The Sweet Smell of Success Starts at Home (part 5)

Sometimes teachers say that

“One hundred per cent of parents won’t be happy until all children are in the 100th percentile in their test scores.”

This is true. The unfortunate nature of percentiles is that some will be at the top and some will not.

In this series, we’ve been talking about the things we can do at home to help children be successful at school. Here are the posts with links to them:

  • Part 1: What influence do you have?
  • Part 2: 10 Tips for Starting Student Success at Home (1-3)
  • Part 3: 10 Tips (4-6)
  • Part 4: 10 Tips (7-8)

10 Tips for Starting Student Success at Home (9-10)
9 – Set up TLC Routines
Once I was in Albany, Georgia after midnight at the hospital with a family member and had to go to Super Wal-mart at 1am. As I walked into the bright fluorescent  lights, I was shocked by the sheer number of elementary age children strolling through the aisles with their parents. Maybe all of them had a family emergency that night, but somehow I doubt it.

All I could think of is:

“That poor teacher tomorrow.How is she going to teach a child that has been up till 2 am.”

Dr. Avi Sadeh showed that a slightly sleepy sixth grader performed more like a fourth grader in his study.

“Sleep disorders can impair children’s IQ as much as lead exposure.”

There are children suffering in schools today not from learning disabilities but from sleeping disabilities. Most often, it is from sleeping with their cell phone in their hand or under their pillow ready to be roused from sleep to return the text message from a friend or to see what is happening on Facebook.

Having TLC routines like charging their cell phones / iPods/ iPads, and laptops in the kitchen at night or using parental controls to turn off text messages from being sent or received on school nights after certain hours. This won’t make you popular with your child, but will improve their test scores and help them be happier.

John Medina in his book, Brain Rules, talks a lot about the home environment and the impact on student learning. He cites research that shows how a child will drop a whole letter grade just by getting less sleep each night.

You are the parent, stabilize your home environment and you will stabilize the learning of your child. Make sure they eat before going to school. Ensure they get sleep. And insulate them as much as possible from stressful adult situations. (Medina cites that such adult situations like a messy divorce can cause the equivalent of brain damage in children.)

Your home is your domain and your responsibility. If you’re sending your child to school hungry, sleepy, upset, and without their homework done, your child is going to spend their day at school trying to get sometthing to eat, get some sleep, and try to get out of trouble with the teacher for not having her homework done. You are not setting your child up to learn so don’t blame the teacher. Don’t blame your child for not trying because they may be too tired or too hungry.

10 – Parenting is your 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. Your priorities are likely different than mine and that is OK. But know your priorities and stick to them.

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.

What you pour into your child will usually be paid back to you when your child is an adult.

Education is tough right now. Budget cuts mean class sizes are going up, technology is being replaced less often, and textbooks will be less up to date. Teachers are under more stress and scrutiny than ever and many of them spend hours filling out paperwork for administrators instead of doing things for your children. Certainly, education has some systemic issues that need to be addressed.

But your child can’t wait. If your child is going to have a good education it is up to you.

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.

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. I 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, 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 three pointing back at yourself. Do what YOU can do first.

Moms matter. (And Dads do too.)

The future of our planet is literally in your homes and classrooms. Your job is important. We welcome your conversation in the comments.

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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