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Child Advocate

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September 2009 Issue 1, Volume 18

Key Ingredients for Successful Students



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Legislative Assembly


October 2-3, 2009 SeaTac, Washington SeaTac Marriott Hotel

Jtraining oin us for the premier advocacy and legislation and planning event of the year! Local


unit and council delegates from across the state determine the legislative priorities and learn how to help move these issues forward during the next state legislative session.

Each local unit is allowed a minimum of 2 voting delegates. Additional delegates are based on membership numbers. Plan on attending! Online registration avai-

labe on the Washington State PTA website now!

REGISTRATION $140; after 9/18 pre-registration deadline $185 (Includes all materials, does not include meals or housing.) STUDENT* REGISTRATION $110; after 9/18 deadline $135 (Includes all materials, does not include meals or housing.) Pre-ordered meals will be available for additional surcharge. On-site registration is also available *Students must be enrolled in a primary, middle or secondary school served by a PTA.



Learning to Focus: What Parents Can do to Help


Teamwork: School Success More Than Just Academics


Developing Study Habits...Developing Good Work Ethics 5 Motivation: What Parents Need to Know

Parent Involvement: What Parents Do Makes a Difference 7 Optimism: A Little Thing...A Big Difference

Scott Allen, Washington State PTA President Bill Williams, Washington State PTA Executive Director Karen Fisker-Andersen, Editor

a Washington State PTA parent involvement publication

2003 65th Avenue West Tacoma, WA 98466-6215


WSPTA Vision, Mission and Goals

Child Advocate

Washington State PTA


The Child Advocate is published online every month from September through May by the Washington State PTA, 2003 65th Avenue West, Tacoma, WA 98466-6215, (253) 565-2153. Contributors are welcome. Call the State PTA office for guidelines. Whenever PTA is used it also refers to PTSA. PTA is a registered trademark of the National Congress of Parents and Teachers.

Hotel reservations must be made by September 18th to guarantee the special conference rate.




“Making every child’s potential a reality.”


PTA is: n A powerful voice for all children, n A relevant resource for families and communities, and n A strong advocate for the education and well-being of every child. The Washington State PTA accomplishes the mission of PTA by n Speaking on behalf of children and youth in the schools, in the community, and before governmental bodies and other organizations that make decisions affecting children; n Supporting parents* in developing skills to raise, protect and advocate for their children; and n Encouraging parent* and community involvement.

* Parent may include adults who play an important role in a child’s family life since other adults (grandparents, aunts, uncles, or guardians) may carry the primary responsibility for a child’s health, welfare, education and safety.

Phone: (253) 565-2153 or 1-800-562-3804 Fax: (253) 565-7753

Website: Email:

Learning to Focus: What Parents Can do to Help

The ability to focus on schoolwork for periods of time is an essential ingredient for school success. Several factors that lead to poor concentration can be addressed with some thoughtful action. Environmental factors, such as noise in the room, poor lighting, or an uncomfortable chair, can cause difficulties with focus.1 Think about what types of environmental factors may be inhibiting your child’s concentration. If your student is having difficulty focusing in class because of all the visual distractions in front of her, encourage her to request that the teacher place her in the front row to minimize these distractions. Internal factors, such a poor diet, not enough sleep or exercise, anxiety, an illness, or an attention disability can all contribute to poor focus in school as well.2 Pay attention to how late your student is staying up, 1-2: “Raising a Successful Child,” by Sandra Burt & Linda Perlis, Ulysses Press, Berkley CA, 2007

The Child Advocate, September 2009

what he is eating, and how he is feeling about his life. If you believe your child has an attention disorder, consult with your family doctor. Finally, focus problems can be a result of not understanding the material, a lack of experience in good concentration habits as a result of too much TV viewing and electronic game playing, or lack of self-discipline or motivation. If your student is having difficulties understanding new concepts, work with her or ask the teacher for additional activities to do at home that will help your child develop a greater understanding. What Parents Can Do

Following are more ideas for developing your child’s concentration skills: n Play card games, puzzles, and other games with your child which encourage concentration in a fun and non-threatening way. Listen to audio books in the car. Limit your child’s “screen” time.


