Advice for parents

Sunday 29 September 2019

How can we help parents to help their children?

Although I have led three schools and now work as Director of Education of a family of nearly fifty schools, nothing has quite prepared me for being a parent trying to support my own daughters through their schooling. In an educational world addicted to high stakes academic testing it is easy to lose sight of what really matters. As a parent I can feel myself becoming anxious as my daughters struggle with their work, and have to continually remind myself of what really matters, and the long term aim of education.

What is education all about?

In a piece on well-being (WHY focus on student wellbeing?) I quote from Edna Sackson's blog where she lays out this list of success criteria, to be set aside the high-stakes testing culture:

Consider the list below...

  • My child is valued as an individual
  • My child  feels a sense of belonging
  • My child’s strengths matter more than his weaknesses
  • My child is intrinsically motivated
  • My child forms meaningful relationships
  • My child experiences personal growth
  • My child contributes to the community
  • My child loves learning
  • My child has ownership of her decisions and accepts the consequences
  • My child is allowed to fail and learn from his mistakes

In 'How to help your child succeed at school' New York Times journalist Jessica Lahey provides the following helpful advice for parents:

  • Value the process of learning (intrinsic motivators of curiosity, self-efficacy and mastery) more than the end product (extrinsic motivators such as points and grades). Look forward and not back asking 'how are you going to use this experience to better next time?' "Model: Talk about your own failures and successes with your kids, showing them that you, too, are invested in the process of learning. If you berate yourself over failures, so will they. If, however, they see you being brave and learning from your mistakes so you can be better next time, so will they."
  • Value achieving goals over getting grades. Three goals a term, with one being a challenge to stretch them. Make sure they are specific an achievable. Review goals once a month or term | semester. "Model: Watching a parent set a scary, ambitious goal and talk about the process of achieving it is the most direct way to teach children that learning and striving to be better are human goals, not just school goals."
  • Maintain a long-term perspective.Don’t live in the daily emergency of this homework or this test. Instead, think about where you’d like your child to be in a year or five years in terms of competence and growth. Model: When things go wrong in your own life, talk about them. “Well, this work project did not work out the way I wanted, but I still love what I do and want to be doing something related in five years. Here’s how I plan to learn from this so I can get there.” 

However, if we are going to provide parents with this guidance we also need to make sure that we don't lose our vision and aims for education in portraying (however implicitly) a devotion and addiction to high stakes assessment as being the only thing that matters. Let's ensure we keep our perspective.

Where does the IB fit in?

At the heart of all IB diagrammatic presentations of their curriculum model (be it PYP | MYP | DP or CP) is the picture of a child. Whilst it is sometimes tempting to portray the IB - especially as Diploma Programme level - as another curriculum devoted to high stakes assessment as the 'be-all-and-end-all' we need to remember that the IB is committed to the holistic development of the child. This is expressed in the ten attributes of the IB Learner Profile, an outward expression of the IB mission "to create a better and more peaceful world". Let us never forget that the IB strap line is 'Educating for a better world', and we do this by nurturing young people who exhibit the attributes of the Learner Profile: they are caring, inquirers, thinkers,

Tags: parents, newsletter


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