Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Report Cards for Parents

Ah, another school district has decided that what kids need is parents afraid of the system. They're talking about sending home report cards for parents, grading us on things like whether our kids seem to have had an adequate breakfast, and whether they completed their homework, and whether they're dressed appropriately for the weather.

I have 2 kids in high school. Their definition of an adequate breakfast is not necessarily what my husband would call an adequate breakfast. But it is food, and it gets them through the morning. Actually, sometimes it gets them through the entire school day, aside from a bottle of OJ in the hall, because my 2nd son thinks there is only one thing on the entire cafeteria menu he can choke down.

The weather has turned cold. That means Hubby and I are bundled for the weather. It also means we frequently start the day with a reminder for the Sons to wear a jacket. Do they? Sometimes. Because they don't want to carry a coat all day, or wear one in class all day, but they don't use a locker, at school, because they feel they don't have enough time between classes to stop at a locker. They just carry all their gear with them, all day.

I ask them about their homework. Do they have a lot? Have they organized their time so they can complete it all? Do they understand the assignment? Do they need a trip to the library, or for me to print out something for them? Do they have any questions Hubby or I could help with? Do they need a proofreader? Are they turning things in on time?

And sometimes, you know what? THEY LIE.

And the way I see it, they might learn more from lying to me, skipping an assignment, and getting a lousy grade, than from me going through their backpack, forcing them to do the work, and handing it in for them.

These report cards forget that the biggest thing parents are trying to teach their kids is personal responsibility. Teachers and administrators seem to think that parents should do everything for the kids, instead of encouraging kids to do things for themselves.

This reminds me of something that happened years ago, when the Sons were in private school.

Son #1 is the kind of kid to pick things up, walk around, and then put them down somewhere unexpected. If I can't find my nail clippers, it's because he was clipping and walking, and then finished his nails and dropped the clippers on the rug somewhere. And of course there was that time he took my car keys and left them in a pile of toys...took me 2 weeks to find the damn keys.

Anyway, this is a habit of his.

When he was in 3rd grade, he used to cart his backpack and lunch bag around the house in the morning. Often, he would drop his lunch in some mysterious corner of the house, and after dropping him off at school I would find the lunch, while cleaning. I'd then drive back to the school (a 45 minute round trip) to bring his lunch.

After a while, I decided he was gaining nothing from this experience. And, you know, I had a preschooler at home, who didn't need to spend his mornings in the car, when he could be coloring or building with blocks or being read to. So I told Son #1.

"The next time this happens, I'm not going to drop everything to bring you lunch. You're going to be hungry at school, if you forget your lunch. So you better remember it."

And of course he didn't. For several days in a row, I found his lunch in the downstairs bathroom, in the toy room, wherever, and I put it in the fridge. And each morning, I'd remind him of his freshly made lunch, sitting next to the backpacks by the front door. And again, he'd wander around with it and drop it.

On the 4th day, we were scheduled for a teacher conference. Mrs. Rizas tore me a new one.

"I KNOW you have four children. I am sure you are very overwhelmed. But No Child of Mine would EVER come to school without lunch."

I explained that I was trying to encourage Son#1 to be responsible for his own stuff--that he was too old to be expecting Mom to rescue him from his own cluelessness, and a little hunger might remind him.

She again commented that I must be "overwhelmed" by the daunting task of raising 4 boys. She had, in compassion for my neglected child, provided him with cheese crackers and juice each day, at lunch, so he would not be hungry.

And I again corrected her. I was not neglecting my oldest son because I couldn't manage to make him a lunch. I was allowing natural consequences to teach my son that if you want lunch, you don't leave it in the bathroom. And, actually, since she was feeding him lunch every day, he wasn't worried about misplacing the lunch I'd made him. The way it played out for Son #1, if he didn't bother to bring his lunch, his teacher would make him one. One he didn't even have to carry!

Needless to say, she never understood my side of things.

I understood her plenty, though. And from then on, I gave up on trying to encourage my son to remember his lunch. I nagged. I inspected. And I often ended up turning the car around, to bring the lunch he'd left in the car. But I didn't get yelled at by his teacher again, that year. I knew it wasn't in my son's best interest, but I also knew that his teacher's decision that I was a poor parent was more dangerous to him, that year, than his own irresponsibility.

These report cards sound like a crap idea.


Andrea said...

Right on sistuh!!! I swear I have had the same conversation with my oldest about lunchs, soccer uniforms, homework, etc. and I end up right there rescuing him. The last and final time (I hope) he left his homework. I took it to school for him and that was the last time. Now when I drop him off in the morning. I say, "Have a great day and don't call me to come back up here."

But I hear you about school and responsibility. As a friend's husband told the teacher during Parent Teacher conferences, "I think you've been reading one too many psychology books.". The schools are turning out a bunch of psychopaths who think the world revolves around them because they are constantly told how great they are and are taught no since of personal responsibility.

My son's 6th grade teacher said he doesn't believe in extra credit. Well, you would've thought he said there was no God. Some parents don't like that. Me? My kid's a sluggard when it comes to studying and he shouldn't be rewarded by getting extra credit when he hasn't mastered the basics. What'll that teach him.

Parent report cards. Ha! I bet if you suggest teacher report cards they would call in the union.

Jill said...

UGH! Parent report cards sound like THE WORST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I HATE it when teachers & parents are judgmental about parenting. I mean, if the child's in danger, of course...but I hate it when people get all up in arms about someone not parenting the exact same way they do.

Last year my son lost soooooooo many jackets bec. if they don't bring a jacket to school, they aren't allowed to play outdoors. But a child who is forced to wear a jacket he doesn't want to wear and doesn't need gets hot. Then he forgets his jacket out on the playground because he's so hot he's not thinking about a jacket. It was so stupid. He lost jacket after jacket because they forced him to bring a jacket that he didn't need.

I would have been tempted to say something along the lines of "No wonder Son #1 has been having so many stomach aches this week!!!!! He probably didn't mention that he has problems digesting milk and wheat!!!!! I can't BELIEVE you would give him cheese crackers!!! Do those have any preservatives in them? Because I'm VERY careful about what I pack in his lunch."

Christine said...

Yes, the "teacher report card" thing would go over like a lead balloon, I am sure (and land right on the parents' heads, to boot!)

Great idea! And, about the jackets, yes, I believe it. Because we are a System, and Cannot Think, all must follow the same rules. I'll lay you odds, any kid who went on the playground and felt cold, would come home and say, "MOM! I need a coat! It is FREEZING!" But nooooo....I hope your school's lost & found went to a good place...

ALF said...

The parent report cards sound awful. I taught middle school for a year and found that, in most cases, the parents wanted to do everything for the kid so that the kid, in turn, did nothing and was therefore not responsbile for any consequences. It's total crap. I like your lunch idea.