How Parents Can Maximize Their Freshman Academy ExperienceHere are some tips for you to help make the most of your Freshman Academy experience as a parent/guardian of a 9th grade student. These are the secrets to maximizing your parent conferences, how to communicate most effectively with your child’s teachers/counselor, and how to know if your child is spending enough time and effort on homework.
“Hidden” Progress Reports:
Beginning the 2nd week of school, Freshman Academy teachers began to send home progress reports for Freshman Academy classes. We will do this on average every other week. Because our Academy classes are taught every other day, this amounts to sending home a progress report after every 5th class. We will post the progress report dates on the Academy website.
The Dog Ate My Progress Report: We often hear from parents who tell us that the child is not giving the parents the progress reports. Sometimes, the child will say he/she lost the reports, the reports were not given out by a specific teacher, the printer broke, the teacher was absent, a hurricane blew them away, etc. Let us dispel these myths once and for all. 95% of the time, the progress reports go home according to schedule like clockwork. Occasionally, a teacher will in fact forget to distribute them in a class, go home sick, or have a printer error. Mrs. Dunn or Mr. Weever are almost always made aware of an occurrence like this and will send out a note in our parent e-group about the delay.
But there will never be a time that a scheduled progress report won’t go home at all. If a teacher is supposed to send them home with a Thursday class and is out sick, forgetful, or has a computer issue- we will ALWAYS send home the reports either the next day through their Freshman Academy teammates or will send them the next time the teacher has the students (which means a missing Thursday report would be sent either Friday or Monday at the latest, a missing Friday report would go home the following Monday or Tuesday at the latest).
Attention, Private Investigators: If you have an issue with missing progress reports, the first place to begin your investigation is usually with your child. If you ask for the progress reports and you hear one of the aforementioned excuses, you should check your e-mail. If you do not see a note from Mrs. Dunn or Mr. Weever, then please contact your child’s counselor. Regardless, there should never be a time a scheduled progress report is not sent home later than two days after the published date.
Often, missing progress reports only occur coincidentally with students whose grades are average to below average. If your child is not showing you the reports despite our distribution and despite your knowledge that your child is receiving them, then the ball is in your court to address the deception or disorganization with your child. It is not uncommon for parents to find “missing” progress reports crumpled in pockets or the bottom of book-bags.
Paper Reports vs. E-Mail: Parents also often ask us if we can e-mail the reports. We cannot e-mail progress reports as a matter of routine because not all homes have internet or e-mail access. We can never make assumptions about resources nor can we neglect those parents without technology. So paper copies will always be distributed. It is more appropriate for you to secure the reports from your child. However, if there is a breakdown in the communication for whatever reason, please know that you can send us an e-mail any time you want a current report e-mailed to you. We will always reply to contacts initiated by a parent. Please let us know if you have any questions about this.
Initiating Contact With Academy Staff:
Parents will often conclude conferences with the Freshman Academy teams by saying "if you ever have any problems with my child, please don't hesitate to call or e-mail me." That is a well-intentioned and sincere statement made by an involved parent and it is always interpreted as such. However, due to large student numbers and a heavy teacher workload, it is not always a realistic idea. A Freshman Academy teacher teaches approximately 135-150 students per semester when you include the non-Academy course each teacher teaches. Much as they may like, they will not be able to contact the parents of all students who carry a D or F average, display problematic behaviors, etc. This is the reason for the bimonthly progress reports. It is through those reports that our constant communication with each set of parents/guardians occurs.
Teachers and counselors in the Freshman Academy may often initiate contact when time is available, but it should never be assumed that teachers can do that all the time. Please use our progress reports, our counselor/parent e-groups, and individual teacher websites to stay informed. Beyond that, please reach out to the team counselor with questions or concerns. Academy staff will always reply in a timely fashion to any parent who e-mails with a concern or question. Please let Mrs. Dunn or Mr. Weever know if you experience difficulty securing a timely reply from any teacher, and feel free to copy us on any e-mail to teachers which involve your child.
Since week two, the Academy teams have begun in earnest to meet with parents, both because of our initiation and from the requests of many of you. There are some general rules of thumb for scheduling conferences with your child's Freshman Academy team. By keeping these items in mind, you will surely get the most out of our meeting time. Please let your counselor know if you have any questions.
