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3 questions all parents should be able to answer

It's hard to talk with your kids about anything once they get to be a certain age it seems.  It can be especially hard to talk with them about school if they are struggling.  Even if you find the right time when they happen to be in an agreeable mood you still need to ask your kids the right questions to make any conversation about school meaningful.  I can't tell you how many times I've asked parents about their child's study habits, where they do their homework, what time they do their homework, do they worry about tests, etc...  I rarely get an informed answer back.  Now in my opinion that's not the fault of the parents.  Its more just the reality of teenage life today for kids, they like to keep things private from their parents.  q What I've done here is compile a list of questions that parents should be able to answer about their kids educational life.  If there are some I missed please let me know.  I will be updating this list regularly:

1. When your kid studies for a test, how do they actually do it?

Being able to answer this questions is very important.  Most parents just think, my kid studies and that's enough.  However, in many cases that studying is perhaps barely taking place or in reality isn't at all.  Does your kid listen to music while they study? Do they text with friends? (Not always a bad thing depending on the kid. This can lead to some serious help for hard classes.) Do they use their computer while studying? Is the TV on?  Where do they study? Do they use notes? Do they use online tutorials? Are they actually doing the practice problems themselves?  As you can see, there is a lot more to studying than most parents realize.

2. When and where does your child do homework?

A lot of this overlaps with the previous question but it is just as important.  Getting into a positive and regular routine in for doing homework is essential to academic success.  The reality of class today (irregardless of whether you agree with it or not sadly) is that most required classes in school can be passed as long as all the work is completed.  In discussions with many teachers the majority agree that almost all the failures they have are a result of students not completing work instead of doing poorly on assessments.   If you are concerned with your student succeeding in class, ensuring they do their work is very important.

3. What are your child's personal expectations and what are your expectations for them?

It is very important that these two questions have the same answer.  In reality it is an entirely different blog post which I will cover soon.  I can say though that I've witnessed kids who have one view of themselves and their parents who have an entirely different view of their child in school.  This is a very important thing to get on the same page about.  Having expectations differ between parent and child can lead to significant stress and struggle for kids in class.  Whether expectations are high or low they need to be in sync and they need to be realistic.  More to follow on this tomorrow.

This really is just the beginning but these are 3 very important questions you should be able to answer about your child.  Please feel free to share this with others who may benefit from it as well!

Quick Tips: How to email a teacher (for parents)

As a teacher, I can say that I receive a large number of emails from parents asking this or that.  Though I respond to all there are certain emails that are far easier to deal with than others.  My suggestions/guidance for how to write and format an email to a teacher: 1. In the subject put your child's name and, if you can, describe the reason you are emailing in a few words.  If not, leave it for the body of the email.

2. In the body of the email try to be as short and sweet and possible.  Explain the reason you are emailing:  "I am concerned about my child's low grade." Say what you hope to get out of it: "I would like to schedule a meeting to discuss it with you.  When would be a good time?" Say thank you.

3. If you have a complaint or an issue that you are upset about try to keep the email as professional and impartial as you can.  Accusing, yelling at or otherwise degrading the teacher through email will rarely get you a positive or constructive response back.  Instead, explain your issue calmly and tell the teacher what you hope to achieve by emailing them.  Again, keep it professional.

4. Don't ask for information that is readily available already.  Try to avoid emailing about specific grades on assignments.  Almost all schools now have a way to access up to date grades online through a parent access grade portal of some sort.  If you want to know your kid's grade on a test or assignment.  Check there, don't ask the teacher.  The same goes for upcoming assignments or tests.  If the teacher maintains an active calendar or website check there first.  If all else fails, ask your child about something.  Emailing the teacher should be the last resort.

5. Make sure what you are asking for is appropriate.  Don't ask a teacher to change your child's grade or to excuse them from a homework assignment because of x,y, or z.  No teacher in good conscience can do those things simply because you are asking.

6. Be sure to indicate who your child is if you didn't in the subject area.

7. If you want a phone call back, put your phone number in the email and say when the best time to call is.  Be realistic though, most teachers aren't going to call you back at 7:30 p.m because that is what works best for you.

To summarize:  Keep your emails friendly and professional.  Be sure to indicate why you are emailing and what you hope to accomplish.  Make sure to say who your child is!  If you want a phone call back, put your phone number in the email.  Don't get angry when emailing and make sure what you are asking for is appropriate.  If you follow these suggestions you will probably get a prompt and positive response from the teacher answering your question or dealing with your issue!  If you are a teacher and have other suggestions for this list, let me know (chris@schooledgemobile.com) and I'll update the post with them.

Quick Tips: Talking with your kids about school (High School)

Parents, I know sometimes speaking with your kids about school can be a stressful and taxing proposition. You rarely get anything meaningful out of that conversation and in many cases it leads to an argument.  In general, your child isn't going to share what is happening in school with you.  Even the best students sometimes seem to shy away from talking with their parents about what is going on in school.  Obviously not all students are like this but there are more than enough to justify this post. A major reason for this issue is due to the fact that children hold all the power in that conversation.  You want to know information they have.  They know this and also know you have no other way of getting this information.  It is not a dynamic that leads to a meaningful conversation.  In general teenage kids seem to avoid speaking with their parents if they can, even more so when it is about school.  The disparity of information from kid to parent is one of the major factors in that issue.  Your job as a parent, if you want to really have a meaningful conversation about school with your kid, is to get as much of that information as you can before hand.  The more you know about what is going on in school, the more your child will be willing to speak with you about it.  They will quickly realize that a simple "everything is fine" or "no I don't have any homework" answer won't cut it because you know that's not true.  It will make speaking with your children about school much easier.

