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Sandy Journal

Get involved, learn together, communicate with teacher are keys to helping students succeed

Jan 05, 2023 03:17PM ● By Julie Slama

Alpine School District Assistant Superintendent and Utah Association of Secondary School Principals Executive Director Rhonda Brimley shared with Canyons School District parents ways they can help support their children in school. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Canyons School District parents and guardians learned while there may not be an easy answer to being a parent, they learned some helpful hints at a recent parent night.

With the theme, “Let’s Succeed Together,” guest speaker Rhonda Brimley outlined ways parents can help their children achieve academic success.

The former teacher, principal, communication specialist and Alpine School District Assistant Superintendent and Utah Association of Secondary School Principals Executive Director said parents need to realize they’re partners in the education of their children.

“When school was taken away (during the COVID-19 pandemic), then we all realize the importance of being together, having social interactions, learning from someone. being able to ask questions and collaborate together,” Brimley said. “Even the students recognize that and they said we want to be in school.”

During the pandemic, she said parents were engaged more in their children’s learning and discovered how children are not only taught intentionally, but through observations.

“Our children are watching not just as the other adults and friends and other people in the community. They're watching. They're listening, and they're learning,” she said. “When a child is curious, we should celebrate that, I should respond if I don’t know by saying that and ‘let's find out together.’ Then we can research together, but celebrate the fact that our children are naturally inquisitive.”

Brimley said that children need to learn to be resilient.

She shared a story that when her daughter had a lemonade stand, nobody came. Rather than let her daughter, who planned the entire “business” herself, face that consequence, she contacted friends and neighbors asking them to stop and make a purchase.

“We have a tendency to be mama bears and papa bears to swoop in and save them. I couldn't let her not be successful, right? I stepped in to make sure she was going to be successful and feel confident, but she didn't have the opportunity to struggle, even if it was just trying to sell lemonade. She didn’t have the opportunity to learn from that,” Brimley said. “We need to allow those opportunities for kids to learn to overcome failure or they will grow up not knowing how to deal with things when they don't go the way they want them to. When they fall off that bike, we're going to tell them to keep trying. These kids need to learn how to be resilient.”

She said that parents need to make connections with the school community to help support their children.

“We've got to build those relationships with people and we've got to build that trust and as an educational community. All of us have the goal to help your student, to help your child be successful and learn to thrive,” Brimley said.

She suggested volunteering in the classroom, in the PTA or other school committees; making sure to be on email, newsletter and other communication lists; checking students’ backpacks for homework, field trip permission slips or notes from teachers; check Skyward for students’ academic success; and communicating with teachers.

“When there are parent-teacher conferences, meet the teacher face-to-face whether its offered in person or virtually. You might already have communicated by email, but it really is an opportunity to talk about your child, and hear from the teachers, not just about their scores, but what they have to say about your child, how they're interacting, how they're doing, and are they participating,” she said.

Four break-out sessions followed the guest speaker. Drew Johnson, who has four children at Alta View Elementary and one at Mt. Jordan Middle, picked digital safety so he could learn the latest tips on keeping his children safe while online.

“I want to know some tools that I can use so I can monitor their usage,” he said. “I've had two parenting apps that my 15-year-old has hacked into.”

Brighton Principal Tom Sherwood was one of the principals on a panel in the break-out “The Recipe for Student Success.”

“We opened it up as a discussion and talked about students’ success and the different kinds of supports we have available in the schools,” he said. “Oftentimes, parents don’t know where to go so they jump to a principal or district administration instead of starting with the teacher. We talked about social-emotional support and resources we have and how we all work together so students feel safe and cared for as well as succeed academically.”

Other break-out topics included parent engagement and an insider’s guide to educational and extracurricular options in the district.