or speak more or travel more – I DON'T CARE. I am a Mama and that role trumps these other things. I love my CHILDREN.

I know you do too. But the painful truth is that when my actions don't line up with my beliefs that my actions ARE my beliefs. I am a hypocrite. I must ACT. Look continually at my list and my calendar and my time and carve out time with my children.

In summary
You can do it. Parenting is gutt-wrenching, agony inducing, soul stirring, nauseating agony. We bring these kids to the world in the midst of pain and we experience much pain while they are here.

And yet, as the good Lord would have it, they are our greatest joys, our grandest accomplishments, our greatest legacy and our most beautiful contributions to the world. Like a bouquet of paperwhites, good children become good adults and leave their fragrance upon the earth long after they are gone.

I always tell teachers that teaching is the most noble calling on earth next to parenting and I mean it.

Parents. Here's to you. If your child has low test scores, if you point one finger at the school you have four pointing back at yourself. Do what YOU can do first.

Remember your noble calling, parents.
Remember your noble calling, teachers.

The future of our planet is literally in your homes and classrooms. Your job is important.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere