Dr. Frank Roberson retirement DSC_0002 (copy)

Dr. Frank Roberson and Doris Roberson

Now that school is at recess for approximately 21 straight days (including weekends) for most students in the Savannah River region parents and youth advisors have an opportunity to foster self-regulation skills in the young people under their charge. Hopefully, the influence parents and others will have on students during this recess will transfer to the classroom environment when the school year launches in the fall.

Student mastery of self-regulatory skills can boost academic achievement when activated by the student consistently. Parents have the responsibility to keep their child's conduct, especially in the classroom, under strict surveillance from the first day of school to the last.

It is clear that the use of the phrase "self-regulatory skills" begs for an explanation: The phrase involves the child (or student in this context) having the influenced capacity (or the adult-directed influence) to manage socially acceptable behavior. It is not to be assumed that the young person knows what socially acceptable behaviors are in a given environment (such as home, church, school, or any public arena).

Teaching children to self-regulate involves mindfulness. Mindfulness is self-awareness in a given moment of time. The student must learn to always be present in the moment, controlling mental drifting into other thoughts that are not related to the activities of the current moment. Parents can help their children avoid this by reminding the child to stay focused or to pay attention in the moment.

Paying attention is a learned practice or behavior; it rarely shows up in young people naturally. The summer recess from school is a golden opportunity for parents and other concerned adults to simply take note of their young person's ability to pay attention. It is also an excellent opportunity for adults to redirect their young person, when a lack of focus or paying attention is observed in the young person.

For purposes of this column, self-regulation is defined as the practice of managing one's own behavior toward meeting a universally acceptable standard of average to better-than-good behavioral compliance. Parents and educators might find that a behavior surveillance chart might be an effective tool to measure the young person's progress toward the automatic practice of displaying appropriate, academic-enhancing behavior or conduct in the classroom.

The objective of the teacher/parent use of the chart is to help the young person reach an automatic practice level of acceptable behavior. The ultimate effectiveness of having the student put his or her behavior under surveillance is that it engages the student to be mindful of his or her actions.

As alluded to previously, one surveillance method parents and educators can use is the application of a behavior surveillance chart. The chart would have a list of acceptable or expected indicators of student behavior. The chart will reflect a corresponding column to show the expected and acceptable rating, to reflect the student's reporting of his or her own behavior within a 30-minute period of time. In other words, the student would be required to examine, check and rate his or her own behavior every 30 minutes. The teacher is to sign the chart at the end of each class period. The student is to take the chart home for it to be signed by a parent and returned to the teacher on the next school day. The periods for rating behavior may be reduced or increased, in accordance with the teacher's professional judgment.

In the 1960s through the late 1990s, schools issued conduct grades to reflect a student's behavior in class using letters A to F. Today's system for reporting a student's conduct can be lost in a complex matrix method. Parents should consult with teachers to gain a good and clear understanding of how the system operates.

Parents should be mindful that a child's capacity to regulate his or her behavior can produce significant academic rewards and benefits that can pave the way to a high quality of life as a highly successful adult beyond the school years.

Dr. Frank Roberson is the former executive director of Horse Creek Academy in Aiken.