Ways to do this:

1. Check their grades online regularly.  See if they are missing any assignments.  See how they did on tests and quizzes.  Try to remember if they studied for them.

2. If your child's school has ParentEdge check the messages everyday.  Use those messages as a way to have a conversation with your child about their homework and about their upcoming tests everyday.

3. If you are desperate for information, email your child's teacher and try to keep updated through that route.  Email generally is the best means today of getting in contact with teachers.  Phone calls can easily get lost or forgotten about.

Use the above tools to make it easier to talk with your kids about school.  The more information you, as the parent, have the easier it will be to speak with your kids about what is going on in their classes.

 

Quick Tips: How to help your kids in high school with their homework

First, let me be clear.  No one expects you as a parent to be able to help your kid with their chemistry homework.  You probably took chemistry a long, long time ago or not at all.  Do you honestly remember any of it?  I would assume not.  Its not your job to actually sit there and tutor your child in how to do some complex chemistry problem.  It's part of their education to figure that out.  Your job as the parent is simply to remind them that they need to do it.  Offer support to them and offer guidance by perhaps pointing out certain resources but don't try to do their homework for them.  When teachers say, "get involved!", they simply want you ensure that studying and doing homework is emphasized in your home.  That's all.  No teacher expects a parent to sit down with their kids and work through some complex math problem for advanced algebra.  They simply want you to make sure your child tries to do it.  If they struggle with it, that is ok.  Sometimes things are hard.  Sometimes the answers don't come easy.  Don't stress out about the fact that you need to be able to figure out the answers.  You don't.  The teacher will help them.  Your job as a parent is to simply make school a priority. 

Quick Tips: Making school a priority at home

One easy way for parents to begin making an impact in their child's education is simple: make school a priority at home.  That might sound like a big deal but in reality it is quite an easy task.  Simply make it a point to speak with your kids everyday about what is going on in their classes.  Ask them if they have homework, ask them if they have a test, ask them how things are going academically, etc.  Don't take no for an answer.  It might be awkward at first but eventually it will become an important and valued part of everyday.  It doesn't need to be a grand dinner table conversation.  A simple 30 second talk everyday can go a very long way towards making it obvious that you as a parent care about school.  Kids pick up on that.  If you care, they will care.  If you think it is important, they will think it is important.  Even the most rebellious teenager who is trying everything to stay away from their parents will change their view on school if they know their parents think it is important.  Its a very subtle thing but it makes a very large difference.

What does the term "Parental Involvement" actually mean today?

There are many benefits of getting parents more involved in their children’s education.  Those benefits all stem from impressing the importance of education upon children.  By being more and more involved in their children’s education parents can show their children that they believe doing well in school is important. The first thing parents generally hear though when someone tells them to be more involved is the idea that they have to sit down and help their children with their homework.  In most cases this can’t be further from the truth.  At the younger grades helping children with homework is generally a good and positive thing.  It shows that you value education and think it is important enough to spend your time on.  Generally the concepts covered at that early stage are things parents feel comfortable dealing with.  However, as students get older and older there comes a point where the subject material moves beyond easy concepts that parents remember and feel comfortable working with.  It is at this point many parents check out and simply place the responsibility of academics on their children alone.

That is the point where staying involved can do a great deal of good for the children.  However, staying involved doesn’t mean helping you son with his chemistry homework at night.  Most parents have no idea how to go about doing some sort of chemistry related calculation and they have no intention of spending hours figuring out how before they help their children.  That is completely fine.  The key to being involved is simply making sure your children are actually doing their homework or studying for a test.  Being involved doesn’t mean you have to sit down and help kids do their homework, it just means you should help them understand that homework is important and it should be done.  Simply talking with them and asking if they have finished their homework goes a long way towards building that positive relationship with education.

As you begin to place more and more emphasis on education in the home your children will place more and more emphasis on education at school.  They will pay better attention in class, be more eager to attend class, and will behave better when at school.  This all stems from simply letting your children know that you place value on their education.

One of the major challenges to having that conversation with your kids every night is simply that in most cases, you don’t know what your child’s homework is.  You probably don’t have a clue if they have to study for a test or a quiz that night.  Why?  Mainly because kids generally don’t like to talk about school with their parents and you don’t want to force them to.  There is a solution to this problem.  That solution is called ParentEdge.  ParentEdge sends out a text message telling you what your child’s homework is (test, quiz or other important information).   Additionally, you also receive an email at the same time containing the same (or enhanced) information.  It’s an incredibly simple program and concept and it is one that you, the parent, benefit from a great deal.  This service is specifically designed to keep you up to date and informed about what your child’s homework is every night.  You will now know everyday, what your child’s homework is and if they have a test or quiz to study for. ParentEdge sends this information directly to your cell phone in the form of one simple text message and an email everyday to make things as easy for you as possible.

Please go to www.schooledgemobile.com/parentedge.html for more information about it and let your child’s school know that you would like to begin receiving these messages daily.  It could make a huge difference in your child’s academic success.  Why?  Because it will make it easier for you to be involved with their academic life every single day!

Dealing with Test Anixety Part 2

In part one of this series we discussed the basic idea that preparation for a test can seriously help remove some of the anxiety and stress students face today when they are studying and taking a test.  In this portion of the series we will be focusing more on the possible causes and issues of test anxiety that arise from things outside of school.  In part 3 of this series we will be focusing on possible causes of test anxiety that come from within the school itself. For Part 1, click here.

