By Sedonna Prater, Director, Curriculum and Instruction for the Knoxville Diocese Catholic Schools
Typically after the holidays and the frenzied buying of frantic Christmas shoppers, retailers prepare for a decline in sales. The reasons for the commercial “winter slump” are fairly predictable: lack of new merchandise, shopper fatigue, and depletion in shopper discretionary resources (money). Students and educators can also go through a “slump” during the first part of the second semester. While many people approach the new year with bright new resolutions, within a few weeks, these resolutions are often forgotten or abandoned. Failed resolutions can cause a sense of sadness and if coupled with a touch of seasonal blues, depression. Similar to the pre- holiday euphoria is the post-holiday let-down. The stage is set for a slump.
In schools, the 3rd quarter slump affects teachers and students in different, but related ways. Following the Christmas holiday, teachers return to school with renewed vigor and determination to impart the necessary skills and knowledge to their students for grade level mastery. Teachers are very aware that standardized assessments are just a few months away and they have to ensure their students are thoroughly prepared. Mid-year is often the time when teachers evaluate their own curriculum pacing guides and make adjustments. These adjustments sometimes result in compacted curriculum or acceleration to ensure prioritized content objectives are addressed. Few adjustments are made, however, in classroom management practices as teachers believe classroom policies and procedures are firmly established and do not want to waste any instructional time on management issues.
“Students often just need to know that we, as parents and educators, recognize their effort and achievements.”
The student, on the other hand, may respond to these third quarter adjustments in less than positive ways. If a student’s academic grades decline or there is greater incidence of conduct issues, the student may be experiencing the third quarter slump. Any principal can attest a greater number of disciplinary infractions and lower overall academic scores occur during the third quarter as compared to the other three quarters of the academic year. Often during the third quarter, the content within the curriculum has reached a point where most information is new to the student and, therefore, the level of difficulty has increased. This may cause student frustration and discouragement that may lead to a number of unsatisfactory student behaviors ranging from apathy to acting out.
So, how can a parent help his/her student avoid the 3rd quarter slump? The following proactive measures are good any time of the year and will help you and your student develop effective student habits:
- First of all, establish family routines including time for studying, recreation, family meals and sleep. Children in particular thrive on consistency and definitive boundaries. Children find comfort in knowing the expectations and routines of the family. By placing importance on doing certain things at a certain time, parents are teaching time management skills and helping the student to discern the things that are the most important. Make sure your student is getting enough sleep. The winter can cause all of us to want to sleep more, but children really need the additional sleep for healthy growth.
- Secondly, the new year is a good time to replenish school supplies and refocus on organizational routines, strategies and practices. Perhaps, you and your student can do a mid-year binder check or notebook clean-up. This helps the student realize accomplishments from the first semester and get re-organized for the next semester. Frequently, organizational strategies are started at the start of a new school year, but like the new year’s resolution are abandoned or forgotten as the year progresses. Revisit those study strategies that have worked for your student before or create some new ones to try this third quarter. New materials, new organizational strategies or a new way of looking at something are always good to spark renewed energy and motivation.
- Third, avoid over scheduling your student, but encourage some co-curricular activity. Many students actually perform better when they are involved in an activity of interest apart from their required school course work. By continuing to maintain family routines and by allowing your student to participate in an activity of enjoyment, many students actually improve their time management skills. These activities can be a stress reducer and help to eliminate seasonal blues experienced by some students.
- Fourth, keep the lines of communication open between you and your student’s teacher. If you discover your student’s grades are sliding, conferences with the teacher can help you learn what you can do to help the situation. Educators can provide helpful suggestions and incredible insight into the observed behaviors of your student. If a student is struggling with new material, the parent and teacher can work together to develop a supportive intervention plan.
Finally, celebrate the learning successes. Students often just need to know that we, as parents and educators, recognize their effort and achievements. Helping your student stay motivated, reinforcing organizational practices, and maintaining open dialogue will help your student avoid a slump during the 3rd quarter or any other time.
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