Thursday, April 18, 2013

An F on my sixth grade report card and why I don't check my kids grades online.

We don't check our kids grades on line.  "Gasp! Faint! Why oh why?"

In fact I don't even know how to log in to the system.  "Well that is just ridiculous.  Do you want your kids to grow up to be complete and total failures?"

By today's parenting standards you might think me a bad parent or that I don't value education.  Would it surprise you to learn that my children's education is something I take very seriously and that is why I don't check their grades?  More on that later.

Today I taught my "Accountability in the Workplace" workshop and the issue of checking your kids grades came up.  This was interesting to me because when I taught this workshop last month for a different group/same client--this very same issue came up then too.  Both times, it came up on it's own. Not by me but from a mom in the class--both times.

This blog entry is inspired by these two women who, based on our interactions and conversations I suspect are fantastic moms who love their kids and only want the best for their children. Then there is me with my mean, awful, cold-hearted take on checking my kids grades online.  Before I get rolling let me make a couple of things clear.

1. What works for our kids is not universally true for all situations.  I understand and get that there are situations where checking your kids grades online is a necessary and good thing.  I get it.

2. Our kids are not grown and out of the house.  The proof is in the pudding and the pudding doesn't get served for another ten years.  You are more than welcome to come back to me in ten years and ask "how did that all work out for you?" and if my kids are worthless and terrible failures living on the streets addicted to crack cocaine with six children by six different baby daddy's because their mean mom and dad didn't check their grades online every day (every hour, every minute) then you can "nanny nanny boo boo" to your heart's content.

3. I am following my best instincts when I choose not to monitor my kids grades.

OK.  Let's get started.

The art + science of parenting is a gabillion dollar industry (that's one million x one million by the way) with experts aplenty on how to raise happy, well-adjusted, and successful children. In fact I am excited for the launch of my next book "I am a Perfect Parent and you aren't!" coming to a Barnes and Noble near you.  The marketplace is so crowded with how-to-books, programs for child-rearing, blogs, talk shows, etc that it can be overwhelming when faced with the task of raising children and being a hall of fame level parent.

The truth is, every generation of parents gets a few things right and a few things wrong.  It is the nature of parenting.  I joke that our children's college fund is really more college fund/therapy fund.  The way I see it we all mess up our kids to some degree so that they will have something to work through when they grow up. I kid. I kid. (not really, I am totally serious).

When I was a sixth grader I made a deliberate decision to make an F on my report card.  I had noticed that the kids in my class who struggled academically got a LOT of attention from our teacher and being the youngest of three girls who loved attention, whether it was good or bad, well I thought to myself "I am going to fail a class and get an F on my report card." I got myself ready for the gates of attention lake to open and flood me with all kinds of adult intervention when my report card was handed to me and I had a big fat F in spelling!  Yes! I did it.  I set my mind to something and I achieved it by simply not spelling words correctly. I am a G-E-N-I-U-S.

I took that report card home and showed it to my parents bracing myself for all kinds of lectures, punishment, ultimatums, and more to shower over me.  Instead my dad said nothing and my mom said (without even looking up and making eye contact with me)

"I hope you enjoy repeating the sixth grade"

Repeat the sixth grade?  Holy crap!  That was not in the game plan.  I just wanted to get some more attention people (and if you knew me as a kid you know I got PLENTY of attention so this is not a sad story of a young girl neglected.  I was just an attention hog.  I couldn't get enough attention.)

My parents did not ground me, punish me, hire a tutor, or march up to the school to have a meeting with my teacher, Mr. Perkins.  Nothing.  I got one sentence after all my hard work to "dumb it down".  One sentence!  

I don't check my girls grades online.  Ever.  I am happy to report that our girls have not failed a class to date and they do well in the classroom.  They are both capable and competent students and I am certain that straight A's are always an option for them but there are times they bring home a couple of B's and I am OK with that.  In fact both of them have made a C before in Math.  

I did not punish them, ground them, lecture them or shake my head in disappointment.  But I did say something and this is what I said.  

"When you hit your freshman year every grade matters.  Every grade.  So you keep on making those C's and be prepared to have a low rank in your class and a less than stellar G.P.A.--both of which will impact what college you get in."

And my husband Mark (who did not like school and is the smartest man I know) said:

"Your are far more capable than a C."

That's three sentences from me.  One from Mark.  

I have plainly established my practice on not checking grades.  Now, let me plainly establish the THREE reasons I don't check their grades.

I taught college for ten years.  When these students landed in my classroom many of them had a not too pleasant wake up call when they realized that everyone doesn't get an A.  I taught communication studies courses or what many college students label their "blow off class" when planning their schedule.  A lot of those "blow off class" philosophy students left my classes with C's, D's and a few F's too.  