As has been said all along: Many students suffer from serious test anxiety today in school.  It is becoming a serious problem and is negatively hurting the grades of many students out there who otherwise understand the material and do their work.  It is also one of the least understood aspects of stress students face in school today.  That is why we decided to focus on this series of articles right at the beginning of Teacher Tip Offs.  We know it is important and we want to help.  That is why we’ve put together this guide, which discusses the major internal and external causes of test anxiety for students today.

With test and performance anxiety in schools being so prevalent today for students there seems to be several overriding factors that are found in some form in most students who suffer from this.  Now, these factors aren’t necessarily the only cause in students however the argument could be made that they are perhaps the most common and prevalent causes of test anxiety out there today.

Internal Pressure applied by the kids themselves – Generally this pressure can be broken down into one or more of the following types:

Worrying about their future - This has become more common these last few years especially due to the change in economic climate of this country.  As students become more and more aware of the current state of the job market and the challenges they will face in the world today after they graduate high school they become more stressed over every test they will take.  In the eyes of some particularly worrisome students they manage to equate their entire future to their success or failure on the test they might be taking tomorrow in chemistry class.  Now, obviously to adults that idea seems patently ludicrous but to a 15 year old kid who just knows that it is tough out there and little else that test may be an incredibly nerve racking experience.  My advice would be to try to imagine what it is like taking a test that you think may make or break your entire future as a student and professional.  Sounds awful right?  Now imagine doing it 3 or 4 times a month.

What to do The best advice that can be given about this issue is to simply talk to your kids if you think it is causing them serious stress.  Ask them if they are worried about their future, about getting into a good college, or if they are nervous about getting a good job someday.  The answers may surprise you as a parent.  The key to addressing this issue is simply helping your child understand that life is about far more than the test they are taking on Tuesday.  Try to give them some context in which to place that test in the grand overall scheme of their life.  Most kids don’t realize how much, even academically, there is to life outside of high school and their immediate classes.  I would have to say that getting a B on a test isn’t going to ruin a kid’s life.  As a parent who has gone through this, you would probably agree with that statement.  To help your child, your job is make them understand that as well.

Fear of failure – This can be a major issue, and one that is becoming more and more commonplace today in school and society.  It gets amplified considerably when it comes to high stakes test taking.  It stems in many ways from the lack of failure most children experience at a young age.  Now, this is not an opinion or judgment but simply a statement of fact as to how things appear in today’s world.  In most activities young kids do today, they are not allowed to fail or lose.  Everyone gets a trophy, everyone gets a prize, or we’re not going to keep score for their games, etc.  Kids do not experience failure when they are young anymore so they don’t know how to deal with it.  They get scared and confused, in many cases anxious, when they are faced with possibly failing at something.

It is most commonly seen in school when students who have relatively easily gotten A’s and B’s throughout their early school years begin taking more difficult classes in their 2nd or 3rd year in high school specifically.  This is the time when many of the “top” students begin taking classes that legitimately challenge them for the first time in their academic lives.  It is the first time they can walk into a class for a test with the idea in the back of their mind that they might not get an A on it.  This can lead to an incredible amount of anxiety and nervousness for the kids.

It is not reserved only to students in those grades however, it can happen to any student today at any age.  The big worry the students think about with this fear of failure is how they will appear to their friends, parents, and teachers.  They are as much worried about internally being disappointed as they are about disappointing those around them who they care about and seek approval from.

What to do If you think that one of the above factors may be causing your child anxiety there are a few things you can do about it.  First, address the issue of failure with them directly.  Failure is something that has a different definition for every person.  There are students who get B’s and consider that a failure while others pass with a D and are thrilled beyond belief.  Help them understand that failure, no matter what they consider it to be, is a part of life whether they like it or not.  Sometimes people fail, it is as simple as that and there is nothing that can be done about.  No amount of preparation, hard work, or diligence can prevent it sometimes.  Now obviously this is not an endorsement of failure in any way but helping a child understand that failure is a part of life can help alleviate much of the anxiousness they suffer from.

External Pressures : There are several possible external pressures that can lead to students suffering from test anxiety such as peer pressure and teacher interaction but those occur more in school and will be discussed in part 3 of this series.  What this section will focus on are parents and their expectations for their kids.

Parents and Expectations – Now, this can be a very sensitive topic for parents because their children are their children.  They are able to raise them however they feel is proper and obviously no one outside of them has the final say in that.  That statement is not up for debate nor is it being challenged.

However, in many instances the number one cause, by a wide margin, of test anxiety for students today is due to parents and their intense expectations of success.  Now obviously expectations are a good thing and rarely could someone be admonished for making sure their kid understands that things are expected out of them.  Too many kids these days have no expectations placed upon them and it leads to bad things.  Yet, sometimes having very, very high expectations for children in school can lead to debilitating test anxiety, especially if the student struggles to meet those expectations regularly.

In my experience as a teacher I have had students with such severe test anxiety they were barely able to make it through a test without breaking down into tears.  In every one of those cases I can tell you that the students parents had such high expectations for their student that they bordered on being near impossible.  The hardest thing I see at parent teacher conferences is that internal struggle some parents face when they are confronted with the fact that their son or daughter may not be able to meet their expectations.  Now these expectations can range from simply wanting a passing grade to expecting near 100%’s in every class.  It all depends on the parents, situation, and what they want for their children.  No matter the level though, sometimes kids just won’t be able to live up to those expectations.