Relax your schedule. Kids who are overburdened with activities and


have no down-time, never learn to discover their interests, be creative, or dream about their future. n Practice good study habits at home. Make sure your child works at his most productive time of the day, has all the school supplies he needs, has a well-lit and comfortable place for studying, and takes regular study breaks. If your student is feeling overwhelmed, help him break big tasks into smaller pieces or help him organize his time to help him see that he can get it all done. n Be involved. Show your child that you care about her by being present at things that mean a lot to her, and encourage her when she is having difficulty or when she has worked hard. Help your child find interests, sports, or hobbies she enjoys. This helps her develop an experience of focusing her attention while doing something she enjoys. Additionally, students involved in extracurricular activities find that they have to focus to get their work done efficiently in order to have time to participate in their extracurricular activities.

n Teach your child that if his mind wanders to something else, he should take a quick break and refocus his attention to the task at hand. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a tablet of paper handy to write down things that are distracting him. This will help clear his mind to focus on what he should be doing, yet still remind him to think about the other item at a later date. n One of the best ways to improve concentration is to encourage goal setting. This helps a student translate her hard work into something tangible and keeps her motivated to do the things she needs to do but doesn’t necessarily enjoy. After completing one or two studying tasks, students can reward themselves by checking their email or texts or anything else they enjoy, before moving on to the next item. n Finally, an attitude adjustment is needed to stay focused. Students need to develop a positive attitude. Anyone can learn to be self-disciplined and motivated with some effort and a positive attitude. n

Teamwork: School Success Depends on More Than Just Academics...

C ooperation and teamwork are key ingredients to success in school and in life. Lessons learned by being a part of a team include: taking responsibility for arriving on time and working hard at a given task, respecting individual differences of members of a team, obeying rules, encouraging fellow team members, and communicating appropriately with both coaches/authority figures, opposing teams, and members of their own team. Being a member of a team helps young people understand that they can be a part of something bigger than themselves. They can take pride and have fun in shared victories. They learn that they don’t always have to be the center of attention, but that they can also contirubte by providing support and encouragement to others. Teammates learn that there is a great value in giving as well as receiving and that each individual is responsible for trying as hard as they expect their teammates to. Whether students participate on a sports team, a 4-H club, or are simply working on a school project with a couple other students, working together for a mutual purpose can provide a sense a belonging and the sense that they are unique. Simply put, experience on a team leads students towards better social skills and less self-absorbed attitudes. Leadership skills are also cultivated through experiences on a team.


Good leaders are people whom their peers look up to. They are good communicators, creative thinkers, and have the ability to bring people together for a common purpose. Tips for Parents: n Teach good communication skills. Parents can remind their young people to say sorry when they’ve made a mistake, and say thank you when a coach has volunteered their time to coach. Observe how well your child gets along with teammates and how he treats the opposing team. n Encourage your students to value all team members, despite their individual differences and talents. This might include passing the ball, offering a word of encouragement, or giving a high-five to celebrate the success of a teammate. Parents should model good sportsmanship for their students by avoiding negative comments about a child’s teammates, coach or the opposing team. n

a Washington State PTA parent involvement magazine

Developing Study Habits...

Developing A Lifetime of Good Work Ethics

D eveloping good study habits requires three basic approaches: Preparing the right attitude, organizing time and projects, and modifying study practices to be more efficient and effective. Attitude. Most importantly a student needs a willing and positive attitude. This means that she accepts her need to do this work and mentally commits herself to doing it. It also means that when she runs into problems she will seek to solve them without giving up--perhaps by asking parents, re-reading a chapter in a textbook, reviewing an old assignment, calling a friend or searching the Internet for relevant information. When it comes to studying, the right attitude counts more than natural intelligence. Time-management skills. Once a student has a willing attitude, encourage him to map out a plan to complete the tasks he has to do each day, and plan ahead for long term projects as well. Encourage him to make daily and weekly to do lists and keep a master calendar updated with all assignments, projects and tests listed so he can look ahead and stay on top of larger tasks as well as daily work.

