We Don’t Celebrate Bs

03.5.14

When Jane was in 6th grade she struggled with organization. Homework and other assignments were constantly getting lost or not turned in. One semester she had a C in something, English perhaps, and was able to turn it around into a nice high B. Although pleased with a B I told her that we wouldn’t be celebrating it.

If a B was demonstrative of Jane working to the best of her ability I’d throw her a party for it but this B was Jane salvaging the beginning of a not-good start to the trimester. When the kids get B’s on tests it’s time to study a little more, if they have a C it’s time for a tutor (which at times is me) because learning new concepts is like erecting a skyscraper. You need a sturdy foundation.

Last night Jane came home from school after having sex education. High school sex education is (by necessity) quite different than middle or lower school sex ed. She was squeamish talking about things like Norplant and IUDs. Alexander was fascinated and, predictably, I had to interrupt with a condom lecture. I told them that babies aren’t the only things we want to avoid and then Jane regaled us with an in class anecdote.

Apparently the instructors were talking to the kids about using condoms and explained that when used correctly they had a 2% failure rate, which is pretty impressive. Unfortunately condoms are often not used or stored correctly and the actual failure rate is 18%. The kids didn’t seem moved by this information until one of the boys noted that an 18% failure rate is 82% or a B-, at which point they all started freaking out.

It’s scaffolding. Not accepting a B may have seemed harsh in 6th grade but as we apply it to today’s lesson, it’s bordering on brilliant. 

What is the Plural of Pocahontas? Pocahontai?

02.17.12

No one should parent without friends. It’s too lonely and pitfalls await you at every turn. There’s no way to know exactly where you’re headed and we all know we’re much better parents in hindsight. So do the obvious. Find your parenting Pocahontas and follow her path.

I’m really lucky that I have two women who are about ten years in front of me. Both have boys and girls and both of them are out of the neighborhood so when I text Amy and say “I really fucked it up this time with Jane.” She is able to ignore the nuance, the setting and every other bit of extraneous information and get right to the meat of how absolutely lost I feel as the mother of a teen.

Like many other schools Jane’s school uses something called Powerschool. Powerschool is essentially an online grade book. The teachers enter all the kids’ scores and this way parents have real time access to grades and we can help our children schedule their time accordingly. Jane is on two volleyball teams and a soccer team. If she has any assignments that have not been turned in she cannot participate in sports. It’s not a punishment, but rather a consequence of not having enough time. Also, if Jane doesn’t have all B’s or higher in her classes she cannot participate in sports. Again, not a punishment, but a reallocation of time and resources.

This is a snippet of Jane’s math profile.

powerschool_example

You can see that a parent this is a powerful tool. It helps me know that everything is okay, and points me at problems before anyone has a chance to fall too behind.

One of the options is that you can have all the grades emailed to you daily, weekly or monthly. I chose daily.

About a week ago I noticed I was no longer getting daily emails. I didn’t think much of it because I’d been thinking that our mornings were a little rough with me looking at grades before sending the kids to school. I felt like I was nagging Jane and sending her off in a not-so-good way. Since the email system has been wonky I didn’t think much of it.

Well, Jane had two assignments that were not turned in. One was a two point assignment and the other was 10. These aren’t huge assignments, but part of the sports contract is that everything is done. Being rather Sherlock Holmesy I went into the Powerschool system to see if the email options had been manually changed.

Knocked the wind out of my sails.

Jane had unticked the box so that I’d no longer get the emails. I, predictably, went ballistic and screamed at her. Sent her to school terrified and told her that in addition to one month without technology I was going to invent some punishments. I brought the kids to school and drove home in a silent car second guessing myself.

I knew that a month was ridiculous but I’d already said it. It was the punishment that I’d promised. I also felt like I’d set her up to fail by being too tough and by talking about grades in the mornings before school as opposed to the end of the end of day after Jane had slain her dragons.

This week Amy was Pocahontas. She regaled me with stories of punishments for her daughter. The ones that worked and the ones that didn’t. We talked about why we punish kids, are we looking to be punitive or are we looking to teach them something? Is it about taking a corrective action or about anger?

Jane has lost her phone and computer for a week. There will be neither Facebook nor iChat. She is effectively cut off from all her friends. In addition to all of that we’re taking a three day trip. She’ll be stuck with her family and ability to text a friend. We like to call that Family Funishment. Amy thought it sounded a bit like torture for any red blooded 13 year old.

Thank goodness I have these women or poor Jane would be in a convent right about now. They need a token Jew. 

The Saddest Compliment in the World

12.5.11

Jane has worked hard both in school and in sports. Mr. G. and I love that our children are smart and certainly we praise them for their natural abilities. Just as a workplace would, we reward them when they work hard.

Jane killed it on the soccer field this weekend and she’s been dying for highlights in her hair. So, after two goals and and a 3.5 GPA (we’ll talk about the B’s another time because they do have me unhappy) we decided that work begets reward and we walked to the salon at the corner for Jane’s first hair color.