The reasons for not meeting those expectations can be numerous and quite varied.  It could simply involve the student not having enough time to study due to sports, clubs, or music.  It could simply be that the student does not place the same importance on academics that the parents do and perhaps never will.  It could be one of many other reasons.  The hardest reason for parents to except though, in some cases, is that their son or daughter simply perhaps is not able to achieve at the grade level they would like.  Even if the child studies endlessly for 2 days straight before a major test they still might get a B despite preparing well, working hard, and trying their best.  Sometimes that is just the best a kid can do.  I know from my experience this is very, very hard for many parents to accept.  Everyone wants to believe their kid should be the one getting the A+ on every test and in every class yet realistically sometimes that isn’t possible.

What to do If this sounds like something you may be dealing with internally then perhaps it is time to consider having a talk with your child about some things.  Obviously high expectations are good and important for all kids but they must be realistic.  If your child is trying their absolute best yet still just struggling to get over that hump from a B to an A and they just can’t do it or perhaps they are working their tail of and only getting a C despite trying so hard it hurts.  You might want to avoid the next lecture or punishment designed to encourage them to do better.  Instead a simple conversation reassuring them that their hard work is noticed and appreciated will go a long way towards helping to reduce any anxiety they might feel.

Make them understand that there are still expectations and you know they are trying their best to reach them but you also still support them even if they can’t quite reach those lofty goals that are set.  I realize this is obvious to you: you support your children, you love them and you care about them, you just want them to succeed but you will always love them and be proud of them.  However, in some cases I don’t think the kids know this.  They aren’t old enough to realize that is how things work in most cases.  They simply don’t want to disappoint badly that they become so nervous and anxious they can’t help but do poorly on a test or a quiz.  In many cases some reassurance and perhaps a reevaluation of whether your expectations for your children are realistic can go a long, long way towards helping calm the test anxiety that many students suffer from today.

If this sounds like it is something that will help you and your children, please, please share it with others whom you think it may benefit.

How to schedule your classes if you want to go into medicine

These are several common questions that are asked of many teachers by students and parents every year: “What classes should I take next year?”

“What classes should my kid take if they want to go into medicine?”

We’ve decided to begin doing a series of quick articles explaining what would be good choices for classes based upon what you would like to do for a career.  The first career field we are going to focus on is anything medical related.  The past few years student interest in this career field has skyrocketed due to increased demand and the relating publicity for a wide range of jobs in the medical field.  Many students see it as a path to a very high paying, prestigious job that carries with it great respect if they are considering becoming a doctor or a pharmacist.  Other students see it as a path to a reliable job that pays well and is in demand if they are considering many of the different skilled tech or nursing careers that are available in medicine today.  Others see it as a means to gain employment quickly after high school in a job that pays well and is available compared to other jobs requiring similar education.

No matter what their focus, there are certain classes they should be taking in high school to be successful and prepared for college if they want to succeed in the medical field.  It is our hope that this will help students be aware of that when they begin scheduling and picking classes.  Parents, please share this with your kids if they are considering one of the following careers.  This post focus on Doctor, Nurse, Pharmacist, Physicians Assistant, Nurse Practitioner, etc.  Future posts will cover skilled tech course suggestions and vocational medical career suggestions.

Career Track: Doctor, Nurse, Pharmacist, Physicians Assistant, Nurse Practitioner, etc.

If you are thinking about being a doctor or a nurse then your choice of classes should hopefully be rather obvious and straightforward.  Your goal should be to take the most challenging and advanced science classes that are available to you in your school.  In addition, you should be focused on taking other challenging classes in English and Math as well.  Colleges look favorably at students who challenged themselves in high school when they consider admissions criteria for students.  In addition, it will help to prepare you for the challenges you will face in a rigorous college education that prepares you to either go on to medical school or begin your career as a nurse.

Courses you absolutely should take if available:

Biology Chemistry AP Chemistry AP Biology

These four courses should be the major focus of your education during your junior and senior year in high school if you are serious about being a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.  They pave the way towards better understanding in college, better preparation for the MCAT, GRE, etc, and a better chance at getting into a prestigious college or university.  They also provide a window into what your life will be like for the next, at minimum, 4 years.  If you don’t like AP Chemistry or AP Biology then you may seriously want to reconsider your career choice because you will be taking a lot more chemistry and biology in college.

Very Important Non Science Classes:

AP Language and Composition AP Literature AP Calculus AP Statistics Any advanced English class Any advanced Math class Basic English Basic Math

Taking the most advanced Math and English classes available will pay serious dividends for you eventually on your path towards a difficult and rewarding career in medicine.  Writing is at the core of all human communication so the better you are at it the better chance you will have at succeeding in whatever you do.  Doctors et al. probably write things far more than you have ever imagined.  Being able to write coherently and properly will carry you a long way towards success in college as well.  Most classes require writing, even your science and math classes will.  The better you are at it, the better you will do.

Math obviously is incredibly important in science and in life so the most advanced math classes shouldn’t be ignored either by prospective medical students in high school.  Most pre-med, pre-pharm, etc programs require students to take calculus at the minimum in college and many require a statistics class as well.  Getting a head start on these will go a long way towards your success in these classes in college.

Other Good Science Classes:

Physics Anatomy and Physiology Classes Other AP Science Classes available such as physics

These classes fall slightly lower on the priority list for medical careers in high school.  Obviously anatomy and physiology becomes a major cornerstone of your education later but in high school it is rarely as valuable to your education as an AP chemistry or biology would be.  Other Advanced Placement classes, such as Physics, can be very beneficial to you as well when it comes to college success as all major pre-med programs require a year of physics due to most medical schools making that a prerequisite for admission recently.

