Who's Failing?

It should come as no surprise that this post comes the day after report cards were posted on line.  But my son is NOT failing anything, although he sometimes (most of the time?) feels like a failure.  Not something you want for your kid.  Not something I want as my son transitions from child to teen; a difficult age/time in life no matter how you slice it.

This past marking period his grades slipped a bit. He was nowhere near to failing anything.  (Although he did come close with French, but with some guidance he managed to pull it up to a B-; nothing to sneeze at.)  But he was having some difficulty.  

Most of this, I believe (and there is no hard core proof; I don't know if any would be possible) is due to changes in his life.  As many children in his age range, he is struggling to find his identity.  He wants to be independent.  He doesn't want help.  He wants to do things on his own, yet it is obvious that sometime he DOES need help.  (As we all do!)  He wants to find his own way.  He wants to do things HIS way.  And of course his way sometimes means studying for 5-10 minutes and then moving on to playing a computer game, creating with Legos or watching videos.  In other words, he's a pretty typical kid.  I mean what kid wants to study or do homework when they can be doing something else?  It doesn't matter what that something else is; for some it may be sports, while for others it might be video games or what have you.

Unfortunately, in today's world homework and studying are facts of life for students.  I definitely think more so than when I was a kid.  (I'm hard pressed to remember homework assignments from over 30 years ago, although I do remember a sugar cube igloo for social studies and monthly literacy "book reports" that rarely took the form of an actual written report.)  Tests and quizzes are definitely more frequent.  As a result test taking skills are definitely something that every child needs.  And this is where my son is currently lacking, specifically when it comes to math.

It became apparent in this last marking period that those test/quiz taking skills were falling behind.  His homework grades (which are only a small portion of his overall grade) were stellar.  His test and quiz grades...well they were pretty rotten.  I thought my husband was helping him too much with homework.  He wasn't.  I thought perhaps he needed a tutor to help with math.  We got him one; who told us he was too smart for a math tutor.  He DIDN"T need math help; he needed test taking help. 

Now we've tried working on this with him and he's read books on taking tests, but it's clear that we'll need to get him some extra help in this area. My child is NOT struggling with a subject, but with test performance.  I have to think on some level, the system is failing him.  NOT the teachers, but the system itself.  It is obvious the teachers are doing what they do best:  TEACH.  As I said, he does well in subjects (and truth be told, in some subjects he may know more than the teacher on certain topics).  It's this system of never-ending quizzes, tests and (a word that I truly despise) assessments that not only bring down his grades, but his self-confidence. And in my book that means the system is failing, NOT the child.

Which brings me to another point, our school system asks a lot of our children.  I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing.  But if our system expects high quality from our children, then I think we should expect the same from the system.  And this brings me back to yesterday, when report cards were issued.

I have a problem with the delivery of our report cards.  Several years ago, the schools switched over from hard copies to on line only.  It is definitely an environmentally friendly solution.  However, now that there is no hard copy that needs to be signed and returned (proof that a parents has seen the student's grades), it is much too easy to miss or forget about report cards.  In the past, marking periods had ended and grades posted and I never even looked until weeks later.  That was my bad; I should have been more of top of it.  But how easy would it have been for the schools to send out an email reminding parents that grades would be posted at "X" time on "Y" day? 

I knew yesterday was report card day (having posted the school calendar in my office to stay on top of all activities).  Report cards were SUPPOSED to be available on the parent portal by 4.  But 4 came and went and nothing.  Another hour came and went and nothing. After two hours, I wrote to the school principal and asked what was going on.  Turns out they were up, but not viewable?  The issue was fixed (I guess due to my nagging email).

Now a friend pointed out to me that I could easily see my son's grades; the parent portal is regularly updated.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a little (?!!!) obsessive over the parent portal.  I DID already know what his grades were.  I didn't need to see the report card to know what the grades would be.  MY point is that the system SHOULD have been viewable by 4 PM.  A notice SHOULD have gone out reminding parents of report cards.  If you expect great things of my child; then I AT LEAST expect you to deliver on time.  Maybe this wouldn't be such a bee in my bonnet if report cards had not been delayed several days in the last marking period.  Our kids are expected to turn their assignments in on time; I expect the same from the administration.

The lesson to be learned here is this:  students should be held accountable and produce quality work, so should the administration.  I (and my husband) will be working with our son to that end...I wonder who will be working to keep the administration on track?  In order for ALL children to be successful (as I'm assuming we all want them to be), both parties need to be working to that goal.


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