Be a cheerleader, show your trust: Ex-teacher's top tips for parents helping prepare teens for NCEA in lockdown

While school students around the country are now well-used to getting into the swing of working from home during lockdown, for older students facing exam season, the continued disruption may be leading to some anxiety and frustration. 

The pressure of preparing for upcoming NCEA exams during this latest alert level 4 lockdown across the country even led to Minister of Education Chris Hipkins announcing last week that students would be eligible for extra credits if their school was closed for 20 or more school days due to COVID-19. 

While other students around the country have gone back to school this week, many Auckland high schoolers are still readying themselves for another few weeks at home - and that means yet more class time at the kitchen table.  

Online applications like LearnCoach, the NCEA online platform, are available to students during this time, allowing them to keep connected to teachers in the lead up to exams. 

But how can parents help if they're feeling concerned or a bit helpless when it comes to helping their stressed teens navigate the confusing waters of physics, calculus and history? 

Dave Cameron, CEO and founder of LearnCoach, and ex-maths teacher at Otago Boys High School has put together some top tips for Newshub to help caregivers and parents of highschoolers best prepare while they're at home. 

Don't set time goals, set task goals

Make sure your children set a list of defined goals on what they want to complete for the day - perhaps a calculus video module followed by a practice exam for English. The key here is to avoid clock watching. Setting a time goal can leave your child watching the clock for the end hour to tick by, rather than striving to finish the tasks that are laid out in front of them. That way, they'll end up striving to get out of the 'classroom' earlier. That's a good thing.

Be a coach, not a teacher

Try to avoid being a 'helicopter parent'. Studying is already an uphill journey. Constant check-ins can result in your kids feeling additional stress about your expectations of their achievement, rather than their academic tasks for the day. Act as their cheerleader getting them to the finish line. Sideline oranges and a mug of Milo is encouraged!

Celebrate the smaller wins

Leave your children to inform you when they reach their goals, and make sure you celebrate them. Answering a single exam question correctly may sound small, but celebrating this in return, is a big milestone and will continue to keep them striving through their task list. This way, you will also continue to be informed that they are progressing through the curriculum. Some of our LearnCoach students have told us that they appreciate when their parents take off washing dishes duty if they've had a 'win' of the day, or cook their favourite dinner meal.

Work-life balance

Just like with a remote office environment, it's super important for your children to divide their work and leisure. Encouraging Zoom calls with friends or even gaming is just as important for their productivity. If you're constantly encouraging your children to study when they have free time they'll want to study less and it could lead to burnout.

Show your kids you trust them

NCEA students can be left alone to study and make decisions on how they best work. You may forget but they're on track to becoming a young adult and will have enough experience to take control of their studies. Make it clear you trust them and if they finish their work early, then let them go - try not to ruin the reward of finishing early with extra work.

Safe zone breaks

Set aside time each day to leave the house for low impact exercise - a fantastic chance for your children to leave their study hub. In this safe zone break, you won't ask them about their studies unless they bring it up themselves. This gives them a natural opportunity to open up to you about how they're feeling - only if they decide to.