Classes to avoid

Dual enrollment (Unless they allow you to take courses at a quality university or college) Vocational Medical Programs Classes that would be considered by colleges to be “Blow-offs”

Schools are pushing dual enrollment more and more now as a way to get their kids ready for college.  In many cases it can be quite beneficial to certain students.  They are able to get exposure to college early, perhaps have classes paid for by the school, etc.  However, in many cases this dual enrollment is done with the local community college or otherwise local small college.  From my experience I can say that in most cases a well done, rigorous AP program in high school will prepare students far better than the corresponding freshmen level college class.  I would struggle to think of many counter arguments that could be made against this idea.  The only exception would be if your high school allows you to dual enroll at a major college or university where the subject matter is rigorous and challenging at the level of an AP class.  In addition, colleges would more than likely prefer to see AP classes on your transcript as they know what is taught in those.  Major college X has no idea what was taught in Bio 101 at your local community college but they know the exact amount of rigor and challenge you went through in AP Biology.

Vocational programs for medical careers can be of great benefit to certain students.  However, if you are considering one of the more advanced and difficult careers listed at the start of this article your time is probably spent better off taking more challenging classes.  If you want to be a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, PA, NP, etc. then you probably will not benefit much from the medical tech class that takes up 3 hours of your schedule everyday for a year.  In fact, you’ll be wasting seriously valuable time that could be better spent preparing you for the challenge of college and graduate school.  The college or university you are applying to will see it that way as well.  They don’t want to see that you wasted half of your day doing vocational work that has little applicable transfer to what you want to study for a career.

Summary If you are serious about an advanced medical career then you then to push yourself in high school.  You are expected by colleges to challenge yourself and take classes that are not easy.  If you do so you will be better prepared to succeed when you move onto college and graduate school.  You will also have a solid idea of whether you will enjoy your college experience based on your classes.  Taking the hard classes in high school makes the hard classes in college much easier.

If you think this is good advice, feel free to share it with your friends, children, or parents.

Dealing with Test Anxiety: Part 1

As a teacher I can’t tell you how many times I have heard from parents how nervous and anxious their child gets when they are about to take a high stakes test. This is usually the same student who has done all their work and behaves in class.  Yet when it comes to taking a test they are usually quite ready to freak out and psych themselves out of a good grade before they even sit down for the high stakes test. Test anxiety is a real problem today in schools because of what it is doing to our kids and what it is doing to their grades.  Thankfully there are a few ways in which it can be dealt with.  In almost every instance, especially in the early grades at middle school and high school, it starts with parents being knowledgeable about what their children can do to relax and succeed on high stakes tests and quizzes.  In this article I have outlined several actionable tips that can be used to help your child deal with test anxiety. Obviously there are a large number of factors that play into why a student experiences certain test anxiety before any type of test or quiz they may be facing.  Throughout the course of these articles I will try to hit on the major issues that can lead to this test anxiety and what can be done to combat each of them.

This first part will focus on what, in many cases, can be a quick and easy fix for test anxiety that many students live with today.  The idea behind this concept is simple:

When students understand the material they will have confidence in themselves and feel far less anxious about the test they are taking or studying for.

Obviously it isn’t an end all be all quick answer or solution but this first topic we will cover can go a very, very long way to alleviating many of the anxious and stressed feelings students experience before, during, and after a test.  It is something that is practiced by the top students in every class on a daily or weekly basis whether they realize it or not.  It is the reason I have students come in feeling ready to go for a test, feeling completely confident in their ability to succeed on it.  Though not the sole reason for test anxiety I have seen this solution be a major help to many of my students who struggle with mild to severe cases of test anxiety.

The fix to which I am referring is simply the art of test preparation, better known as studying.  When students study correctly they understand the material.  When students understand the material they will have confidence in themselves and feel far less anxious about the test they are taking or studying for.

I know it sounds so obvious as to be laughable yet simply studying and preparing for a test can make all the difference in the world for a huge number of students.  However, this simple answer requires far more explanation than you may think it does.

In short, I would say (and obviously there are exceptions to this) the vast majority of students who suffer from test anxiety do not prepare well enough.  While not always the cause of the anxiety, it greatly contributes to it in almost every case I have ever dealt with.  In short, if your son or daughter suffers from test anxiety I would be willing to argue that they are more than likely not preparing properly for tests.  Again, that doesn’t apply to everyone but it is more than likely an issue.  I know you will say they study hard and work tirelessly so they can do well but I have to say from experience that most times the students don’t know how to study properly.  In many cases also, the parents seem to not be aware of what exactly their child considers “studying”.  If you’ve never thought about it before now, please think and consider, what exactly does your son or daughter do while studying?  How do they study? What do they study?  Where do they study?  How long do they study?  With whom do they study?  In my experience as a teacher I must be honest; I have rarely met a parent who can answer even 2 or 3 of those questions, let alone all of them.

The first step in truly helping your student prepare for a test in hopes of beating test anxiety involves being able to answer the questions asked above.  Now, since I know most parents haven’t exactly been students in high school for quite some time I realize that proper study habits might be something forgotten or perhaps never truly known before.  So, with that in mind, I’m going to give you a brief rundown of what constitutes “bad” studying first and then what is “good” studying.

First, let’s talk about what is “bad” studying for a test by looking at time spent, study environment, distractions present, and several other factors.