The stylist has watched my kids grow from toddlerhood to now. She’s a soccer player and it was nice watching her talk to Jane about how important it is to be part of a team. She then put a few strands of bluish blonde color onto Jane’s hair which brought up a little bit of lighter streaks. I didn’t mention that Jane already has these streaks in her hair, but it made her so happy that I didn’t want to ruin her good time.

I was floored when it was time to pay for the dozen small streaks and found out that it was $70. Jane didn’t even have a blow dry. The good thing is that I asked plenty of questions of since I’ve been doing my own hair color for the past handful of years I feel equipped to add highlights as needed for about $10 an application.

As I stood at the counter writing out my check Jane popped over and kissed me on the cheek complete with a, “Thank you mommy.” Most often I’m Mom, but when I’m writing checks they switch it up to Mommy. The two women at the desk smiled and said how sweet she was. I smiled back and nodded. Then they went on to tell me how they never see kids thanking their parents.

I tried to defend the neighborhood kids, “Well, who would thank their mom for a haircut?”

“It’s for highlights, and tips.” Said one.

“And manicures.” Said the other.

They went on and on to list the very expensive services teenage girls get and the fact that they very seldom hear thank you’s and almost never see a kiss.

I felt pleased for myself that I’m raising a girl who knows just how lucky she is. It was nice to hear from strangers that my daughter is lovely, but it was incredibly sad that her kindness would be seen as unusual.

I Pay for Grades

01.20.11

Jane wants a new computer. She doesn’t want any old computer, she very specifically wants a new MacBook. Her current MacBook is a three year old computer.

Cry me a river.

The reality is that the kids get a fair amount of “group work”, and they’re all on macs. Last night Jane and her classmate used screenshare for about an hour to work on a spreadsheet together. The computer is an important tool in her academic career.

Another reality is that the one she has isn’t really “broken” and I have a hard time spending a thousand dollars on a computer for a kid who has one already.

Here’s the deal we made. Jane’s school has an Honor Roll and a Dean’s List. A 90% weighted GPA will land you a spot on the Honor Roll, and a 93% weighted GPA will get you the Dean’s List. I told Jane that if she makes the Dean’s List I’ll buy the computer for her to use and that she can keep the computer for as long as she stays on the Dean’s List.

Here’s the way I see it. When I do my job well I get paid. When I don’t do a good job I don’t get paid much.

Some Moms have been horrified, “You pay for grades?”

Well. Yeah.

When We Fail Our Children

10.29.08

Having just returned from our daughter Jane’s parent teacher conference, I’m trying to decide if writing about it is fair or not. This is her school, no? Sadly, although it is her school the conference is my failure. It’s not a small failure either, it’s my downfall as a mother, perhaps as a wife too.

I am completely and utterly disorganized. Not like, “ooh where did I put that” but more like, “Oh I’m so sorry we came to our parent teacher conference a day early.” To cap it all off, it’s not something I’m attempting to fix. I don’t feel broken, I just feel a little disheveled at times.

My daughter? She’s just like me. She’s smart enough to find the perfect tools to bury herself with. I’m standing in the shed, handing her a shovel. My husband, oh I can’t even talk about my husband because I’ve disappointed him so. Although opposites attract,the pendulum might be swinging too far on this issue.

My complete lack of organization has me not noticing Jane’s. Her
homework is a struggle because it doesn’t always come home. The
composition book has gone missing and I didn’t even notice. I can’t
help my daughter make her brain function in a straight line because I’m
hopelessly nonlinear. I spent Graduate School realizing that I’m
content juggling a few balls a time and embracing the zig zagging that
is rampant in my train of thought. I admit and recognize that I could
easily be labeled ADD, the problem is that my short attention span is
my best asset. ADD is not helpful when you have to teach your kids how
to study.

Jane isn’t failing in school. She’s not even getting C’s. Jane is getting some low B’s, and with another child it wouldn’t be alarming. It would be fine. Fine in this house, with this child, is just not good enough. Fine isn’t good enough, because we know from years prior that fine is the beginning of the slippery slope to not fine which quickly cascades into muck. Fine is the beginning of the end because our daughter is just like Mom. Watching our very gifted daughter be a fine student is a strain on our home.

You see fine means that I haven’t provided my daughter with study skills. Fine means that she’s not doing well on spelling tests, which is simple memorization. Fine means that Jane has too much time on the soccer field and not enough time at a desk. Did I mention that the only reason I bothered to show up to school was sports?

My husband is a hard worker, he’s the sort of guy who says to the first grade teacher, “So when it’s time to roll your sleeves up, how does our child do?” I sit quietly in the chair next to him trying not to guffaw. Do we roll up shirt sleeves when we’re seven? Does this remarkable man know that he’s married to the queen of the shortcuts? I gave birth in no small part so that I’d have playmates. When will they play if I have to stand over them and crack the whip for a study hour. I fight the urge to spray them all with a raspberry and scream, “Homework is stupid!”

How disappointed will my husband and children be when they realize that not only do I not work very hard, I’m unapologetic about it? Because fine, well, it’s worked out okay for me.