Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

Increasing responsibility, speech anxiety, “teaching to the test”
Ask the Teacher

by Deb Krupowicz

February 01, 2014

Question: My ten year old son is so forgetful! He regularly forgets homework assignments, library books, gym shoes, etc. and then is a stressed mess waiting for me to deliver them to him at school. What can I do to help him get over this?

Some children seem to be born more responsible than others. We all know that developing basic responsibility is important on so many levels, and it is our job to teach children who aren’t naturally inclined how to meet their obligations. While allowing them to suffer the obvious consequences may help them understand that there are reasons for being responsible, it does not help them understand how to develop those needed habits.

Help your child by teaching him to use a calendar (digital or paper) and to make lists. Have him mark all the regular events like gym and library days on his calendar. Coach him into developing a list of what needs to go to school each day. Keep the calendar and list on the refrigerator or in some other safe place. Make checking the list part of his daily routine. For instance, right after brushing his teeth before bed, have him consult the calendar and the list. Watch as he double-checks that everything is in his back pack. The key is teaching him to actually look into his bag to be sure that what he knows he put in, did indeed make it into the bag. Then instruct him to walk through all of the areas where he has been since coming home as a safety check in case something not on his list has been overlooked.

This routine will only take a few minutes each day and will result in a much more responsible and calmer child!

Question: Giving speeches makes my daughter so uncomfortable that she often makes herself sick when it comes time to present. Is it reasonable to ask that she be exempt from making speeches?

Very few people, children or adults, are comfortable giving speeches. No one wants to look foolish; few people want to be stared at; some have had a negative experience they are afraid will be repeated. There are two key parts of speech giving: content and delivery. Typically, students give the needed attention to preparing the content and underestimate how much effort should go into delivering their speech.

Once your daughter has developed the speech content, have her read the speech aloud at least ten times before practicing speech giving techniques. I recommend that she read it two or three times in a row, take a break, and then continue. When she really knows what it is she will be saying, she is ready to begin practicing effective presentation skills. Have her work first on volume and pacing. If your child tends to speak softly, have her give the speech from another room. The most common struggle for students is speaking too quickly when they get nervous, so practicing at a slow pace is important. Finally, have her work on eye contact. Her eyes should be on the audience more than they are on the paper. Suggest that she look at the tops of the heads of her audience rather than at their faces.

It is doubtful that even being well prepared and practiced will eliminate all nervousness, but it should keep your daughter’s anxiety at a manageable level. Learning to express her ideas publicly is an essential skill necessary for success.

Question: This time of year it seems that my kids’ teachers are just “teaching to the test” in anticipation of spring standardized testing. I find it so frustrating. Can’t they just stop all the testing?

Standardized testing has been part of public education for generations. It is in the headlines now more than ever as funding and teacher evaluation are tied to test results. That is a reality that we must accept as it does not seem likely to change any time soon.

To put it in perspective, consider that the idea of “teaching to the test” is really teaching the state adopted standards. The tests are designed to allow students to demonstrate that they have mastered understanding of content and skills determined to be appropriate for their particular grade level. With that in mind, teaching the standards is mandatory.

When scores indicate a deficiency, it is our job as educators to consider other assessments that either verify or disprove what the test result has shown. Should a genuine deficiency be identified, steps must be taken to re-teach those skills so that your children are attaining needed skills to continue academic progress.

Ask the Teacher is written by Deb Krupowicz, a mother of four and current teacher. Deb holds a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction and has over twenty years of experience teaching preschool, elementary and middle school students. Please send your questions to her at