My son wants to succeed on his own.
I ask questions:
Is your homework done?
Do you need me to look it over?
Do you have any questions?
Did you call your partner about completing that social studies project?
I receive responses:
We can’t do it now because we didn’t bring home the instructions and the textbook, but I’ll talk to him tomorrow.
Seventh-grade. 13-years-old. 4 classes. 4 teachers. Transition.
He wants to attend Harvard. He plans to volunteer because it’s not just about grades, but also being well rounded.
Should I hover, interfere? When I push, he pulls. I was a seventh-grade teacher, so I know how to help. But I need to let him make his mistakes, right? I fret.
He comes home, telling me about students who don’t care, don’t work well in groups, bringing his grade down, while he takes over parts that aren’t his or gives up.
What do I do now?
Math test. Mediocre grade. My husband helps him understand the material.
I ask about that social studies project. Is his response a real answer or an excuse?
New rules: No video games or You Tube until homework is done. Don’t save your work until nighttime. Make sure you write your assignments down.
I spy a Halloween worksheet. Not done. A week after Halloween.
Am I nagging or helping?
Progress report. I unfold the paper with trepidation.
His grades are lower than last year’s.
Do I yell? Say how disappointed I am? Have the teachers e-mail me weekly with updates? Make him show me his agenda? Demand he go over each and every assignment with me?
I thought we were past this type of intervention after fifth-grade.
Before I say anything, he says, “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. I’m so disappointed in myself. I’m going to do better.”
He means it. I can’t say anything to make him feel any worse than he does.
My son, my husband, and me - we talk strategies, priorities.
We buy another agenda. A blank slate.
The three of us head to parent-teacher conferences. I brace for what I’ll hear. I’ve prepared what I’ll say. He’s better than this. I’m better than this. How did we all let this happen?
Teachers offer suggestions. They’re upbeat about him as a student. They remind me that other seventh-graders are struggling with the transition too. This is a progress report – not a final grade.
I know all this. It’s easier for me assure my students’ parents. It’s harder to be a parent and let your child flail.
These teachers say something else…
My son greets them each time he comes into the room. He asks about their weekends. He says goodbye at the end of the class and at the end of the day. Sometimes he thanks them at the end of a lesson.
One teacher said, “I don’t know if I should say this, but I look forward to speaking with him. He makes my day.”
My son reddened to the tip of his ears.
I went to the parent-teacher conference thinking I was going to hear certain things about my son. I left proud of him, but not for the reasons I expected.