Hello, PATH parents!
Nothing brings us more joy as parents than seeing our kids thriving! We love to see smiles as our kids are doing things they love, learning and growing in multiple areas, and gaining knowledge and skills to set them up for a successful future during their college & career years.
What is NOT thrilling is watching our kids do e-learning from home when confusing, frustrating, or overwhelming for our students (and sometimes even for us as parent educators). With that in mind, we at PATH want to equip you with three helpful tips for making school from home smoother and more enjoyable for everyone!
Tip #1: Set realistic expectations about e-learning.
Much of the frustration and anxiety our students face during e-learning involves unrealistic expectations. As we help identify those areas and then set realistic expectations for our teens, things inevitably go smoother.
Some students have unrealistic expectations about e-learning itself. It should feel the same as going to a school campus (and are therefore very disappointed and discouraged when it doesn’t). We can encourage them that yes, school feels very different this year, attending Zoom classes and/or doing schoolwork at home without a teacher a few feet away for quick questions, but let’s look at how it is better!
Together you can brainstorm the ways e-learning has its perks. For example, there’s no commute to and from school, so that you can allow a little more sleep in the morning. Plus, there are longer lunch breaks and “passing periods,” which allows time for a snack or dance breaks in the kitchen instead of the pressure of hustling through crowded hallways to land in a seat before the next bell rings. You are actually teaching your teens the skill of finding the positive amid challenging circumstances. While we can’t always control the circumstances we find ourselves in, we CAN control our response to them! Remind your teens that these are historic times that they will be able to tell their children or family about in years to come. It won’t last forever, and they will get through this season!
Some of our students find e-learning difficult and have unrealistic expectations about maintaining high grades from home. As parents, we can assure them that middle school is more about learning to learn than getting straight A’s. In other words, their middle school GPA is not as crucial as learning solid study skills and habits that will serve them well once high school starts and grades matter more. In fact, online college classes are more and more common, so this season of online assignments and Zoom classes is good practice for the future.
Encourage them that becoming a strong student while earning a B has more value than refusing to try new strategies as a stressed-out, frazzled student obsessed with earning an A on every single assignment/assessment in every single subject area at ALL times! Shifting their perspective on the purpose of middle school, that learning to be a good student is the major objective, will set a realistic expectation and allow students to feel less stress in the journey.
Tip #2: Clearly communicate home systems for school.
As a high school teacher, I found that when I had solid systems in place, where students clearly understood my classroom procedures and systems, discipline issues were rare. Other teachers would tease me that I got the “good kids” every year, but I knew it was simply that my students knew exactly what was expected and how the class was run. I took the negative emotion out of it: Here are my simple classroom rules, procedures, and consequences. I believe in you and want to see you succeed; therefore, I will enforce these dynamics for all students. In seasons when I homeschooled my kids, I found the same was true. When we had clear systems for starting school, doing school, and ending school, things went smoother. It is definitely challenging to teach your own children sometimes, but the rewards are rich! Hang in there! Bottom line: the more organized you make it, the fewer the headaches.
Tip #3: Affirm your love for them while assuming the “parent-teacher” role.
For some of our students, having a parent as their home teacher is new and challenging. (Let’s be honest: for many of us parents, becoming a home educator was not our first choice either!) Early in my home-learning journey with my kids, I was given advice along these lines: Remind your student that you wear lots of hats as the “adult” in the house. You wear the hat of parent, provider, home manager, property manager, bookkeeper, etc. So when it’s time for you to wear the hat of “parent-teacher,” you love them just as much as you always have. Still, you simply expect them to take their schooling as seriously as when they are attending school with teachers on campus, honoring home procedures and expectations.
This visual of “wearing different hats” in different situations often helps our teens accept our role as parent-educator, knowing that our other roles in their lives are separate and still as healthy and strong as ever. So when you seem to “get on their case” about attending Zoom class on time or finishing the day’s work/homework, you’re just wearing your “teacher hat” and doing your job in that area. Love is always the motivation, and a good relationship together is always first priority.
I hope these tips are helpful as you tackle e-learning at home! Be sure to give one another lots of grace. Tomorrow is a new day to start fresh, and it’s okay if every day is not a 10 out of 10 success. Sometimes 7 out of 10 is still a win!
Happy e-learning with your teen!
.Hello, PATH parents!
I hope you had a wonderful July with your family, enjoying some vitamin D and making family memories in the midst of pandemic challenges! It’s August now, which means squeezing in final summer fun while prepping for the start of a new school year.
Typically by now, our families are feeling ready for some normal routine again, to go back to school and fun extracurricular activities, to see school friends and start something fresh. This fall, however, we are all navigating the unknown. What will school be like this year? Will school actually re-open, or will Distance Learning (school from home) continue at some level? Unfortunately, even school officials are having a hard time nailing down the specifics, telling parents that the situation is continually evolving and details will be communicated according to current health “guidelines” once we get closer to the school year start date. So in the midst of the uncertainty and understandable frustration, we as parents have to focus on what we CAN control, which is our choice to stay positive and set our child up for success no matter what school dynamics are come late August.
