Anyone remember the days of report cards that showed up in the mail? I have vivid memories of my sisters and I awaiting anxiously by the mailbox at semester’s end. We would intercept the mail to check for any surprises before my parents got ahold of it… just in case.
This scenario is certainly a blast form the past, as the majority of schools these days allow students and parents to easily (and sometimes compulsively) check grades via the internet. There are certainly advantages to such access, as it allows for communication between parents and teachers to occur without any type of social interaction. However, I often wonder what students think about their parents checking grades, so I decided to broach the subject with a group of teens.
The majority of teens I spoke with discussed how internet access to grades often creates problems at home. Some kiddos said their parents get “too involved” and “really obsessed” with checking their grades, and they also cited teachers as ”too busy” to keep their grades completely up-to-date, which causes parents to “flip out” unnecessarily. Nonetheless, when I asked these teens if they’d rather go back to the old fashioned way of grading (i.e. snail mail), they said, “No way, that’s old school!” More importantly, the teens discussed how they found it helpful to be able to check their grades online, as well as to keep track of missing assignments. Hearing this was music to my ears, as it demonstrates the teens were taking on responsibility, as well as planning for their grades and their futures.
Now I realize each teen is different and some kids are more responsible than others. Not to mention some simply just care more about scholastic achievement. However, it’s part of your job as a parent to begin instilling this sense of responsibility in your children. As you may have guessed, responsibility for schoolwork and grades doesn’t just happen magically when your child enters middle school and starts switching classes, using a locker, and receiving more homework. Organization and responsibility are behaviors shaped as early as kindergarten. Below are a few simple suggestions to get your kiddo on the right track and avoid being “too involved” or “really obsessed” with your child’s grades:
Talk with the teacher: If your child’s school does post grades online, have a conversation with your kiddo’s teacher. Ask how frequently the teacher is able to update your child’s grades. Allow for some flexibility with this, as teachers are super busy these days. With teenagers, encourage your teen to have this conversation with teachers. If your child’s teacher does not update grades frequently or doesn’t use online grading, find out if there is another way the teacher tracks grades and if he/she is willing to allow your teen to be responsible and involved with grades on a regular basis.
Make a plan: Create a plan with your child about grade checking and be open and honest about the plan. If you want your teen to be honest with you about grades, be an honest parent. Don’t go sneaking around checking your teen’s grades without his/her knowledge. If you model honesty, the chances of your child being honest with you are much greater. Agree to a plan to check grades together once a week (for example, every Thursday after school). Turn this time into an opportunity for discussion rather than a chance for an argument. If your child is having difficulty with a particular subject, talk about it and come up with a plan of action. Be involved, but try to let your teen do the problem solving and keep the responsibility on your child (For example, say “Hey, what’s your plan for those two missing assignments in Social Studies?” rather than, “You’re missing two assignments in Social Studies. We have a take care of that right now and go to talk to your teacher.”).
Have homework time: Set up a consistent time after school to complete homework each day. With younger children, model organization (e.g. a “to do” folder and “completed” folder for homework, color coding, binders, etc.) Encourage your child to keep schoolwork separate from toys, artwork, and electronics. Establish a routine of having your child pack his/her backpack at night so you’re not rushing in the morning. With both younger children and teens, have a clear system of rewards and consequences for grades. For example, each Thursday that you and your teen check grades, your teen earns 10 extra minutes of screen time for each acceptable grade and losses 10 minutes of cell phone time for each missing assignment or unacceptable grade.
When it comes down to it, we’re all just trying to teach kids how to be responsible, organized people so they have it down pat by the time adulthood rolls around.
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