  • Cramming is bad –  A major problem with students studying today is that they simply do not understand the time required to study and fully master material they will be tested on.  It takes time to learn things, cramming is almost always going to lead to anxiety and poor understanding.
  • Studying with distractions is bad – Studying while watching TV, texting with friends socially, randomly hanging out on Facebook or twitter, listening to music (sometimes, this depends a great deal with the individual child), or even simply studying in a busy part of the house all constitute serious distractions.  If your son or daughter is studying in one of these environments, put a stop to it.
  • Hanging out with friends and calling it studying is bad – Going over to a friend’s house, meeting at the coffee shop, or meeting after school somewhere to study often leads to a whole lot of “not studying” going on.  Obviously study groups can be a great tool for students to learn from however in most cases today study groups end of being at best a poor use of unfocused study time to at worst simply being an excuse for kids to hang out together with no studying at all.
  • Looking at the review guide once and calling it good is bad – Simply looking at a test review guide one time or spending half an hour looking at the solutions to some sample problems or concepts doesn’t cut it in most classes past 8th grade.  Most classes these days require real preparation.  Simply looking at some answers for a few minutes doesn’t even come close.

Now let’s talk about what good studying is and how you can fix the “bad” studying:

  • Not waiting until the last night is good- The first thing to do is not wait until the night before a test to study.  Slowly but surely reviewing material little by little every day will go a long way towards helping improve a student’s understanding of material.  As a reminder: When students understand the material they will have confidence in themselves and feel far less anxious about the test they are taking or studying for.
  • Limit social interaction unless it truly is study time-  As stated above most times high school or middle school study groups end up being about social time rather than study time.  However, if you can get a group of hardworking and dedicated kids together who all want to succeed on a test and can resist the temptation to simply talk about whatever a study group can be hugely beneficial.  The challenge is simply finding the right group.
  • Don’t do the minimum and think it is enough – Make sure your kids spend enough time studying to make it worthwhile.  Don’t let them off easily.  Ask them what they studied, what they looked at, and how much time they actually spent on it.  There is no easy path to understanding and learning.  It takes time and it takes hard work.  If it was easy, there wouldn’t be any test anxiety.  To see 7 great and specific ways to prepare for tests, check this out. 
  • Pay attention in class more – Though obviously not a study tip specifically this basic idea can go a very long way in helping your children feel much better prepared and knowledge about the material.  It prevents that sticker shock that many of them feel when they go to start studying for a test having paid little attention in class for the past week.  It can make all the difference.

As a reminder one more time: When students understand the material they will have confidence in themselves and feel far less anxious about the test they are taking or studying for.

I hope these ideas will prove useful and meaningful to you in helping your child deal with test anxiety.  As you can see this article focused specifically on a quick fix that you as a parent can try to start helping with today in your child’s schooling.  However, test anxiety can sometimes be a bit more complicated than simple preparation and study habits.  The next part of this article will focus more on the non-school aspects of a student’s life that can contribute greatly to test anxiety and what can be done to combat them.

As always, I hope what you have read here helps you and your family.  If you think it does, please don’t hesitate to share it with others who you think it may help.

7 Easy tips to prepare for a Test In High School

"How can I get an A on the test?"  "What should I do to get a 100% on my next test?" These are common questions asked by high school students today yet the answers seem to constantly allude many students.  If you ask the vast majority of students about what they struggled with or currently struggle with in high school the most you will inevitably hear their biggest challenge was taking tests.  In many cases this struggle is coupled and compounded by a serious mix of anxiety and nervousness over the test.  Read on to see the list.

What I have put together here is a list of simple suggestions a student can do to prepare better for a unit or chapter test in high school.  These tips come from my observations and discussions with students who come into my classroom confident and leave having performed well on the test or assessment.  Many of these might sound like common sense to the experienced student, teacher or parent but it is amazing how many times these concepts get overlooked when a student begins trying to study for a test.

If you’re a student looking at this right now and you have a test tomorrow, I hope this helps but I realize some of these ideas won’t really apply to your need for a quick fix.  If you need some tips on cramming for a test click here.  My suggestion to you, the student who needs this, would be to print this list up, tape it to your folder or desk and try to remember to practice these ideas on a daily or weekly basis.  If you are a parent who is wondering what they can do to help their kid do better o a test.  First, I’d give them this list you are looking at right now.  Second, I also wrote a quick tip guide to parents in hopes of helping them better understand what they can do to help their kids out on tests, click here to check that out.

1. Don’t cram, do a little at a time – Sure this sounds obvious and in reality it is obvious.  Studying a little bit at a time over the course of the entire unit is far and away the best plan for truly mastering the material and building confidence in it.  Taking the material that you learned that day in class and quickly reviewing it at home for 15-20 minutes each night will pay huge dividends when it comes to test day in class.  Far too many times students will try to wait and cram it all in the last night before a test and will become overwhelmed with the amount of material they have to learn in the span of a few short hours.  Yes, studying the night before the test is always a good part of the plan but preparing far in advance will be more than worth it.  Yet this concept is much, much easier said than done.  It requires great personal discipline and focus to do this on a night by night basis.  However, if you can master the discipline required this single piece of advice will help a great deal.

2. Figure out what exactly is on the test- This is another one of those obvious yet commonly overlooked ideas that students should always remember.  Before you begin studying material for the test your first step should be to determine what concepts from the unit are specifically going to be on the test.  Which ideas presented were obviously the most important and will have the largest number of questions on the test?  Which ideas are the building blocks of the chapter that everything else builds off?  Finding the answers to these questions will provide you with a good idea of what is important to study and focus on in your preparation.  How do you find the answers to these questions?  The first place I would look is the study guide given to you by your teacher.  If you aren’t given one in some form the next step I would take is simply asking the teacher what concepts will be focused on during the test.  Don’t be afraid to ask what the most important concepts are.  If you can’t seem to get any good information out of the teacher my final suggestion would be to look at your notes, look at the book, and any other material you have to determine what concepts pop up the most and seem to be the most important.

