Turning a rough school start into a strong finish

How to ensure the academic year goes smoothly — even if it’s off to a bumpy beginning

With the harvest season in full swing, the lingering excitement from summer adventures starts to dissipate as students across the city begin to delve deep into their curriculum. It’s at this time that your child might start showing signs of trouble in school. Like any challenge that comes one’s way, it’s best to try and fix it sooner rather than later — especially when it comes to your child’s education. This school year doesn’t have to be a bumpy ride, even if it’s off to a rough start. Now is the time to take hold of the wheel and get the school bus back on track.

Many variables can contribute to struggles in the classroom. Perhaps your child is still slowly adjusting to a new grade, teacher or school, or your son or daughter is trying to form relationships with unfamiliar classmates, and your child is not completely comfortable in his or her social and learning environment. Whatever the case may be, there are solutions to help fix minor hiccups before they develop into year-long obstacles.

It’s important to speak to your child. Opening up a supportive line of communication early on will help allow you to recognize problems as they appear. Don’t wait for parent-teacher interviews. Work closely with teachers to identify problems and collaborate on solutions. Reach out to the school’s administration and guidance departments for assistance. Counsellors not only offer a confidential place for discussion, but they can provide adequate tools to help you and your child turn the school year around.

In addition to school services, it doesn’t hurt to look for outside help. Tutoring centres are a safe and friendly environment that provide vital support services. The truth is, children often take advice more willingly from people who are not their parents or teachers. Tutoring services can also complement learning disability programs offered in schools. For older students, extended care within the school system can carry a bit of a stigma; therefore, attending to these needs outside of the classroom might be a more comfortable fit. David Laredo, academic director at Light in the Attic Learning, understands the challenges and the fear of judgment that some students face within the classroom.

“I think that we remove the stigma because everyone is here for the same reason, and everyone has their own private room — so I think that really benefits the child,” says Laredo. Additionally, occupational or speech therapists and psychologists could be the missing link in helping children successfully move along in their studies. As parents, it’s too easy to forget the struggles of studying and tests — and just how difficult these skills are to master. Sometimes your child’s biggest hurdle is simply mastering these evaluation processes, so ensuring your child feels confident with his or her testing skills is a green light for progress. Test-taking skills need structure and organization. And, as Laredo says, “Test taking is a skill that you just have to work on.” Laredo and his team help students prepare for tests by creating a relaxed atmosphere in which to practise, resulting in greater confidence and familiarity with the process, to help ensure a rewarding experience versus one that is nerve-racking and challenging.

Everyone learns differently, and sometimes it takes a bit longer to figure out the perfect formula for success. Next June, through asking questions and seeking out appropriate support, you will see your child bursting with excitement for summer fun while holding his or her head high with pride and accomplishment after completing a rewarding school year.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO