Why are some students more successful than others? Believe it or not, teachers are looking for more than just perfect attendance and a spotless homework record. Teachers recognize that good students often share common attributes that are factors in their academic success.
Here are seven traits that our contributing teacher identified as essential for student success:
Grit—the ability to persevere in the face of a challenge—has been at the forefront of many teachers’ minds lately. It turns out that it’s not the kid with the highest IQ who does the best in school, but rather the student who keeps trying and does the hard work of tackling a difficult problem or complex skill. It’s part of having a growth mindset. You can encourage grit by praising your child for taking risks and for working hard rather than praising innate talents like intelligence or perfect pitch.
Organized students are ahead of the game when it comes to completing assignments, studying their notes, and turning in projects. They spend less time on gathering materials and getting their ideas together and more time on learning. Many teachers have a system for taking notes and keeping work organized; if yours doesn’t, make a point to help your child or teen develop stronger study skills and work habits—it’s the gift that keeps on giving in every area of life.
It doesn’t necessarily matter what your child is passionate about—just that they are strongly engaged in something. Kids who are excited about a topic or skill know what it’s like to pursue something with their full attention, and that’s a skill that’s important for learning. Talk to your child about what they love, and encourage their pursuit of a hobby even if it’s video games or a TV show. Letting them be the expert on a subject at the dinner table helps build confidence for future endeavors.
Thinking outside the box is prized by CEOs, but originality can be easily stifled in today’s culture of high-stakes testing and standardized curricula. Kids who are encouraged to be imaginative are often excellent problem-solvers, and they bring a new way of thinking to everyday lessons. Encourage original thinking by modeling brainstorming and providing unstructured downtime that your children can fill with their own ideas and activities.
It’s hard to learn when you’re distracted, so it’s no wonder that kids who can focus are poised to succeed in just about anything their teachers ask of them. Modern life makes maintaining focus harder than ever, and those dinging, pinging screens are a huge problem. Help your child build a bigger attention span by limiting screen time and encouraging them to practice mindfulness via meditation or other quiet activities. (This is also great advice for over-connected adults!)
The goal of both parents and teachers should be to foster independence so that kids grow up to be self-sufficient adults. Students who are comfortable working and studying on their own are on their way to this goal. Give your kids age-appropriate responsibilities and encourage them to figure things out on their own before swooping in to help, and you’ll give them the practice they need to become more independent learners.
Some children are innately kind and caring, and this attitude helps them easily make friends in the classroom. It also goes a long way toward creating a positive learning environment for everyone. As they get older, teens who are kind to others are often quiet leaders who earn the respect of their peers—and their teachers. Fortunately, kindness and empathy can be taught, so be sure to model this behavior at home early and often.