Spring Fever Solutions: Overcoming Low Motivation and Missed Assignments

Spring is in the air. Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping…and students are losing all motivation at the end of a long school year! If your child is losing track of assignments or forgetting to do them in the first place, you’re not alone. In fact, we’re having parents left and right ask us how they can get their kids over the finish line.

In this blog, we’re going to look at why spring fever is at an all-time high this year. (Of course, it’s not a surprise after the year we’ve had, but the last reason might really surprise you.) Then we’re going to share a simple solution you can use to get your child back on track without causing any more tension in your relationship. 

5 Reasons Spring Fever Is at an All-Time High

Every year, we see students struggle to stay organized and on track as the weather warms and summer vacation comes into view. And whether or not a child has good grades typically has very little to do with it. That’s because missed assignments and low motivation are more often rooted in executive functioning challenges than academic struggles. 

Let’s look at five reasons spring fever is at an all-time high this year:

  1. Virtual Learning Burnout – Kids (and their parents) are just plain “zoomed” out. After more than a year of virtual learning and little to no in-person contact with teachers, many students feel unmotivated.
  2. Isolation and Grief – We’ve lost a lot this year. Some students have lost loved ones to COVID-19. All students have been grieving their previously normal social lives. It’s a lot to manage as a young child.
  3. Mental Health Challenges – Depression and anxiety are at an all-time high in young people. This can make it hard for even the best and brightest students to stay motivated and complete assignments.
  4. Distractions at Home – Whether it’s siblings on their own Zoom calls or the draw of their favorite video game, there are a lot of distractions at home that don’t exist in the traditional classroom. This puts kids’ executive functioning skills to the test in a very challenging way.
  5. Executive Functioning Weaknesses – Executive functioning refers to the soft skills required to manage time, organize assignments, track progress, and so on. These skills don’t come naturally to most students, but they can be taught and learned. No matter how strong of a student your child may be, executive functioning becomes more important with each passing year (and into adulthood!) as the demands of school increase.

We don’t want to gloss over how overwhelming and difficult this list feels. Parenting is never easy, but parenting isolated kids in a pandemic is an especially heavy burden. If your child is struggling with mental health or isolation, we don’t want to over-simplify the solution. He or she may need extra help from a caring professional.

But if your child mostly is doing well but simply can’t seem to stay organized and keeps forgetting assignments – strengthening their executive functioning skills can go a long way. That’s where our simple “one thing” solution can come in handy.

The “One Thing” Solution

As an adult, when you have a lot on your mind, you probably create a to-do list. Whether you have a favorite app or simply scribble notes-to-self on a napkin, to-do lists are the go-to solution for many adults. They’re not, however, the best option for a student with spring fever. When kids are facing the challenges outlined above, a to-do list can feel more overwhelming than helpful.

That’s why we recommend the “one thing” solution instead. We simply ask kids, “What’s the one subject that’s most important to you right now?” Then we can say, “Ok, looking at that one subject, what’s the one assignment that, if you completed it, your grade would improve and you’d feel a whole let better?”

For most kids, taking this “one thing” approach feels far more doable than a laundry list of items to check off. And it can be applied to many different responsibilities. For example, many students find the college application process to be intimidating. You can break it down by asking, “Looking at the common app, what’s the one thing that, if we got this done, you’d feel very accomplished this week?”

Identifying and completing one valuable task can give students a feeling of accomplishment and build a sense of momentum that carries them through other tasks, too. For kids who feel tired and overwhelmed, this “one thing” approach gives a sense of control and relief while still helping them tackle some tasks.

Make Strides This Summer

Have you ever had your car battery die in a parking lot? Oftentimes, you get someone to kickstart your car so you can get to your next destination, but you still may need a new battery to keep your car running into the future. The “one thing” solution is kind of like a kickstart. It can help you get your child across the finish line of this long year, but they may need more support to strengthen their executive functioning skills.

Right now, many schools and teachers are more lax about kids completing assignments because they understand how trying this year has been. In the fall, however, we expect standards to raise once more and kids who struggle with executive functioning may find the transition difficult—unless they prepare over the summer.