When my girls were still in elementary school the school hosted an awards ceremony every six weeks for honor roll.  I didn't make it to many of these because I was working and let's be honest--I found these ceremonies silly and ridiculous.  I recall one six weeks a class of fifth graders who had 27 kids in the classroom.  When it was their class' turn to call out straight A honor roll 25 of the 27 students names were called.  25 of 27 students made straight A's.  The teacher had a smug smile on her face.  I muttered under my breath "you have got to be kidding me."  Why? Because I hate straight A's? No. Because I understand the basics behind statistics and if your course material is challenging and rigorous (as it should be) it is statistically unlikely that 25 of 27 students will make all A's. 

And let's be honest--when everyone in your school is academically excellent then no one is academically excellent.  There is so much pressure on our schools (by parents and the state of Texas where I live) to perform well academically that we are producing a generation(s) of students who have watered down educations.  

The other problem is this: we have come to view a B as failing.  A B!  I am all about encouraging academic excellence in our children and reinforcing the idea that education is the key that opens the door to success in life.  I believe these things!  But what I know--and it is not philosophical--is that our success as adults has little to do with our G.P.A.  Very little.  

Our I.Q. also has little to do with our long term success in life.  
Very little.  

Our class rank will not determine our ultimate outcomes.  
Very little.  

My understanding of these things has led to my parenting approach when regarding my children's education and their future selves.  I have smart kids.  But at this point they are not academically aggressive the way I was.  But when I am really, really honest with myself--I didn't start taking academics seriously until a high school counselor came to our junior high in the 8th grade and said this "starting next year every grade you make will impact your G.P.A."  That was a wake up call for me.  I changed my attitude and starting working harder on my grades because I wanted to go to college.  I also wanted a scholarship because I knew that my parents, while expecting me to go to college, did not see it as their job to pay for college. 

What I guess I am trying to say is that I want our girls to do well academically so they can get into a great college where they can study something that "lights their fire" but I also understand that I am not willing to trade their childhoods for a beat down approach to grades and I know that their grades are just one piece of the puzzle. 

My education was in my hands. It was my responsibility.  I signed myself up for the S.A.T.  I enrolled in college at Baylor and Texas Tech and ended up at Tech when I received a four year U.I.L scholarship.  As a kid when I brought a report card home my parents looked at it, signed it, and said "good job." 

 I didn't get paid for my grades, I didn't get punished for a B.  They were my grades.  

My parents never said this but as an adult, I have formulated the following based on my parent's role in my educational journey:

"Your job is school and your report card is your paycheck.  At the end of the day, you will be the one to enjoy the benefits of good grades or suffer the consequences of bad grades.  It is up to you.  If you need help it is your responsibility to ask for it.  From me.  From your dad.  From your teachers.  If you have a bad grade, it is your job to bring it up before the end of the six weeks.  That means going to your teacher and saying 'my grade is not where I want it, what do I need to do?'"

My kids know how to log in online and check their grades.  I have coached them to let us know if they have a bad grade and what they are doing about it.  With my oldest going into 9th grade last year, we have made an agreement--starting next year if there is a C on a report card there is now going to be an established consequence on the home front.  But I don't think it is going to be an issue because we have built safe guards into the system. Check your grades and do something about a bad grade before report cards are printed.

Last week Maddie had an 85 in Math.  She told me it was her intention to raise that grade to an A.  I told her "you can do it."

While I was teaching my class on accountability yesterday I checked my phone during a break.  I kid you not--Maddie had texted me a screen shot of her grades that she had checked online and she had straight A's as of yesterday.  When we talked last night she was excited to discuss this turn of events. "I have an A in math!" 

"I saw that." I told her.  "You worked hard and you raised the grade. I am proud of you." 

"Mom I had to totally start over on a project in Math to raise that grade and it raised my overall grade.  I worked on it all weekend."

I am proud of her A.

I am more proud of the fact that she applied her focus to a singular task "raise my grade to an A" and now she is enjoying the fruits of her labor.  And no-one can share in the glory.  She did this on her own.  

I will end with this.  When I reveal my philosophy about not checking my girl's grades online, I almost always get this "oh I have to check his/her grades daily or little Susie/Bobby will fail a class."

Before I respond I tell the person "you might want to hang on to something before I say this" and I give them a moment. 

"Let them fail." I tell them.

I get looks of horror and shock.  Why in the world would a parent knowingly let their kid fail?  Good question.  I think I will save that for my next post.

Until then, have a great week!


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Education in its general sense is a form of learning in which knowledge, skills, and habits of a group of people are transferred from one generation to the next through teaching, training, research, or simply through autodidacticism. Thanks for sharing a nice information.
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