It’s that time of year again: the long-awaited, and often dreaded...Report Card Season! As a child, I remember leading my parents (usually my mom) through the familiar halls of my school, introducing them to my teachers, waiting for the inevitable “Julie’s doing well in school, but she’d do so much better if she didn’t talk so much in class.” I was always puzzled. Wasn’t that what school was for? To share your feelings on the latest episode of the Brady Bunch and play Cat’s Cradle under your desk with your best friend while stuffing wads of Bubble Yum in your mouth?
Unlike parents nowadays, my parents didn’t have an email relationship with my teachers. Back in the Stone Age, parents relied on phone calls, face-to-face meetings, and hand-written notes pinned to our coats with straight pins (of all things!), which inevitably stabbed you in the cheek by the time the note reached its intended recipient.
Now, as a parent of two elementary-age children, parent-teacher conferences take on a whole new meaning for me. In some respects, I feel like my kids’ grades are a reflection on me and my husband (although he would probably disagree with that statement) and how well we’re doing as parents. I know that’s ridiculous, because children are their own people and it’s just my mommy guilt (okay, with a touch of narcissism) coming through. I do believe my job as a parent is to help my children learn to be responsible for themselves and take pride in doing a good job for its own sake, rather than to make someone else happy. But that’s often easier said than done, especially when your kids are little. And, of course, sometimes there are extenuating circumstances preventing your child from learning effectively.
Fortunately, our daughter has taken to reading like a fish to water. However, as much as I love her 3rd grade teacher, I think we all made a mistake. At the beginning of the year, she told Katie that she was the best reader in the class. While that made us proud, it also seemed to give Katie permission to take it easy and coast a bit. As a result, at Katie’s recent conference, her teacher told us that Katie is losing ground compared to her classmates and her grades went down. She’s also spending too much time “chit-chatting with her friends during class.” Hmmm...I wonder where she gets that?
Recently, I read about a study that showed that children who were praised for “working hard” did better in school than those who were praised for being “smart.” Researchers found that praising a child’s behavior (studying, thinking, discussing, etc.) positively affects school outcomes more than telling children that they’re intelligent, which is considered a fixed characteristic and doesn’t encourage them to work for good grades. Here’s a link to an extract of the research: http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=buy.optionToBuy&id=1998-04530-003
After reading this research, and seeing it first hand with our daughter, my husband and I decided to start Katie on the next Hooked on Phonics reading program, Master Reader. We’re hoping that the interactive computer-based games will make it more fun for her to work on improving her fluency, comprehension, and flow. Now, all I have to do is figure out how to get my daughter’s friends to come over and chit-chat about reading (instead of Pokemon) at the same time then I’ll have the perfect solution. I’ve got it: a kids’ book club! As long as food and friends are part of the equation, it’s sure to work for me—I mean!—her.
How did your child do on his last report card? What feelings did it bring up for you as a parent?