3. Study smarter and harder – Once you have gone through all the trouble of finding out what exactly will be on the test spend your valuable time studying that specific information.  Don’t waste your time the night before the test studying a concept that you are quite confident will simply not be on the test or will only have 1 or 2 questions devoted to it.  Spend the vast amount of time you will study focused on the concepts you know are important.

4. Build your confidence up  – Confidence is a key to being successful in all things in life.  School and tests are no different.  When you study I recommend students start with the easier material first and then work their way up to the harder, more challenging material.  This way you build up confidence in yourself and the material as you go.  You won’t get discouraged which is a key point to successful studying.  Staying positive and confident in your abilities.

5. Work through every problem yourself -  This is a common issue I see amongst students today.  They are given a study guide and generally the answers along with it or they get the answers from a friend.  Students figure that once they have the answers to the questions on the study guide all they have to do is study those and they will be fine.  They rarely seem to realize that the point of the study guide and the path to success on tests is for them to find the answers themselves, study the answer, and master that answer or concept.  I’ve never seen someone master a concept for a test by simply looking at a study guide answer.  There is no answer provided for you on the test, you have to figure it out.  By practicing that at home you are preparing your mind to do well on the test.

6. Create study tools for yourself – There are many different possible study tools that are available for you to use when studying.  Some of the obvious ones would be flash cards for vocabulary, mnemonic devices to help you remember things (Ex. Please excuse my dear aunt sally for the order of operations in math class), or rewriting your notes.  The best study tool I have found is the concept of you either teaching or explaining an idea to your parents or classmates.  If you can successfully teach someone else the concept you are going to do just fine with it on the test.

7. Go to bed, eat breakfast, and lunch –  There is no point staying up until 3 in the morning the day of the test to study that one hard problem again after you have already looked at it four times.  All you’re doing at that point is lowering your chances of getting an A on the test.  Sleep helps a great deal on tests.  Studying is important but so is sleep.  If you are incoherent because you only got 2 or 3 hours of sleep no amount of caffeine is going to make up for that when it comes to performing on the test.  In addition, eat breakfast if the test is in the morning and eat lunch obviously if the test is in the afternoon.  When you eat your mind and body can be more focused on taking the test instead of worrying about being hungry or needing energy.

I hope these tips will help you out when it comes to preparing for a test.

If you follow these steps you will be more successful on tests.  You will have more confidence in yourself and you will do better.  You might not get an A the first time but if you stick with it and you work hard at these ideas you will eventually.

10 Emergency Test Cramming Tips

Nobody likes to do it but sometimes cramming for a test is simply unavoidable.  You put off studying, didn’t look at the review guide, and waited until the night before the test to even think about preparing.  Though I obviously would suggest that you not make this your normal strategy for test studying, if you do find yourself in this precarious position there are a few things you can do to help yourself out:cr 1. Figure out what to study – When studying on a limited time budget you need to make sure you aren’t wasting time.  Your first priority should be to figure out what exactly will be on the test and stick to only studying that information.  Look at the review guide, look at your notes, and think about what has been talked about in class.  Pick out the most important concepts from there, perhaps the ones that are mentioned the most, and focus your studying on those. Don’t waste time on something if you think it won’t be on there or if it will only be in one question.

2. Don’t get overwhelmed – This is huge.  Do not let yourself get overwhelmed by anxiety and nervousness when thinking about everything you are going to have to study in a short amount of time.  Simply take it one minute at a time, focus on the problem or concept you are studying only and then move on.  Stay positive and focused.

3. Don’t burn yourself out – There will come a point at some during the night where you simply need to be done studying.  No amount of energy drinks is going to make that extra hour of time you want to put in at 4:30 a.m worth it.  Get some sleep!  Even if it is only a few hours, it might make the difference for you on the test.  Even if you cram everything into your brain the night before by staying up the whole night, it won’t do you any good if you are too incoherent to even write your name on the test.

4. Focus on the study guide – This goes along with #1 but it needs to be said again.  The study guide given to you by your teacher is the best place to focus when studying.  It was obviously designed to make you aware of the problems and concepts that will be on your test.  Use it!

5. Don’t bother asking teacher for help ­ - Just to save you some time, don’t bother emailing your teacher or professor at 11:30 p.m, or even 7 p.m, the night before a test.  As a teacher I can tell you that more than likely they aren’t going to respond to you.  Why? They probably aren’t too concerned with the fact that you waited until the very last minute to start studying for a test.  Don’t waste your time waiting for a reply.

6. Do ask your friends for help – Generally you know a few people in the class and they might be studying at the same time you are.  Perhaps they are even trying to cram everything in just like you waited to do.  If so, give them a call, text them, get in contact with them somehow.  They are going to be far more willing to help you.  My only suggestion though, don’t rely on them solely for help.  You have to figure it out yourself.

7. Don’t just look at solved problems, do them yourself – Don’t solely rely on looking at problems that are worked out for you, especially in math and science.  Trust me, you need to practice doing them yourself.  Simply looking at the solution isn’t going to cut it when it comes to you working something out on a test.  I can’t tell you how many times I have had students say they looked at the solutions over and over again without trying it themselves.  They then are shocked that they didn’t get that question right.  Try it yourself!

8. Use the Internet – If your friends have abandoned you for sleep and you are just stuck on something turn to the Internet for help.  Obviously, you have some hook up to it if you are reading this.  Use it.  There are an incredible number of resources out there that can help you out.  YouTube is a great place to look for educational videos that explain every concept under the sun.  If you are confused and need help, just search for it on the net.  Trust me.  The answer to your question is out there, you just have to find it.

