Asking for help is a life skill that enables one to be an engaging and productive member of society, yet many children, and even some adults, believe that others expect them to have all the answers. This limits the academic and social growth of many individuals. The child who does not raise his hand during math class can become the teenager who does not attend his professor’s office hours and the adult who avoids conversations simply because others seem to know more than he knows.
It is imperative that children are taught how to ask for help. Requesting help is a social skill that will increase one’s academic success. Read below for ways you can help your children become confident requesters in school and life.
Setting an example
Let your child see you ask for help. Start by reaching out to your child for instructions on how to play a video game, or reach out to a friend or teacher for instructions on how to complete an application or homework assignment while your child looks on. Show your child that you not only utilize books and websites but people to find information. Once your children see you reaching out to others, they will believe that asking for help is common and shameless.
Many students struggle to complete in-class assignments correctly because they are afraid of raising their hands in front of their peers. If your child has a difficult time asking for help in front of others, suggest the “index card request” to your child’s teacher. Used in many elementary classrooms, an index card with one side colored green and the other side colored red sits on the desk of a shy student. The index card remains on the green side until the student has a question. When flipped to the red side, the index card indicates that the student has a problem with an assignment, and the teacher knows to offer the student assistance. If used properly, the index card request is a sure way to get your child the help he deserves while you work on helping him build self-confidence.
Writing it out
Some students have difficulty with the fast pace of a lesson, which can prevent them from raising their hands and asking for help. Others forget the questions they want to ask, especially if the teacher asks students to hold questions until the end of the lesson. Encourage him or her to write them on a sheet of paper and ask the teacher at a more opportune time, such as during independent work, after class, or even calling the teacher that night if it is allowed. Having your child log his questions and answers can also help you keep track of the knowledge he/she is gaining, which is a big boost to self-confidence.
Schools are aware of their students’ many academic needs and offer ways to meet them both in and out of the classroom. Some teachers allow students to call them on their cellphones after school hours in order to get homework assistance. I’ve also seen elementary and high school teachers offer help during their planning periods or immediately after school. Some schools offer peer tutors for struggling students, providing assistance in academic subjects such as writing. However, much of this offered help is futile if students are afraid to utilize it. As a KIPP teacher, I was responsible for taking students’ phone calls for homework help until 9 p.m., yet many of the students who struggled in my class rarely called.
Those who did were often the students who made the highest marks because they reached out for help. Especially in elementary school, it is the job of the parent and the student to know what help is available and then to use it when needed. Therefore, find out what resources your child’s school offers. Then hold your child accountable for taking advantage of it.
Asking for help is a life skill that will further students’ progress in school, in college, in their careers, and in life.
China Hill is a curriculum writer for KIPP Ascend Charter School on the West Side.