What is School Success to You?

written by Laurie Lafortune

We all want our teens to succeed at school but let’s consider what we mean by success. Do we want our teen to be a straight A student, star athlete, respected and liked by teachers? Do we hope our teen will be popular, or a leader in student council and on committees? Or do we hope that our teen will be kind, helpful and supportive to others.

As a parent, it’s important to know what you consider success to be. The goal of schooling is to help children to prepare for adult life and to thrive in their lives. To accomplish this, your child will need to learn skills in more than the academic areas.  Of course, you want them to be academically successful, but we also need to think about physical development, social skills, emotional maturity including empathy, creativity and spiritual development. If your child has straight As, that’s great, but are they also developing in the other areas? If your teen is athletically gifted, and very successful in school sports, does he also have opportunities to develop his creative skills?

What would you do in this situation? Joey, a young teen in Grade 8, is identified by his teachers as being academically gifted and is invited to attend a special academic program. Joey currently has a large positive group of friends, is active in sports and other extracurricular activities and is involved in student leadership and volunteer events at the school. What is the best decision for this young teen?

The parents, John and Kristin, discussed this academic opportunity with Joey and his teachers considering the benefits of the special program, and the potential pitfalls. In order to make a good decision, John and Kristin needed to be clear on what they considered school success for Joey to be.

In this situation, the parents (and Joey) decided not to move to the special program. John and Kristin were particularly happy with Joey’s peer relationships and did not want to jeopardize those relationships. Was this the best decision? There are so many variables that they will never know for sure, but Joey grew up to be a well-rounded, educated and employed adult with a good relationship with his parents. In their decision, John and Kristin considered school to be the support for the development of the whole person, not just the means for learning academic subject matter. Success in school for this family meant the development of their child to be a well-rounded adult.

So, as parents support their children to be successful in school, take the time to be clear what you think success really means.