The Child Advocate, September 2009

Study habits. Several approaches can be used to make the most of

study time: Plan the study time. Help your student choose to do the most difficult assignments first, when she is the most alert. Encourage her not to leave study time to be done at the end of the day when she is tired. Establish a study area that has all the supplies your student will need. n Use the student’s natural learning styles when studying for tests. Auditory learners learn best by listening to themselves repeat information aloud; visual learners remember best by seeing information in print either through words or graphic displays, kinesthetic learners remember best when acting out information, tactile learners remember best when making models with their hands. n Students need to figure out what they need to know. They should ask the teacher questions, and use past tests in this class as indicators of what information is important. n Effective test preparation involves several days of reviewing and should include making a practice test to determine what still needs attention. n Mistakes are okay. Students can learn from them. n Encourage students to ask questions if they don’t understand. n n



What Parents Need to Know... Consequences for not doing homework might include losing TV privileges or losing opportunities to have friends over. These negative consequences will make students more likely to motivate themselves so they don’t miss out on these opportunities that they are accustomed to and enjoy. Motivation Boosters: n Explain to kids why something needs to be done. n Use goals as motivators. Help children choose their own goals. n Help your children know that you value them and love them. n Encouragement works better than harsh demands.

Motivation always implies self-motivation. You cannot motivate

your child to work hard in school. Instead, he must convince himself that working hard will benefit him enough that he is willing to tolerate the discomfort involved. When considering what parents can do to help their students become self-motivated, two considerations come to mind: rewards and consequences. A consequence-based approach seems to be a better route for improving self-motivation than giving rewards.1 There are two reasons for this. First, with a reward-based approach, when a student fails to complete her homework, she just misses out on a reward. This is something she wasn’t attached to anyway, so there is no discomfort involved with not following through.2 Second, in a reward-based approach students learn that working hard is only worth it if there is something in it for them, and life isn’t like that.3 A consequence-based approach is actually a more realistic method of teaching self motivation because it is actually how the world works.4 For example, if an individual fails to do his job, he doesn’t miss out on being rewarded a corner office, instead he is fired. 1-4: “Ending the Homework Hassle,” by John Rosemond, Andrews & McMeel: A Universal Press Syndicate Company, Kansas City, 1990


n Children with a high sense of self-esteem are more willing to work hard at goals. Expose your child to a number of different activities over the years to help her discover her hidden talents and interests and help her develop a strong sense of herself. n Help kids understand decision-making processes. Help them see possible consequences from their actions. n Know what motivates your children. Some kids are motivated by facts, others are motivated by feelings. n Have high expectations for your kids. They will often work as hard as they believe you think they can.

Motivation Busters: n

Learning problems.


Family/relationship problems.

n Anxiety. This can be caused by bullyung, difficulty understanding new concepts, peer pressure, or any number of things.

If your student is struggling with any of these issues, make an appointment to talk with your child’s teacher. Above all, don’t give up. Let your child know that you will be there for him no matter what. Celebrate small successes with your child. Do something fun together when he makes progress. n

a Washington State PTA parent involvement magazine

Parent Involvement: What Parents Do Makes a Difference Sbetween tudies have shown a positive relationship parent involvement and student success. Regardless of income level, education of parents, or race, religion or gender, kids whose parents are actively involved in their education, have more success in school, feel better about themselves, and are less likely to get into trouble. When parents take interest in their student’s school and her education, they are showing their kids that school is important. Over time, your child is more likely to be motivated by her own belief that school is important. Being involved can be difficult at times. It sometimes requires parents to take time off work. However the pay backs are priceless. Not only will you gain a better insight into your child’s world and feel closer to your child, you will feel more empowered as a parent as well. Four Principals of Successful Parent Involvement

Involvement should happen both at the school and at home. When you are at the school to help, remember that you are there for all the children, not just your own. n

n Help students when they ask for help, but never do the work for them. Instead, show them how to do a similar problem so they can understand the process. n Be an advocate for your child. If you are concerned about your child’s progress or if you have other concerns, make an appointment to talk to your child’s teacher. Be careful not to complain about everything, but choose your concerns carefully. A parent who does nothing but complain is often not taken seriously and not an effective advocate for their children.

