As parents, it’s natural to focus on grades to measure our student’s success. While grades provide insight into academic performance, they don’t always reflect the actual knowledge and growth that our students experience. In fact, the process of learning, problem-solving, and developing effective strategies is more valuable in the long run.

At Untapped Learning, we see many instances where we’re more excited to see a C than an A. For example, we recently had a student with a C- in chemistry and an A in history in a semester of their junior year of high school. For context, history was a relatively easy class for the student while chemistry was incredibly challenging. Since chemistry was so tricky, they had to develop a disciplined routine to pass. They experimented with different study strategies and used trial and error to determine their learning style and how to play to their strengths. When we interviewed this student, they shared that even though they still don’t have the strongest understanding of chemistry, the class gave them an opportunity to establish better study habits, applicable to any class they take in the future. This class inspired (forced) them to work on a process that would help them succeed academically. Those learnings go far beyond the classroom as well. So, as mentors, we are much prouder of this student overcoming this obstacle than them receiving an easy A.

Though it can be frustrating to see your student fail a test or receive a low grade, steer away from that reflex to lecture. If the student did put in the effort, that lecture will only disrupt the learning process. Down the line, they will be less willing to take chances to understand how they learn. Instead, prioritize the process over the outcome!

Teaching Students the Process

Students and families focusing on the process over the product have much more long-term success. By learning to work through challenges, students gain valuable problem-solving skills that will help them in their academic and personal lives. Not only does this build better people, but we see the same conclusions time and time again:

Improve the process, and the grades will follow.

Instead of solely disciplining children when they face challenges or setbacks, we recommend you help guide them through the learning process. By asking thoughtful questions, you can encourage them to reflect on their study habits, learning environment, and overall approach to their education. Helpful questions from parents and educators that we have witnessed firsthand include:

  • What did you do to study for your last assessment?
  • What environment did you study in for your test?
  • Have you considered studying in a group or seeking teacher-led study sessions?
  • I see that you got 50% of these questions correct. What specific actions did you take to learn the material you understood?
  • Did you space out your study sessions over multiple days or cram all at once?

By asking variations of these questions, you can help your student identify their strengths and weaknesses in the learning process. This reflection allows them to understand their learning style better and adapt their strategies accordingly. When discussing academic challenges with our children, avoid using general statements like “work harder,” “you’ll do better next time,” or even “maybe math just isn’t your thing.” Those phrases are usually ineffective in terms of creating change. Instead, focus on using open-ended questions to find practical ways to help your child improve, such as:

  • How can we change your studying habits so that you can get the grade you want next time?
  • How often do you need to attend math office hours to understand the material better?
  • What steps can we take to help you feel successful in this class?
  • How can you improve your relationship with your teacher to improve your learning experience?

Reframing the conversation and focusing on actionable steps will empower your student to take ownership of their learning journey.

A Real-Life Example:

Consider the story of Miley, a 6th-grade student struggling with math. After her 2nd failed test, her parents organized a meeting with her math teacher to discuss ways that she could improve her scores. The math teacher suggested the following strategies:

1. Attend morning study sessions two days a week

2. Do ten minutes of online math per day

3. Find a math homework partner

4. Spend five minutes every night reviewing the notes taken in class that day

Surprised at the simplicity of the recommendations, Miley and her parents agreed to follow these steps. While Miley faced setbacks, she persevered and eventually began passing her assessments, finishing the semester with a B- in the class. Through this experience, no one obsessed over the result. Instead, Miley embraced the process and, in turn, learned discipline, how to ask for help, and that small actions over time can lead to big results. Regardless of her future path, these lessons are invaluable.

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    Beginning a new year or semester can be daunting, especially for our students who need to balance academics with athletics and other extracurriculars. To ensure a successful start to a new semester, we’ve compiled a list of recommendations to help your student start the semester strong. 

    1. Establish a routine before the school year begins. Long breaks from school are a great time to relax and enjoy time off after working hard during the year. However, transitioning back to school mode can be tricky if bad habits have developed during that time off. To avoid this, help your student get back into a routine at least a week or two before the semester begins. Encourage your student to go to bed on time and avoid sleeping in too much. Incorporate light academics, like reading for 15 minutes daily, to activate their brain. If they are heading into preseason conditioning, encourage them to work out on their own leading up to the start of team practices, gradually adding a few minutes every day to more easily transition into high-volume training.

    2. Clean and repack your backpack (and sports bag). Leaving perishable items, equipment, dirty jerseys, or general clutter in bags over long breaks can lead to unpleasant surprises when it’s time to pack them again. We strongly recommend that your student clean out and wash their backpack and sports bag at the start of any break rather than at the end. This time is also an excellent opportunity to reorganize the bags and take stock of any gear your student may need, ranging from binders to new cleats. The night before that first day back, make sure all bags are fully packed and sitting by the front door so they’re ready to go the next morning.

    3. Organize electronically. Electronic organization is often overlooked, but it’s essential for academic success. Before the new semester begins, encourage your student to organize their email, Google Drive, desktop, and even apps or notes on their phone. Archive old emails and files that should be kept (but aren’t needed right now), do an “unsubscribe audit” to declutter their current and future inbox, and create folders for every class in the upcoming semester. Put important due dates, practice and game times, and any extracurricular activities they participate in into one electronic calendar. Implementing these electronic organization strategies will make it easier to keep track of schedules, materials, and assignments throughout the year.

    4. Review for the first day. Review your student’s academic and athletic schedules with them a few days before classes start so they know what to expect. Double-check that they have all the necessary books and school supplies ready. You can also help to reduce their stress by talking through the logistics of their first day back, like how they’re getting to school and practice, or what they can expect for lunch. Planning for the first day will help your student start the new semester with momentum.

    5. Reflect on the previous semester. Encourage your student to take some time and reflect on their last semester. Identify the habits and routines that worked well for them and celebrate those successes. Also, work with them to acknowledge the areas where they faced challenges and collaborate on ways to help them improve this semester.

    6. Discuss their routines and goals. Use their past experiences to create a plan for the upcoming semester. Consider adjusting morning, night, and homework routines to accommodate your student’s commitments and academic responsibilities. Set SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based objectives. Write down these goals and post them somewhere visible as a reminder of what they are striving to achieve. Help them regularly check their progress and seek support from teachers, coaches, and family members to help them reach these goals.

    By following these recommendations, you can lay the foundation for a smooth and successful start to the semester. Establishing routines, staying organized, reflecting on past experiences, and setting goals will help your student excel academically while confidently pursuing their goals.

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      When students split their time between multiple households, maintaining routines and consistency becomes vital for their academic success. Collaborative efforts among parents, guardians, and mentors are crucial to creating a supportive environment for students to thrive. Here at Untapped, we have a few recommendations to help make collaboration across households easier.

      1. Set Clear Consequences and Rewards 

      Establishing consistent expectations across households is important to ensure your student takes responsibility for their chores, schoolwork, and other commitments. Talk to the other parents or guardians involved and agree on what is expected from your student. By providing clear guidelines and consequences, your student will better understand what is acceptable behavior. Avoid labeling one parent as “strict” and the other as “cool.” This can lead to inconsistent expectations and confusion for the student. Make time for regular check-ins to address any issues and make necessary adjustments.

      2. Stick to Consistent Routines

      Consistency is key when it comes to helping your student stay on track academically. Establishing predictable household routines will help your student understand and fulfill their obligations. For example, make it a rule that homework should be completed before any leisure activities, regardless of which house your student is in. Discuss bedtime, homework/academic time, and chores at the beginning of each semester and build a routine that can be followed in both homes. This communication will help prevent arguments with your student and will reduce your stress. 

      3. Emphasize Organization

      Keeping track of belongings can be challenging for students who move between households. Help your student stay organized by incorporating simple practices into their routines. For instance, include packing their backpack in their bedtime routine so they don’t forget any school materials in the morning rush. Identify areas where better organization can benefit their academic and personal life, and discuss small changes that they can make to improve this process. Be aware of the differences between houses and find solutions that will be useful, and realistic, for both.

      4. Create a Shared Plan 

      To ensure everyone is on the same page, consider using collaborative cloud-based programs for your student’s weekly plans. Platforms like Google Drive allow multiple people to access and update the schedule, making it easier to keep track of completed and pending tasks. Choose a free cloud program that offers shared notes, and encourage your student to update their plans regularly. Consistency in updating schedules, including homework routines, ensures everyone knows of any changes and expectations.

      5. Take Advantage of Office Hours and Untapped’s Homework Center

      Each household may have its own unique challenges. If your student struggles to do their work in one or both houses, consider arranging office hours with their teachers or utilizing resources like Untapped’s homework center. Office hours provide a quiet space for your student to focus on their assignments and seek help when needed. Untapped’s homework center offers academic support and reinforces your student’s academic routine. These external resources can provide a neutral location that keeps your student on track.

      Key Takeaways

      You can support your student’s academic success across multiple households by establishing clear expectations, maintaining consistent routines, emphasizing organization, and creating a shared plan. Collaboration with all parents, guardians, and mentors is essential to ensure a consistent and supportive environment. With a little effort and teamwork, you can help your student thrive academically, no matter the circumstances.

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