9. Move around, don’t just sit there – There is nothing worse for learning than sitting still at a desk for 6 straight hours.  If you want to make your time spent studying more valuable, move around a bit.  Every hour take a 5 minute break to walk around, get a drink, do a few jumping jacks, or basically anything that gets you out of your chair and moving around.

10.  Eat breakfast in the morning – I know this is obvious or at least sounds obvious but do it anyway!  Eat before you leave for school or go to class.  It will make a difference.  If you just spent your entire night studying, you need to eat.  Your brain and test score will appreciate it!

I hope these tips help in your cramming session. Next time, print a little note out reminding yourself to study before the night before!

Parents and kids: Make a study spot in your house!

Studying can be hard.  Lets not pretend otherwise. Parents think back to when you were a kid and try to imagine how annoying it was to sit and study for even a little while.  Imagine now when there are way more distractions available than ever before.  It is a challenge to sit there and remain focused for several hours at a time without really doing much of anything except reading or working out some concept that you probably don’t like.  I’ve almost never heard a student, even the best students, say that studying is their favorite thing to do.  Quite the opposite in fact: Most people don’t like studying. Now that we’ve got that out of the way lets also be realistic about the fact: Studying is necessary to succeed in school today.  Whether it is enjoyable or not, if you want to do well in school you need to study.  It is as simple as that.  Work needs to be done and time needs to be spent to learn.

 

Homework also fits into the “It’s never a good time” category.  The teachers know this, parents know this, and students know this.  Yet homework is assigned a lot, collected, checked, and sometimes a big part of your grade in school.  Why is that the case if no one likes it?

The answer is simple, it is a necessary evil.  Something that helps kids learn what is being taught.  It allows kids to practice and hone their skills, whatever they are.  Without it, kids would struggle more.  They would learn less.  It is as simple as that.

So, we’ve established that studying stinks and homework is no fun but both happen to be necessary evils if you are going to get good grades in school.  So, what is there to do about this?  The best advice we can give here is to create a space in your house where kids can study without distraction.  This spot should be comfortable yet conducive to focusing.  We’ve put together several suggestions for such a study space that will hopefully lead to better grades, higher scores, and less stress.

Make studying comfortable – Make sure you are comfortable when you are studying.  There is nothing worse than sitting somewhere doing something you don’t like while also feeling terribly uncomfortable for hours.  Being uncomfortable generally leads to less time spent studying and doing homework.  This leads to lower grades.  Get a comfortable chair and a comfortable desk.

Don’t get too comfortable though – Comfort can get carried away when studying.  When it happens, its bad.  You lose focus, you drift off, and you end up doing something completely unrelated to your homework.  That is not what we’re going for.  Places to avoid studying: On a bed, a couch, or some sort of recliner like thing.  Keep it confined to a nice comfortable upright chair and desk.  There’s a reason those seem to be the standard now and have been for kind of a while.

Keep away from the hustle and bustle – Most houses today with school age kids can get kinda busy: they can be noisy, they can be loud, they can be distracting.  Your homework spot should be well off the beaten path in the house.  Basically, if people are going to be around to distract you, talk to you, or do their own things while you’re working it isn’t the place you want to be.  Find a nice quiet corner and make it your own!

Stock your spot! – This might sound kind of weird but have the necessary items that you will need at your study spot.  The worst thing you can run into is being on a roll, studying like mad, doing your homework like a champ, and then you realize “man I need a stapler, where is it?”  Things like that can kill your focus and momentum and lead to a 10 minute search around the house for a stapler or pen or whatever.  Don’t let that happen.  Stock your spot with all the essentials: Stapler, calculator, pencils, pens, paper, erasers, tape, paper clips, post its, index cards, 3 hole punch, Kleenex, and whatever else you can think of.  Keep it there and keep it ready so that when you need it you don’t waste time or get distracted.

No distractions – Keep the distractions away from your spot.  No TV around it anywhere, trust us, watching TV while doing homework or studying doesn’t help.  It just doesn’t.  A computer can be an interesting challenge to have in the homework spot.  Obviously computers can be really helpful when it comes to getting homework done or studying for a test.  They also pose a serious distraction though; especially when kids are only a click away from Facebook or whatever else is out there.  If you are going to have one in your spot, resist the distraction temptation!  The other biggie would be the kid’s phone.  Today the phone is way more than just a phone, it does it all!  The phone can be a huge study tool that provides immediate contact with friends who are doing the same homework the child is.  It can be used to look up answers and solutions too.  The problem though is that it can also be used to do one of 8 million different things that are distracting and have nothing to do with school.  It is another one of those tough calls that parents and kids will have to make about what works best for the individual kid.

Make it the place to be! – Make your study spot the place to be by incorporating some sort of personal design touch into it.  Put some posters up or some inspirational sayings; just do something to make whoever is studying there feel good and not hate having to be there.  Make it a place people like going to work.

Conclusion Having a spot in your own house where homework can be done without distractions is a huge help to most students.  In truth, most people haven’t even thought about this.  Kids just sit down somewhere and start working.  Parents, if you want your kids to study and do their homework more:  Make one of these spots in your house!  Make it look nice and fun, like a place a kid wouldn’t mind sitting for an hour or two.  Put up some cheesy inspirational quotes.  They might sound cliché to someone over the age of 20 but for a middle schooler or high schooler they actually have some meaning.  Get a nice looking desk and a comfortable chair for your kids so they think its not basically a spot to be punished by having to do work.  Keep the distractions away and you are good to go!

Hopefully this helps you out, if so please feel free to share it with anyone else you think it might help out.