No matter how strong your child’s grades are, they need to master executive functioning. If they struggle with organization, time management, and self-motivation, this summer is the ideal time to improve without all the pressure of normal schoolwork. Better executive functioning skills will not only serve them well next year but for the rest of their lives.

This summer, we’re offering executive functioning coaching for all ages. As always, we’ll cater each one-on-one tutoring session to your child. If they have summer assignments, we can use those as a framework for practicing important skills. If not, we’ll create fun science projects with them as a no-stress way to learn those skills. Either way, we make it fun and easy for your child to make strides this summer. 

To learn more about how our summer programs can help your family, click here or schedule a free consultation with us here. We’re here for you!

Asking Powerful Questions: How To Help Your Kids Become Independent And Productive

While this month marks spring break for many of our students across the area, for us at Educational Connections, it marks our 23rd year in business. In 1998, I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined that we’d have such a positive impact on our students. From bright but disorganized kids to the child who wants to perform at a higher level, and everything in between – we are committed to overcoming every child’s challenges. My team and I are forever grateful for our families who chose to be a part of this journey with us and have become a member of our Educational Connections family.

Over the years, my tutors and I have homed in on many strategies to help kids in school, no matter the area. In math, we’ve taught tricks to learn the multiplication tables and games to master the Pythagorean Theorem. For our reluctant writers, we’ve developed color-coded graphic organizers and used cool software like Rev. But I can tell you from my many years of experience, there is no better strategy to help kids develop self-awareness, responsibility, and independence than ‘powerful questions.’

Powerful questions are prompts we use to ask kids how they might best tackle some of the common yet tricky obstacles they encounter. These types of questions get kids to buy in and engage far more than telling them what to do.

Now let’s take a step back for a moment. Because you’re here, we can already tell you’re committed to helping your child improve their attitude towards school, homework and study habits, and academic performance. Chances are you also picked up some ideas along the way on how you may help them get organized, overcome procrastination, or study smarter. While these ideas may morph and grow with hybrid learning, the core strategies remain the same.

Click below to get more strategies like Powerful Questions and other resources that you can use to help your child!

Get More Strategies!

 

So, what’s the real problem?

You, as “Mom” or “Dad,” may know what to do, but your son or daughter may have other ideas…

Anyone who’s tried to feed broccoli to a toddler, or get a teenager to stop watching YouTube videos and do their math homework, knows that no matter how much “sense” it makes, or how much logic is involved, there’s not much arguing with “I don’t want to do it that way.”

And this couldn’t be more true when it comes to schoolwork. Unless our kids are ready and willing to make changes to their homework and study habits, no matter how hard you push, nothing meaningful is going to improve until they take it upon themselves to do those things independently.

So how do we do that?

This is where Powerful Questions come in. 

What are Powerful Questions?

Now looking back, Socrates figured this out loooong before any of us did:

Asking questions to spark thinking is far more effective than “telling” someone what they need to do.

Apply that idea to your kids and their approach towards homework and studying, and you find that if you can frame your questions in the right way, you’ll actually facilitate the self-awareness, empowerment, and independence they need to become self-starters and take on the behaviors you’ve been encouraging them to.

But the way these questions are framed is a key point. Here’s an example of a typical conversation you might have with your child:

Mom: “Jimmy, do you have homework today?”
Jimmy: “Yeah.”
Mom: “Well, you better start it now because you have soccer at 6:00 and I don’t want you staying up late again tonight because you started your work too late!”
Jimmy: “Ugghhhhggg…”

The problem here may seem like it’s as simple as: Jimmy just doesn’t feel like doing his homework.

But it actually starts off on the wrong foot because the question Mom asked is a non-starter: it doesn’t get Jimmy thinking about the things he needs to do to get started on his homework.

This is what we refer to as a Yes/No/Why Question, and Powerful Questions are the opposite. They are instead:

  • Open-ended and non-judgmental
  • Not intended to give advice or to solve the problem for the student
  • Intended to get them thinking in the right direction that will provide a much higher chance of a solution they come to themselves

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of some common Yes/No/Why Questions you might naturally ask, and some powerful alternatives you could replace them with to encourage independent thinking.