Stay positive. Don’t let your child hear you make negative comments about your child’s teacher. Never let your child hear you say that you don’t know if she can do it. When you are frustrated, it’s best to take a break and have your spouse, an older sibling, or a family friend help your child for a while. n

The Child Advocate, September 2009

Parent Involvement at School n You know your child--his talents, his weaknesses, and his unique style of learning--better than anyone else. You are naturally in a position to be a partner with your child’s teacher in helping your child be successful at school. n Take time to get to know your child’s teacher at the beginning of the year. Introduce yourself. Make an appointment to meet for a few minutes to talk about your child’s strengths and weaknesses and ask for suggestions on how you can help at home. Share your goals with your child’s teacher. Send your child’s teacher an email. Show appreciation with a card or a note when your child comes home telling you about a fun experience at school. n Join the PTA. Become involved in activities at the school where you will get to know the staff, the families, the teachers, and your child’s friends. n Volunteer to help in the classroom. Teachers will often ask for volunteers at the beginning of the year. If possible, use your unique gifts


and interests in your volunteer positions. This will help make the experience more enjoyable for you. If you are not able to volunteer in the classroom, sign up to go on field trips as a chaperone whenever your schedule allows. This will provide you with a wonderful insight on your child’s experience at school and how she interacts with friends and participates in activities. Parent Involvement at Home

The purpose of homework is to help students learn how to manage their time and projects, and to help them practice concepts learned in school. As parents, we don’t want to undermine the students’ responsibility for their homework, but we want to be available to them if they are not understanding concepts learned at school or if they need help learning how to manage their time. Generally parents are more involved with helping with homework in the younger years, and less involved as students get older.1 Your function to help your younger students is to monitor your child’s understanding, work habits, and to work with the teacher in solving issues that you are seeing at home.2 This will sometimes mean extra practice with parents at home. For older students, parents should be available if your student comes to you for help, but work habits should be in place by now.3 Remember that you are not in control of your child’s homework. They need room to establish motivation and organization in this area. Sometimes a hovering parent only produces a child who is unable to function on his own when he is older. It is better to let your child make mistakes, face the consequences and learn from them when they are younger. 1-3: “10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting,” by Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D., Simon & Schuster, New York, 2004

Optimism: A little thing... A big difference

M ore important than talent or intelligence, optimism is a key component in successful students. Students who are optimistic tend to be willing to try new things, believe in themselves, and are more successful students. To help your student become more optimistic, parents need to model

Finally, parents can become involved with their children’s education at home by simply spending time needed to develop positive relationships together. Not everything needs to be a learning experience. Have some fun together. Share something you enjoy. Plan a special evening or weekend together. Take an interest in things that interest your child. Most of Parent-Teacher Conferences

To prepare for the conference, write down your concerns and any concern your child has, collect any information you need on these issues, think about what some possible resolutions to these problems may look like. Contact the teacher to arrange an appointment, Stay positive, briefly explain the purpose of your meeting. Arrive for the conference on time. Open and close the meeting with positive statements directed toward the teacher, so she knows that you have intentions of working together, not against each other. Listen carefully to what the teacher says and write notes to help you remember what was discussed. When discussing a problem, be careful not to accuse the teacher of not doing her job. Discuss the problem in light of how your child is doing or feeling. Once the problem has been introduced and explained, allow the teacher some time to reflect and give her thoughts on the issue. Once an understanding is gained on the problem, discuss possible goals to address the problem and a time to check back to see if goals are being met. Express appreciation in meeting with you and follow up with a written thank you and a synopsis of what was discussed. n

an optimistic attitude as well. Try to see the good in everything, learn from mistakes, show enthusiasm for trying new things, and be persistent when things don’t go the way you’d like them to. Rather than focusing on your child’s weaknesses, encourage him in his strengths. Talk to him about how he can use his weaknesses to develop such good qualities as resilience, learning how to work hard, and learning patience. When you hear your child engaged in negative self-talk, encourage her to turn it around and see herself in a more positive light. Admire people who have overcome odds to accomplish something. Encourage your children to be resourceful and creative when faced with a problem. n

The Child Advocate - September  

Learning to Focus: What Parents Can do to Help Teamwork: School Success More Than Just Academics Developing Study Habits...Developing Good W...

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