Make this Academic Year a Success for Your Student

Effective Goal-Setting Strategies

Throughout my education career, I have worked with thousands of students and their families. One of the best ways to support a student’s transition from summer to a busy school year is to set realistic expectations and goals for the coming year. Parents can assist with the goal-setting process by ensuring they have all relevant information the family will need to ensure a student is successful throughout the upcoming academic year.

  • REVIEW any start of year correspondence from teachers, TWICE. Most high school teachers send home a syllabus and many elementary teachers send a back-to-school letter or some other type of initial communication. It is important to read through the material once and review it WITH your child to highlight and discuss tips, strategies and procedures the teacher may have shared. This is your opportunity to teach your child how to navigate each class. If you have to sign the syllabus/letter and return it, check the teacher website to print a copy or request a new copy. If you have a smart phone, consider taking a picture and save to your phone so you can reference it when you’re away from home.
  • EXPLORE the teacher’s website. Many teachers use their websites to upload items that are frequently requested (such as copies of notes, study guides, calendars, forms, etc.) so they are easily accessible by students and parents. Familiarize yourself with these readily available resources, so teachers can focus their time on lesson planning, grading and connecting with students.
  • DISCUSS and develop a set of realistic and achievable goals for the school year and review them periodically. It is important that students play an active role in setting their own goals.  It is also important that they are not overwhelmed with pursuing too many goals at once. Set minimum expectations that are realistic, based on your child’s age and current level, then work together to identify no more than 2-3 areas for focused growth. These goals can include academic, social or organizational skills. Remember, once out of school, we are not expected to excel at everything.
  • RECOGNIZE your changing role as your child ages. The role of a child is to move from dependence to independence. To develop responsibility, a child needs to move from being outwardly motivated to intrinsically motivated. The difficult role of a parent is to support your child as he or she progresses from one stage to the other.  Adjust your level of involvement in your student’s day-to-day life and education so that their level of independence and responsibility increases as they age.
  • TEACH your child to self-advocate, rather than making requests on his or her behalf. First, talk with your child to identify his or her needs. Then, role-play the conversation he or she may have with a teacher, highlighting the need(s) you have identified. Afterwards, discuss with your child how the conversation went and offer suggestions, if needed. The first few times, you may also wish to let the teacher know of the upcoming conversation by voicemail or email to help things go more smoothly. Helping your student feel empowered is a skill that can benefit them for many years to come as they enter college and even the workforce and beyond.

 Catherine Westbrook is the campus director at Brightmont Academy in Town and Country, a private school that specializes in providing one-to-one instruction for each student. For more information, please visit, call 636.237.2702 or email