Yes/No/Why Questions: Powerful Questions:

Do you have homework?

What are your priorities today?

Did you study for that science test?

What’s the one thing you might do to study for your science test?

Are you ready for your big English exam?

On a scale of 1-10, how prepared do you feel for the English exam?

Why didn’t you study?

Going forward, what’s the one thing you might do differently?

Why didn’t you turn that in?

Did something get in your way of getting that assignment done?

And here’s the process to go through when you do go to re-frame that conversation:

  1. Ask an initial powerful question to spark thinking
  2. Listen to responses without passing judgment
  3. Restate or paraphrase what the student is saying
  4. Give positive acknowledgments along the way

Okay so now with that in mind, let’s reframe our conversation with Jimmy using Powerful Questions instead:

Mom: “Jimmy, what are your priorities today for homework?”
Jimmy: “I have to science test tomorrow and some math homework.”
Mom: “Oh, okay, a science test and math homework. What might you do first?”
Jimmy: “Probably study for science.”
Mom: “Okay, that sounds like a good plan to study for science first. I can tell you want to get that out of the way. Great idea. How will you know you’re ready for the test?”
Jimmy: “I’m going to work through the study guide again and practice the vocab words on Quizlet.”
Mom: “Sounds like you have a good plan. You’re going to work through the study guide and Quizlet before soccer. Let’s leave by 5:30. Sound okay?”

Now, let’s not pretend that this is how your conversation will go the first time you try this.

More likely you may encounter:

Mom: “Jimmy, what are your priorities today for homework?”
Jimmy: “Huh??”

Or…

Mom: “Jimmy, what are your priorities today for homework?”
Jimmy: “I don’t think I have any…” as you stand there with his math assignment in your hand.

So if this happens don’t get discouraged, this process takes some getting used to on both sides. The important thing is to keep trying, and to gently lead and prod them in the right direction, trying your best not to outright tell them what they need to do.

Why Powerful Questions work

Powerful questions work well with kids, even the resistant ones, for two reasons:

First: By asking the right questions, you’re not telling kids what to do

And no child (or adult for that matter) likes to be told what to do. It puts people on the defensive… and when they’re on the defensive, they’re far less likely to engage in conversation.

When kids feel defensive or judged, they can begin to shut down. However, when you ask open-ended questions more out of curiosity, kids are much more likely to listen and to talk to you.

Second: They foster executive functioning skills (EF)

When it comes to schoolwork, EF skills have to do with getting started (being a self-starter), focusing well enough to get the work done, and then moving on to the next assignment. The problem is that at times, parents can end up being the Homework Police, by nagging, prodding, and negotiating to get their kids to do three things: get started, focus and finish.

By asking the right questions, you’re encouraging kids to think ahead about how they might get started on their own, what’s important to get done, and how they’ll go about doing it.

For many years, our executive function coaches have found that this approach works incredibly well for all kids, even during online or hybrid school, and it can work in your home, too.

So give it a shot!

If you found this strategy helpful, go here to get access to even more!

The Real Reason Your Child Procrastinates

They procrastinate getting ready, then walk out the door without their soccer cleats. They procrastinate studying, and no one knows they need help until the bad grade comes back on a big test. They procrastinate on a project, and the whole family suffers through a stressful late night before the due date.

As a parent, you’d love to help your child conquer their procrastination tendencies, but you can’t do that until you understand the underlying causes that drive the bad habit. In today’s blog, I want to help you understand why kids really procrastinate. This information will equip you to instill a sense of responsibility in your child—and regain some order and peace in your home along the way!

The Real Reason Kids Procrastinate

Before we dive into why kids struggle with procrastination and disorganization, let’s debunk some myths. No, you haven’t failed them as a parent. No, they don’t have insurmountable personality flaws. No, they’re not necessarily lazy or bored or overwhelmed. The problem isn’t a reflection of their character or your parenting. It’s simply a sign that their executive functioning skills need further development.

