Monday, December 13, 2010

Making the Grade. Or Not.

Some of you have mentioned that I left you hanging about my son’s grade status and the consequences my husband and I imposed after he brought home his report card. I apologize. Some info I write here, some info I post on Facebook, and some info I’ve written for Good Enough Mother. I don’t want to go around being redundant (I do that enough here in my mediocre mother life), but I also don’t want to leave my readers in a lurch. The bigger message in all this of course, is that all of you should be following me in all venues of my writing, wherever the hell it happens to appear. Yeah yeah, I know, you all have day jobs. (Most of you anyway.) But I bet you take bathroom breaks don’t you? Well put on a pair of Depends and read me during that precious time. It’ll be worth it. And those Depends really can hold a vast amount of liquid I’m told.

But the long and short of it is, yes, my son had one C on his report card. And yes, in the interest of following through on promised consequences, he lost all TV, video games, and recreational computer for four and a half weeks.

Quit feeling sorry for him. It’s not as if the boy was locked in his room this whole time, and trust me, he got plenty of TV watching in by default. He’s been hungrier these past few weeks than I’ve ever seen him, as he eats snacks at the table where he happens to be able to watch the TV while it’s on in the living room. He has been the best big brother to our youngest, and loves to snuggle with her and keep her company while she is watching movies on her little video player. He has been super cold lately and has needed to stand in front of the fire in the morning before school while I’m simultaneously viewing Morning Express with Robin Meade. He’s found very creative ways to endure his consequences.

It hasn’t been easy for any of us, let me tell you. It’s exhausting trying to enforce consequences of this nature, especially when the long and short of it is—he’s a great kid.
He’s not into drugs. He doesn’t ditch school. He is respectful to authority and does what we ask (occasionally with a complaint, but he does it). In the scope of life and what is important, he is on the right track and we are proud of him.

So, how are his grades now, you ask? Has all this time that’s opened up for him to complete his homework and focus on his studies paved the way to better grades and improved school performance?

Umm, no.

On his last report card the boy brought home, (1A), (3 B-‘s), and (1C+). As of this morning, he has (1 A) and (4Cs).


This is despite OUR working on his homework with him for over two hours every night. I say our, because I am grading and double checking everything he does, putting it into a pile for his backpack, and making sure he has all components of ANY rubric on ALL projects. His teachers say he is focused in class and not goofing around or off-task. This was the year I was supposed to sit in the backseat and let him drive his educational bus for once. What the hell is happening?

Is this typical boy growing/learning pains? Is it an organizational issue? I’m honestly out of answers. Is his life so meaningless without technology that he is doing worse in school instead of better? Should we just leave well enough alone, since he performed better during the first grading period when he was in charge and played video games? Should I just shut he hell up and see what happens, instead of getting all freaky about grades, which we all know are arbitrary?

Yes. I said that. Grades are arbitrary. I can make that statement because I used to be a teacher. And even though I understand that, it’s still important to me (and my husband) that our kids always strive to do their personal best.

And in the last few weeks, I really feel like our oldest IS doing his personal best, even though his grades continue to tank.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming anyone here. But I honestly can’t figure out the disconnect. I have my suspicions as to why we are in this place currently, but it’s only a hunch. I’m trying to be proactive and have open communication with the teachers, without becoming THAT parent who emails and complains constantly. (Because I’ve had my share of those when I taught as well and it’s no fun.) I must say that his teachers have been uber-prompt at responding to my inquiries and extremely helpful in suggesting solutions. I know it’s a thankless, difficult job, which is why I don’t do it anymore. They have enough to handle with oversized classes, relatively little prep time, and more and more “requirements” and pressure coming from our educational system. I get it.

And my son? What’s his take on all this? He’s frustrated, but surprisingly upbeat. His biggest concern of course, is what happens when he gets his progress report and he still has C’s. Will he still lose TV, video games, and computer over the Christmas break? Would we do that to him just to prove a point? Even I know that would be pushing the enforcement too far. I mean, we’re definitely mediocre, but we’re not downright mean. We’ve always said it was about effort, not the printed letters on school issued paper. Since he’s been giving his best effort (and his teachers confirm this), that’s all we ask. After all, it’s effort, attitude, and fortitude that get you places in life, not necessarily grades.

But I’m open to suggestions. If you have older boys, I’d love to hear if you’ve gone through any of this and how you handled it. If you say you just drank your way through middle school and high school, I’ve got that covered. Just so you know. 


Tara said...

Ugh, I've got nothing. At times like that, I just keep repeating, "This too shall pass" and try not to worry. Good luck, friend.

downlights said...

Love reading your blog, I'm a regular reader, beautifully written

Rachel said...

Tara, yes. This too shall pass. There is nothing like starting a new school day at 6:30 a.m. with a last stab at practice timed-test run-throughs; which is how we started this morning. (Have to replace that D & F on the 3's and 4's multiplication facts.) F#*!

downlights, glad you're here! I do take some comfort in knowing I'm not the only one fumbling my way through this parenting thing! (And thanks for the compliment, BTW!)

Pam said...

Ok, I just want to say that the C is an "average" grade...not a terrible grade, average. Which means that MOST of the kids SHOULD get C's...
If he is putting in his best effort, celebrate and play the video games with him!! Or send him over here so I can kick his ass at Mario Kart!