The counselor is the point of contact to arrange meetings with Freshman Academy teams and individual Freshman Academy teachers. Please e-mail Mrs. Dunn or Mr. Weever when/if you would like to schedule a time to meet with the Academy teachers.
Prior to meeting with an individual Freshman Academy teacher, we must first hold a team conference. Often, concerns shared by one Academy teacher about a student are shared by others. It is best practice to hold initial parent conferences as a team, and that is how we will schedule them. After the first team meeting, parents can contact their counselor to schedule a subsequent conference with an individual Freshman Academy teacher.
Academy parent conferences are always held during the Academy team’s common planning period. These meetings cannot occur before or after school because of our other obligations. The staff work-day runs from 7:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Though most teachers always are working beyond those hours grading work and answering e-mail, we cannot schedule conferences outside of those hours as a rule. Our Academy teachers tutor students after school, facilitate study hall, coach sports, advise clubs, teach driver’s education, have personal obligations, etc. So please understand we will be as flexible as we can about the day we meet with you, but the window of availability will not be as easily negotiated. Teams Rubenstein and Kaneko meet between 1.00 and 2.30. Teams Irving and Gardinier meet 7.30 and 9.00.
Due to other scheduled conferences and responsibilities, your conference must begin and end as scheduled. Please allow time for traffic, parking, and finding the meeting room as you plan your arrival time. If you arrive on time, you will always be allowed a full half-hour conference slot. Late arrivals could mean reduced meeting time or the need to reschedule the conference, because we are usually unable to extend the ending time of the conference.
The conferences should always include the following staff for any Academy team: your child’s counselor and teachers for the following subjects: English, World History, Health/PE, and Earth Science/Honors Biology. If your child is in Foundations of English and English 1 with Ms. Dixon or Ms. Couch everything will be done to insure they can meet with the team. They will contribute a current progress report along with anecdotal comments for us to share. Other teachers for your student (math and electives) are usually teaching at the time we meet and probably cannot attend. Parents can request meetings with those teachers before/after school or during their own planning periods by contacting the child’s counselor. If your child has an IEP, we usually will include the child’s case manager as well. Sometimes our Freshman Academy assistant principal will also attend meetings.
Your child will be in class during our meeting time. If you wish for your child to attend the conference, please request that when you finalize the appointment with your counselor. We will not automatically have him or her at the conference.
Homework: Matters of Quality AND Quantity
It’s been long-understood that one of the biggest problems we face as educators is helping students learn to invest their time, attention, and energies into homework and home test preparation. Inherently, high school freshmen struggle with making the connection between individual, nightly assignments and the rest of their lives. Freshmen often have almost no concept of the “domino effect” of failed/missing assignments and their cumulative average in a course.
You’re On the Clock: It is appropriate for students to have 1 ½-2 hours of homework per night. Between their smaller written assignments, upcoming major projects and papers, and preparing for tests/quizzes, your child can and should routinely fill that block of time in the evening. If you witness your child doing significantly less than that, or completing work in a distracting environment filled with music, TV, cell phone or recreational computer use, then we predict you are also receiving substandard grade reports. Please have your child spend an appropriate block of focused time on their studies in a conducive space- quiet, well-lit, with a straight-back chair which makes slouching and snuggling more difficult. Their detailed assignments should all be recorded in the free planner provided for them on Day 1.
Log On: If your child claims to be finished after 20-30 minutes, parents should check individual team pages on our website for notices of upcoming major tasks- your child always has upcoming tests, projects and papers that are posted on the team page and that require working ahead. Some teachers have more detailed, individual websites linked to their team page too.
Worry Warts: We also have a handful of students each year who pour so much time into homework that they spend several hours per night on it. For some students, it can become an unhealthy pursuit of the unattainable: perfection. Students get bogged down in minutiae, rewriting a paper more times than necessary, editing incessantly. Students should only spend more than 2-2 ½ hours on homework during exam time and, if they have been diligent and attentive throughout the year, maybe not even then. Please let your counselor know if you feel your child is having difficulty finding a healthy perspective and achieving balance. We want your child to have more in his/her life than school. Burn-out is a very real problem with hardworking, conscientious students. It’s a harder problem to solve than apathy- how do you make a child work with less enthusiasm? How do you tell them not to care as much? As a team, we must support these types of students too.