Harvard University defines executive functioning skills as “the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. Just as an air traffic control system at a busy airport safely manages the arrivals and departures of many aircraft on multiple runways, the brain needs this skill set to filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and control impulses.”

The good news is that these processes and skills can be taught and learned. Your child, who is continually forgetting everything from homework assignments to marching band instruments, can grow and improve. Don’t lose hope!

The Eight Executive Functioning Skills

Experts have identified eight executive functioning skills students need in order to succeed in school, work, and life. Understanding these key skills is the first step in helping your child improve their ability to manage their time, assignments, and goals independently:

  1. Inhibition is the ability to inhibit or stop distractions and impulses that can derail focus.
  2. Initiation is the ability to get started, especially when you don’t want to or when a task feels overwhelming.
  3. Shifting is the ability to “go with the flow” and recognize when things are out of one’s control.
  4. Emotional Control is the ability to process big feelings realistically and effectively.
  5. Working Memory is the ability to use visuals to track what one needs to remember or complete.
  6. Planning and Organization is the ability to think beyond one day and plan out long-term assignments.
  7. Materials Organization is the ability to keep digital files and paperwork organized and accessible.
  8. Self-Monitoring is the ability to accurately assess one’s performance and status.

As you read through that list, you may be able to identify some skills as harder or easier for your child. Recognizing areas of difficulty will help you know which skills your child needs to strengthen to improve their overall executive functioning.

How to Strengthen Executive Functioning Skills

Executive functioning skills are just that: skills. They can be learned, just like dribbling a basketball or solving math problems with long division. Yes, some of these abilities will come more naturally to some children than others, but nearly everyone can learn and strengthen these skills with guidance.

At Educational Connections, our executive functioning coaches help students learn and grow with…

  • Tools and Strategies – Students can use many different systems and strategies to stay organized, manage their time, and track their assignments. Our executive functioning coaches help students learn to identify, customize, or develop systems that fit their personality and needs.
  • Routines and Practice – Executive functioning skills take practice! Our coaches help students get into a rhythm of practicing critical skills daily and weekly so they can grow in confidence and independence.
  • Outside Support – Many students need outside support and accountability while strengthening these skills. Children often balk at their parents’ attempts to help but embrace the guidance of other adults. (Don’t take it personally—their resistance to you is a normal part of growing up!) Our coaches can provide that third-party support as students gain independence.

If your child struggles with executive functioning, we can help!

Our executive functioning coaches are trained experts who can help your child grow in these critical areas. With the help of our coaches and convenient online tutoring options, your child can grow in confidence, independence, and responsibility. (And your entire family can enjoy a more predictable and organized routine!) Click below to get started with a free consultation today.

Schedule a Consult

5 Reasons to be Really Proud of Yourself Right Now

There’s no doubt these are trying times. Each day, parents call our office looking for help with an array of homeschooling challenges. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, please hear this: Not one single parent I’ve spoken with claims to have it all figured out. We’re navigating massive shifts as parents, as educators, and as families. It’s hard, but you really are doing a wonderful job. 

At EC Tutoring, we’re proud to cheer you on. Read on to discover 5 reasons we believe you should be really proud of yourself right now—and 5 ways we’re here to help when you need an extra boost!

1. You’re figuring out how to homeschool in a crisis.

Homeschooling in a crisis is not like traditional homeschooling. It’s sudden. It’s scattered. It’s scary. But, day by day, you’re adjusting. Celebrate your little victories along the way—the single completed assignment, the successful virtual meeting with a teacher, the 30 minutes of reading your child did today—to stay positive and on-track.

Of course, it’s still normal to feel overwhelmed or discouraged, so I wrote an ebook to help and I’m giving it away for free. Click here to access my free ebook, “Homeschooling During COVID-19: 7 Stress-free Ways to Keep Your Child On Track.” And please feel free to pass that link on to friends or share it on social media! We want to give it to as many parents as possible.

2. You’re a great advocate for your child.

Even as you manage the stress of our “new normal,” you’re continuing to care about your child’s long-term mental health and academic future. It’s a lot, and no one can balance it all perfectly, but we’re so proud to come alongside you as you fight for your child’s best in the present and their future.

