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Parents key to successful students

Staff writer

Teachers and students aren’t the only ones responsible for education, teachers say.

“Parents need to reinforce to students how important education is,” Marion High School history teacher Grant Thierolf said. “If parents place a high value on education and schools and see this as a way to have their kids better themselves, then kids start to understand that.”

Parents are as much a part of the learning equation as students and teachers, according to Ginger Becker, a second grade teacher at Marion Elementary School.

“We’re a team, like a triangle,” she said. “Parent, child, and student: We’re all working toward a common goal.”

Thierolf acknowledged that most students’ learning habits have long been instilled by the time they reach his classroom.

Allotting time to get homework done, for example, is something Thierolf said has to happen early.

“Those patterns get set so early that by the time they’re in high school, if those patterns aren’t engrained already, you’re playing catch-up from that point on,” Thierolf said.

Becker said having a parent at their side can give kids the extra push they need.

“Sitting there, listening to them read instead of doing dishes or something else,” she said. “Just 10 minutes can make a world of difference to show that you care.”

Parents who take it a step further can be an even greater influence, Becker said.

“A parent can also be an active learner themselves to be a model to the child,” she said. “If they’re reading a book they can say, ‘Oh, this is a great book,’ and share it with them.”

Playing an active role in a child’s education can become a problem if that role involves too much help.

“Parents who jump in to try to make it easier on the child or get frustrated and say, ‘I’ll do it,’ and just take over, that’s too far,” Thierolf said. “The child doesn’t learn anything from that particular point on.”

Older kids can use technology to increase active learning.

There’s a YouTube video to explain “virtually every subject matter or topic at the high school level,” Thierolf said.

A website called the Khan Academy teaches lessons in math and science for free. Educational chat rooms and Wikipedia and educational mobile apps are additional tools.

Technological advances have put more information in students’ hands than ever, Thierolf said.

“But technology can only go so far,” he said. “It can’t think for you.”

Like technology, students have their limitations. The key is accepting where a student is at developmentally instead of trying to skip ahead or rush to the top of the class, Becker said.

“Accept that, and know they can always do better,” she said.

Thierolf agreed.

“Too many times, parents don’t want kids to feel bad or don’t want them to fail,” he said. “But failing is a part of it.”

Finally, Becker said, if there is a problem a parent can’t solve by talking to his or her student, go to the student’s teacher.

“If there’s ever any concern that a parent has, come to the teacher before they go to anyone else about it,” she said. “99.9 percent of the time it can be solved — quickly.”

Last modified July 29, 2015

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