Beginning Class on a Good Note

   Just a few weeks ago, a new academic year begun, and it is convenient that students begin it on the best conditions with the aims that by the end of June they will have achieved a satisfactory performance. However, school failure is always resounding in the back of our minds: according to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports, about 30 percent of Spanish students fail their studies, in comparison to about 7 percent of German students, 11 percent of Danish students, and 13 percent of Swedish students. In the 2000 PISA study carried out by the OECD in 32 countries, Spanish students were below the average for reading comprehension and science. In order to not be part of these statistics:

   1. Start from the experience left by the previous grade. If one knows about the classes that the student had more difficulties in, more attention and special aid could be given from the beginning of the new grade. Contact with the teacher should also be established in order to prevent possible failures.

   2. Prepare an appropriate study space at home. It is important to have a fixed study space at home, because this facilitates the creation of an appropriate atmosphere and willingness to study. When one works or studies in a different room everyday it becomes more difficult to concentrate, because the attention is dispersed by curiosity and by not associating the place with studying.

   This room shall not have any noise that disturbs the student, such as television, radio, music player, telephone, etc. It is not necessary that the room have a lot of comfort: it should contain a minimum amount of furniture such as a table, a chair, book shelves, and a lamp.

   3. Have a demanding study schedule. It is very important to organize a child’s schedule from when they arrive home from school until the time they go to sleep, which should include dedicating time to helping parents, studying, family living, cultivating a hobby, and playing. Study time should also be respected by the students, parents and siblings in order to favor concentration and avoid distractions.

   Other than doing homework, it is important to study or review the lessons that were explained at school, just as it is important to not leave studying until the day before the exam. It is convenient to begin with the most difficult subject and do it at the best moment, that is, at a time when the student is well rested and calm.

   4. Value studying. If parents respect their child’s study time, then that means that they value homework and that for them it is something important. This way, students will be able to perceive that studying is not a kid’s thing, but a real work that demands concentration, effort, and consistency.

   5. Take care of the cultural environment. In some homes a “study environment” exists, while in others it does not. This environment depends on the example provided by parents. This environment, for example, is created when parents have the good habit of reading, intellectual curiosity, eagerness to learn, and a family library at home.

   6. Learn how to study. Experience has taught us that most children do not know how to study with an efficient method. They have to learn how to highlight and mark, make schemes and summaries, synthesis tables, take notes, organize reviews, and prepare exams. This matter, in fact, would require an article of its own to be further explored.

   7. Be motivated to study. This activity should not only be meant to pass an exam, but to learn new and interesting things. If the interest for studying is lost, then studying becomes a mere obligation, i.e. an activity that is imposed and not an adventure in the search for knowledge.

   8. Value the role of the memory. The inadequate use of one’s memory is known as “memorism”, i.e. learning a lesson by memorizing all words written on the text book or repeating paragraphs by mere memory even if they are not fully understood. That is why it is so important for students to understand what they study, reflect upon it, and memorize the ideas of the lesson, which should be later explained with other words different than those on the book. Even though memory is very much discredited nowadays, if students do not exercise it, then they will not be able to retain knowledge nor pass exams.

   In order to improve reading comprehension, it is convenient to have and use a dictionary so as to know the correct meaning of words that are not understood.

   9. What is the role of parents? Parents are not expected to substitute the role of the teacher, but they should not ignore their child’s school life either. They should be informed about the classes that were given at school, just as well as about the homework that their child must finish.

   Students should be advised not to rush when doing homework, but on the contrary, to take the necessary amount of time to think in order to face difficulties with patience and intelligence and to avoid asking for unnecessary help. It is in this sense that they will begin to acquire the habit of reflection and strength.

   For many parents, weekends are a great opportunity to have walks with their children and ask them how they are doing in school and how their relationship is with their teachers.

   10. Talk with the school teacher. It is generally recommended that parents meet with their child’s teacher three times (and more if necessary) for an interview in order to know about the academic performance of their child, as well as about his or her personality and behavior. There, parents have a chance to ask the teacher about what their child does in the classroom and if their child attends class and understands what is being taught.

   Finally, parents and teachers should set common goals to pursue together with the student in order to work towards the same direction and be effective (Translated by Gianna Sanchez Moretti).

   Arturo Ramo

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