If you’re parenting a high schooler, part of that “long-term advocacy” is preparing them for the SAT/ACT. We’re here to help. We’re offering a Virtual Proctored ACT Exam This Saturday, April 11th from 9:00 am - 12:30 pm. Students can take the ACT at home, under timed conditions, and with a proctor present (via Zoom). They’ll gain familiarity with the type of questions, pacing, and stamina required for test day. We’ll even schedule virtual meetings afterward to review a detailed, color-coded score report that identifies your child’s strengths and areas to improve. It’s only $20 to register, so click here to make sure your child doesn’t miss this Saturday’s exam.

3. You’re finding new resources for your child.

You parents are nothing if not resourceful! We’ve seen you master new online tools and discover all sorts of homeschooling tips across the internet. Take a moment and think about all the new apps or websites you’ve used in the last few weeks to help your child connect with others and stay on track. You’re doing a great job tracking down helpful resources!

If you’re still looking for resources to help your AP student prepare for the updated AP Exams, don’t miss our Online AP Coaching program. Studying for an AP Exam is a massive undertaking—even under normal circumstances—and this year’s students may find themselves overwhelmed as they review all of the material, identify which concepts are important to know, make connections between big ideas, and practice timed writing. Our AP Coaches are here to help. Click here to learn more about changes to this year’s exam and click here to match your child with an AP Coach.

4. You’re teaching your child lifelong skills in executive function and focus.

We know it’s not easy teaching your child to work independently and focus on schoolwork from home. But your persistence is worth it! Not only will it give you a few moments of quiet while they work, but it’s also instilling really valuable skills for the long haul. 

We believe this is important work, but we also understand it’s a big challenge—especially while quarantined. To help, we’re putting on a free webinar to share some tips, tricks, and suggestions. Click here to register for our free webinar on April 8th: How to Keep Distracted Kids in “Study Mode” (Even If They Have ADHD).

5. You’re getting creative and staying connected.

We’re all practicing social distancing, but none of us is in this alone. We see you getting creative to keep your family connected. As you schedule virtual playdates, family FaceTime calls, and more, you’re reminding your child that no matter how weird life gets, they never have to do it alone.

To help your child stay connected with the outside world and on-track academically, we’re now offering online homeschooling sessions with expert learning coaches. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or isolated, let an expert learning coach take care of all the details of homeschooling and motivate your child to get everything done without your involvement. Whether your child has school-issued assignments, optional and ungraded work, or nothing at all, click here to match your child with a credentialed tutor who can meet with him or her every day—or just as-needed. Get matched, stay connected, and pass off the homeschooling burden to us. You don’t have to do this alone! 

Our 3 most popular posts of 2019 👏

Do you ever look around at other parents and think, “Why does everyone else seem to have it all together? Am I the only one figuring this out as I go?”

The truth is every parent is making educated guesses on what’s best for their child, and every parent second guesses themselves from time to time! And, as parents, where do we turn for answers? The internet!

Over the past year, some of the posts on our website have attracted tens of thousands of readers like you. Today, I want to share with you our three most popular posts from 2019 so you can see what questions your fellow parents are asking—and get the advice we’ve shared with them!

Check out the posts below, then forward this email to a fellow parent as a reminder that we’re all in this together… and no one has it all figured out!

#1: How to Handle Bad Grades: A Practical Guide for Parents

No parent wants to see a bad grade on their child’s report card. If it does happen to your child, it can be really hard to know how to respond. Perhaps that’s why this post has been our most-read post of the year with over 31,000 views.

Check it out for helpful tips concerning…  

  • What to do if your child comes home with bad grades (and how to talk to them about it)
  • Whether to punish your child for bad grades or reward them for good grades
  • How to investigate why your child got the grade and what to do about it moving forward

With report cards coming up after the break, this is a great piece to read now or bookmark for later. Here’s to hoping you won’t ever need it… but being prepared just in case!

#2: This $5 Tool Makes Homework Much Easier

So what’s the simple tool our tutors love? Whiteboards! 

They’re not flashy or tech-savvy, but they still work wonders with elementary, middle, and high schoolers. Read on to learn what you need to know to make this whiteboard trick work in your household.

Read our post to discover…

  • Why planning for an entire month isn’t realistic, but planning for one day at a time is too short-sighted
  • The best way to avoid stress later in the week
  • The truth about kids being disorganized or falling behind

Schedule a call with us if your child could use a little extra help.

#3: What’s your child’s homework personality?

How is the school year going for you and your family so far? It’s around this time of year that assignments can pile up, calendars can fill up, and stress can build for the entire family. Add a child’s disorganization or poor time management to the mix, and things quickly go from bad to worse.

Read our post to learn about...

  • Focus Apps for Tick Tock Tommy
  • Planning Ahead with Last Minute Lucy
  • Weekly Check-ins with Hot Headed Harry
  • Clean Sweeps with Backpack Bonnie

If your child resists your efforts to help, know you’re not alone. I’ve been there! And that’s why I’ve created a special Executive Function Coaching program to connect your child with an expert tutor who can coach her to find and implement systems that will work for her… without any work on your part!

Schedule a Consult

Why studying math is so hard? 😫

If you’ve been around Educational Connections for a while, you’ve probably heard me talk about my first encounter with tutoring—and it wasn’t as a tutor. I was a student. It was the summer between fourth and fifth grade, and I simply could not figure out long division.

All the steps confused and frustrated me, and I never could seem to get it right. That summer, my mom got me my first tutor. I biked to her house every week until I finally mastered long division and regained my self-confidence.

I bring up that story today to say this: Math concepts are hard to study. I experienced it myself as a student, and we hear it from kids and parents every day. 

The biggest challenge is that math is incredibly hands-on. You can’t just throw some definitions on an index card or quiz your child aloud on the ride to school. Fortunately, our head tutor Jan Rowe has a technique that can help.

Watch this short video to see how you can turn the math homework your child is already doing into a helpful study tool that can be used again and again before their next big math test:

Don’t you just love how simple that is? Here’s all you need to do to use this strategy with your child. (It works for all ages!)

1. Grab some graph paper.

This isn’t required, but many students find it easier to keep track of numbers when using graph paper to line them up properly.

2. Write the steps on the right side of the sheet.

Using your child’s textbook or notes from class, help them write out the steps on the right side of the sheet, so they can easily follow them as they work through their homework problem.

3. Work the problem on the left side of the page.

Help your child write the homework problem on the left side of the page, beside the steps they need to follow. This allows them to stay focused and on-track, especially when working through a lot of steps.

4. Keep the homework sheet handy for easy access later.

Now that you have a sample problem and the steps to solve it on one easy-to-read piece of paper, don’t throw it away! Store any practice sheets you create in one convenient place, so your child can use them to review steps and work through more sample problems leading up to their next big test.

It’s that simple! This strategy isn’t complicated, time-consuming, or expensive to try, and it makes studying math much easier and more effective. Try it out with your child this week, then hit reply to let me know how it went!

Studying math is hard. We can help!

If your child needs a bit of extra support to conquer confusing math concepts, please don’t feel like you have to relearn it all yourself just to help out. (Math has changed so much since we were kids, hasn’t it?) 

Instead, click below to request a tutor, and we’ll send someone to your home to help your child one-on-one. It’s the easiest way to give your child the skills and, more importantly, the confidence they need to conquer math, school, and any other challenges life throws their way!

Schedule a Consult

Parenting A Procrastinator: It’s More Complicated Than You Think

When our kids struggle with procrastination or study habits, it’s easy to think of it as a character flaw.

But in reality, there’s always an underlying reason why they’re putting off doing their work. As parents, we have to figure out where the procrastination is coming from in order to help them get past it.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Adrienne Wichard-Edds at the Washington Post about this exact issue.
 
In this article we discuss:
  • Why procrastination is more of a “symptom” of your child’s executive functioning skills vs. a direct behavior or choice
  • How to work with your child to solve the problem by involving them in the process (ultimately producing a better outcome)
  • Where parents should cut themselves a break, and why

Click the link below to give it a read:

 
 
The topics covered here are also available in additional detail in my new book Getting Past Procrastination.
 

