We are three-quarters of the way through the school year and the full spectrum of parental emotions is most definitely surging at this point. If you are about to launch your child into college and life, you are in the senior stretch – praying they don’t self-implode a few strides short of the finish line; you can’t quite breathe easy yet, can you?
If your child typically does well in school, this time of year may be exciting. There will be the usual fantastic year-end festivities: concerts, field-trips, field days…happy happy joy joy! (I’m happy for you, really I am.)
But there is another reality brewing just below all that childhood joy. The darker side of our modern education system leaves many students and their parents quietly and painfully struggling by this time of year. Some students struggle from Day One; they “lost” the battle back in September or October. Others start unraveling deep in the winter and your desperate attempts to keep the frayed ends of their emotions (and yours) from coming completely undone is becoming exhausting.
You’ve been picking up the pieces for months. You assure your precious son or daughter that they aren’t a failure; that the system is failing them. You feverishly search for answers…that never seem to come.
This didn’t happen overnight. You’ve had plenty of time to become accustomed to the whole mess. You know the true victory of any day is one where your child feels good, whole and valuable despite their everyday circumstances.
So why does it still sting to look at the failing grades on the progress report? Does it dash the last bit of optimism you had that this year could have been different? Does it make you feel like it will never get better? Are your thoughts ruminating about if your child will ever be able to function in the real world?
It hurts because despite our words, hugs, smiles, pep talks and the like, we know deep down that grades represent the narrow lens through which the system sees our child and our parenting.
How well do progress reports really report progress? They report how many times your child didn’t show up at school without regard for the many more days they woke up and “showed up” inside the loving supportive confines of your family. They report grades which attempt to quantify something that simply cannot be reduced to a simple metric. If you’ve never questioned the value of grades, you might be surprised to learn there has been a huge debate over this topic for decades. The National Education Association’s post Are Letter Grades Failing Our Students? includes a disturbing perspective on how grades may actually hinder your child’s progress!
Don’t let your vision of your child and their future be clouded by arbitrary narrow metrics! We are all way more creative than we give ourselves credit for. YOU have the power to create a vision for your child’s future and by speaking those words to your child, you have the power to create the self-fulfilling prophecy under which THEY see themselves. Your child’s future hinges upon your ability to stay committed to the clarity of vision you have for their life, DON’T YOU DARE GIVE ANY SPACE IN YOUR APPRAISAL SYSTEM FOR GRADES!!! If you do, they will. They will turn to external sources all their days to evaluate themselves and these faulty systems will inevitably, always find them lacking.
I’m not saying it’s easy. The education system would love for us to believe in it’s expertise. Most of its workers have spent their whole lives in this system and they are clearly experts on it. But you are an expert on your child! You are their primary educator! Never surrender that position to anyone!
Please do not misunderstand this post as bashing teachers or schools in general. I have tremendous respect for educators and value the work they do. I believe there are inherent problems with the system and I want to be part of the solution. Visit my Education page for resources that might be helpful.