What students wish their parents knew about school

Mother and Daughter Talking about School

It’s September and your middle school or high school student is back in classes. Another year means another great opportunity for them — and for you – to get better.

In my years as an educator, my students helped me compile a list of their wishes, those things they most wish their parents would say and do to support them in school. I used to share them with parents at back-to-school night and parent-teacher conferences, and they are things I’ve tried to keep in mind with my own teenager. While some of them aren’t practical (“I wish my parents wouldn’t make me do my homework” comes up a lot), here are five you might find interesting and helpful as you negotiate a new school year with your teens.

  1. “I wish you knew my teachers’ names.” This one is easy and effective. If you know who teaches your child’s English or math class, that’s a great resource for you. Plus, it shows your child that you are paying attention, that you are invested in this year with them.
  2. “I wish you would hear me out when something goes wrong.” When your son tells you he got a D on his vocabulary quiz, it’s tempting to start with “You should have…!” Instead, take a breath, then start with, “I’m so sorry. You must be really disappointed. What happened?” You’ll have a chance later for pushing study habits or limiting screen time. You won’t get another chance to sympathize and let them know you’re on their side.
  3. “I wish you would celebrate my small victories.” Any student, but especially one who is struggling, needs to celebrate progress and achievement – and if you join in, all the better. Start the after-school conversation with, “Tell me the best thing that happened today!”
  4. “I wish you knew how important my friends are.” Starting in middle school, a student’s peer group takes on a much bigger importance — and when you treat it that way, they feel your support. Navigating the social aspects of school is part of the learning process. Sometimes you want to say, “Quit texting your friends and do your homework!” But maybe you can win some bonus points by saying, “I know how important your friends are. Maybe you could invite them over for a weekly study group?”
  5. “I wish you remembered how hard it is!” You really do, don’t you? The social pressure, the homework, that feeling that you’ll never make it through to high school, college, adulthood. A little sympathy and some thoughtful moments of trust can make all the difference.

Dennis Quinn is a 2016 Mass Literacy Champion and is the Director of Mentoring Programs at Reader to Reader in Amherst, Massachusetts.