Is the “No-Zero” Policy doing more harm than good?

The No-Zero Policy is a new grading strategy that is increasing in popularity in schools across the U.S. and, in fact, Fairfax County has adopted it as well.

From the FCPS website:

“Collaborative teams may choose to apply a penalty when work is turned in after the due date. Though if a student has made a reasonable attempt to complete work, teams are encouraged to assign a grade no lower than 50 percent.”

So for example:

Let’s say a student had three assignments he had to complete and he only turned in two of them.

On both of them he got an 80 percent, making his traditional scores 80, 80, and 0. If you average those scores together, that would be 53 percent (an “F”).

Zero Percent of Ten

 

But let’s say the same student got an 80, got another 80, and instead of getting a zero for that assignment he didn’t turn in, he was automatically given a 50 percent. Now the student has a 70 percent (a low “C” – which one might argue better reflects their understanding of the material).

Is this a good or bad thing?

Argument A: It’s good in that it decreases the negativity cycle, and better reflects how well students are doing with a greater weight placed on tests.

Often, if a student doesn’t turn something in and knows they’re going to get a zero, they may be less inclined to try as hard for the rest of the quarter, knowing that their grade is now “screwed up.”

Argument B: Giving kids credit when none is due is inappropriate, and breeds a lack of accountability.

As this Edutopia article on the topic mentions:

“A no-zero grading policy allows students to do minimal work and still pass, pushes students forward who haven’t mastered the content, and doesn’t teach students the real-life consequences of not meeting their responsibilities…”

We may be making positive changes in the short term, but we’re also potentially sending kids off to college unprepared to deal with the consequences of not completing their work.

Overall, I believe that the no-zero policy for most kids is a good thing, but would love to hear from you.

What do you think? Comment below!

The Do’s and Don’ts of report card reactions

Now that we have a perspective on how to interpret the grades that your child comes home with, the next question is:

How should you react?

If your child comes home with good grades…

…it’s often a parent’s natural reaction to say things like: “Wow, that’s awesome! You’re just so smart. I always knew you were a natural at math.”

Nice Work!

However, this type of praise may do more harm than good. Instead, focus on praising effort, because it’s something kids feel like they can control (unlike their intelligence or natural abilities). Also, though it is indeed time to celebrate good grades as a victory, keep in mind that it’s possible to go overboard with rewards and incentives.

If your child comes home with a bad grade…

First things first, spend the time to figure out what’s going on. There are usually one of two reasons for bad grades.

Reason One: They don’t have mastery of the content.

This means that even though they do the homework, they do extra credit, and they turn things in on time, they’re not “getting” the material. They’re very organized, but they don’t do well on tests, especially unit tests and midterms

tests that cover material over a longer period of time.

If this is the case, your child may not be absorbing the class content

appropriately, and might need to work on their study skills.

Alternatively, despite their best efforts, they may need some one-on-one help from you, a teacher, or a subject tutor who can help bring them up to speed.

Reason Two: They have difficulty with organization and executive functions.

These are usually the kids that get great test scores, but don’t turn in their homework. Their projects are often late. They seem disorganized. They don’t know when things are due.

For students who fall into this category, it’s usually difficulty with executive functions and/or lack of organization skills that’s causing their low grade, not content mastery.

If this is the case, your child may need some work on their routines and habits both in school and at home, and could benefit from working with an Educational Coach.

Once you’ve determined which camp your child is a part of, it’s time to start looking forward rather than dwelling on what happened in the past.

It can be tough

Our natural reaction as a parent is to say:

“Well, what could you have done differently?”

or

“You know, you should’ve done this or you should have done that.”

Instead of looking back, look forward and say:

“You know what? I can tell that you’re disappointed. Now that you know what material is covered and you know how your teacher teaches, what might you do going forward?”

That’s a better question.

Finally, if you’re looking for a comprehensive guide to handling poor grades, I highly recommend you give our full post on this subject a read:

Read the Full Practical Guide to Grades for Parents