This leads me to one of today’s top trending educational topics: Growth Mindset, developed by Carol Dweck (psychologist and professor at Stanford University). Basically, Growth Mindset is the theory that one’s intelligence is not set in stone, that because of neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to change), students can actually further develop their intelligence through engaging in challenging activities. While a Fixed Mindset says that you are limited by the IQ with which you were born, a Growth Mindset says that you are not limited at all, that persistent effort and taking on challenges, trying different strategies and learning from mistakes, actually grows the neurons in your brain. Like a muscle that grows through resistance and exercise, our brain can develop, too. Apparently, the neuron pathways of an expert are much thicker than those of a beginner, illustrating the results and benefit of hours of concentrated time, attention, and focused effort (mistakes and resulting corrections included).
Researchers found that students who were only praised for their intelligence, often avoided harder challenges since they would have to risk making mistakes. Hearing their whole lives how “smart” they were, they viewed making mistakes as an indication that Maybe I’m not that smart after all. Those students believed that their natural ability should be enough and were not very keen on putting much effort into anything that did not come naturally. In fact, they not only fought a lot of stress and anxiety when things felt difficult, but they also typically avoided or quit difficult assignments.
Students who had been taught about Growth Mindset, that challenges are positive and that continued effort grows one’s brain, were more apt to give new (and even difficult) things a try. When students were praised for effort, they were more apt to put forth quality effort repeatedly and eventually succeed at mastering new concepts.
There are countless resources that you can find online to further explain Growth Mindset and why it is so valuable for your student. (Here is a great article to get you started: How Not to Talk to Your Kids) I will also be creating some videos for you this month, with tips for practically using Growth Mindset with your teen. Even though the term is relatively new, I was recently reading through some quotes by Thomas Edison (1847-1931) and realized that some elements of the theory are not new at all! Look at a few lines from this famous creator of incredible inventions, including the light bulb:
“Negative results are just what I want. They’re just as valuable to me as positive results. I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t.”
“I haven’t failed—-I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
“The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.”
“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
Reportedly, his mother raised him with the following guiding principle: “Never get discouraged when you fail. Learn from it. Keep trying.” (Source). As we parents move our “Thomas Edisons” into the school year, with lots of potential changes from what we all know as “normal,” it’s so important that we remind our teens that they grow from new and challenging things! Something that feels “really hard to do” does not mean you are not smart; it just means your brain is growing from the challenge! It means you simply need to find new strategies for tackling it.
If we will praise our teens for specific behaviors that they are doing well (i.e. You worked so hard at that, great job!), they will have more willingness to push past their natural abilities, tackle difficult assignments, and grow. Plus, the satisfaction gained from succeeding (via learning through failed attempts) builds healthy confidence and self-image in our teens.
If we as parents end up “stuck” with facilitating Distance Learning again this school year, we can frame school-from-home to our teens as a great opportunity to learn and grow in ways that will ultimately help them. We can teach our students to see adversity as opportunity and to value the growth that comes from tackling challenges. We can teach them to use one of English’s most empowering words: YET. I cannot do this...YET! (This is one of my favorite Growth Mindset principles!)
When you get a moment, please check out the links I embedded and then come back to the Parenting Corner for the videos I talked about, too. Please also take some time to enjoy the last few days of summer, as they will no doubt fly by!
With everything constantly going on around us, it's easy to feel overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, and overcome with emotion. These emotions can quickly turn into negative feelings and thoughts, affecting every area of your life. But using positive reinforcement in various aspects of your life will help you be more positive, patient, and happier. I will briefly explain what positive reinforcement is, how you can use it daily, and the benefits and effects of positive reinforcement.
We have all heard of negative reinforcement, which basically alludes to rewarding negative behavior. But what is positive reinforcement? Positive reinforcement is rewarding a particular behavior, making it highly likely that this behavior will happen again. For example, suppose you show up to your class on time every week, and as a reward, your instructor adds 20 points to your grade. As a result, you're more likely to continue showing up on time or even early because you were rewarded positively for this behavior.
Next, how can you use positive reinforcement in your daily life? You can reward yourself. So if you accomplish your 2 biggest tasks for the day, maybe you will buy yourself a new pair of shoes or purchase a new game system you've been saving up for. Since you accomplished them, it is more likely that you will continue to perform more significant tasks because you know there will be some form of a reward. Using positive reinforcement will not always result in physical and tangible rewards, sometimes they can be natural or social reinforcers. Natural reinforcements are a direct result of your behavior, so just accomplishing a task that you have been procrastinating can be positive reinforcement because you have completed the task. Social reinforcements are from people around you, such as family, friends, and teachers who will say "Great Job" or "Keep up the Good Work!"
Lastly, what are some of the benefits and effects of using positive reinforcement in your life? Negative energy will be reduced because your efforts are not being used there. You will feel validated because you did something right, so you want to be rewarded for that behavior, whether verbal or tangible.
In conclusion, positive reinforcement is a great tool to practice creating a healthy and positive change in behavior. It can be yours or your child's, but this is an effective way to promote positive behavior and reduce giving into negative energy. Understanding, implementing, and practicing positive reinforcement can have a wonderful and positive change in your life and future.
A Positive Approach to Teen Health (P.A.T.H) is a 501(c)3 organization that reaches seven counties throughout Northwest Indiana. Since 1993, A Positive Approach to Teen Health has been working to empower teens to make healthy choices regarding drugs, sex, alcohol, and violence.