January is the time for new beginnings. It’s also an opportunity for parents, teachers, and students to hit the reset button. If your family is like ours, you’re working on New Year’s Resolutions and setting goals for the next twelve months. We like to use January as a major checkpoint for the current school year by looking over progress updates together and discussing any academic or social emotional challenges that have come up. Each child asks three questions: How far have I come? Where am I now? Where would I like to be? After thinking critically about these questions, we come up with one to three agreed upon goals that both kids and adults find reasonable. We then create a list of steps and advocates that would help us reach those goals.
As we return from a long break and start the second semester, the month of January serves as the perfect time for parents to touch base with their child’s teacher about academic progress and social emotional development. Parents can ask teachers the same three questions my children ask themselves: How far has my child come? Where are they now? Where would you like them to be? These questions allow your child’s teacher to give you a timeline of progress. Take that one step further by asking your child’s teacher: What can I do to support my child at home? When the caring adults in a child’s life work together the potential of a child’s success increases, giving them the opportunity to turn a year around, maintain the course, or fine tune areas that need attention.
Goal setting and habit adjustment can be challenging. For parents looking for inspiration to get started, here is an actionable checklist:
- Reestablish Your Goals: Goals help kids prioritize important tasks and track progress. As you establish New Year’s Resolutions, make certain you have one to three reasonably attainable school related goals for the New Year. Start with how you felt about the school year last summer and encourage your child to ask themselves the three questions: How far have I come? Where am I now? Where would I like to be?
- Reach Out: Your classroom teacher is your best ally along your child’s academic journey. A quick note or email requesting feedback or a conference is a great first step toward meeting your family’s agreed upon goals. (Make certain you are respectful of your teacher’s professionalism by providing them time to collect the information you’ve requested.) Ask your teacher what you can do to extend the learning at home.
- Plan Ahead: Lack of organization can stymie any student’s academic progress. Work with your child to plan for upcoming homework, tests, and projects as best you can. Simple tools like planners, habit trackers, shared Google calendars, reminders, and apps can help kids achieve their goals through actionable step-by-step methods and allow parents to assist or observe along the way.
- Pivot (if necessary): Sometimes you need to stop and regroup. Maybe the current methods weren’t reaching the student or the goal was a bit too challenging for their current progress. This is the perfect time of year to establish new goals or prioritize new objectives- as long as they are reasonable, obtainable, and actionable.
- Pay Attention: Once you’ve established new goals, make sure you follow up. Check your child’s homework, give them feedback, and acknowledge improvements as they come. The level at which you direct your child’s progress depends upon their age and maturity, but if two weeks have passed and you haven’t mentioned those goals, make sure you touch base with your child.
- Build a Toolkit: All goals require an action plan, a strategy, or a toolkit. Your child’s toolkit should include the people and resources you can access to assist your child with learning in and outside of school. This includes their classroom teachers, workbooks, tutors, websites, specialists, and even fun learning activities you can experience together outside of school.
The school year is long and it can be a challenge keeping kids focused on maintaining or improving their performance. January is a great opportunity to capitalize on the time right after winter break, when everyone is talking about goals. For students who have lost interest in the current school year or are easily distracted, January is the perfect refresh for the second half of the year. For students performing well, this is an opportunity for them to review their current habits and look for areas that can be fine-tuned or improved.
Establishing goals and strategies with your child allows them to not only feel ownership for those goals, but it increases the likelihood that they will want to work towards them. Finding age appropriate ways for kids to get involved in solutions to their own “life’s problems” gives them the opportunity to develop their planning and creative problem solving skills. With a bit of collaborative guidance from parents and teachers, the next five or six months can be a great experience for every child.