How to help your children become better students outside the classroom

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Trickle-down effects from the pandemic are still showing up in classrooms across New Mexico. But education leaders say parents and families aren’t helpless with when it comes to helping your children speed up their progress in the classroom.

“Parents are kids first teacher, they know their kids best, they know how they learn best,” said Whitney Holland, president of the New Mexico Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.

She says time at home can go a long way.

“Work in collaboration with your classroom teacher and your educators,” said Holland. “I love having those conversations and I love meeting people where they’re at, and teachers are skilled in doing that. So I think that opens the door– if a family came to me and said ‘we both work full-time we can’t go to the library’ I would gladly make a book bag and send it home with my families.”

Research shows reading 20 minutes a day helps students’ progress in the classroom.

“Literacy behaviors, whether it’s listening to audiobooks in the car or sharing your favorite childhood stories that kind of stuff sets the tone,” said Holland. 

She says it’s easy to work math into everyday tasks too. 

“It’s going to the grocery store and talking about prices,” said Holland. “That’s recipes, that’s measuring. Those are the life skills parts, and so incorporating and talking to your kids about those kinds of things build all those skills especially fractions– I always say make a recipe, those are all fractions.”

This advice is in response to new national testing numbers that put New Mexico in dead last in reading and math proficiency among 4th and 8th graders.

“We’ve had students that have lost both parents,” said Holland. “Their whole lives have been disrupted. I mean COVID-19 was an adverse childhood experience, so we’re seeing that reflected now in academic progress.”

And while the data is tough to swallow, Holland doesn’t expect to see New Mexico in last place for long.

“Data like this is like a roadmap and so it’s kind of one of those stops on the road map, and we all know where we’re trying to go, it’s just how we’re going to get there,” said Holland. “I anticipate we’ll in a couple years we’ll be having a really good conversation about all of these measures paying off.”