Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Earned, Not Given

**If you have been reading my blog for the last few years you will notice that the names in previous posts are being changed (slowly) and I have started using the girls nicknames (given by an uncle), Penelope and Pandora. Privacy is huge for my kids and as the blog has gained momentum (yeah!!), I felt it necessary to take an extra step to ensure their privacy.**

We are a few days away from Thanksgiving break and man, am I ready! I hate making lunches, I hate the alarm clock, I hate the rush of a school week. I really should home school, but since neither of my girls are willing to participate in that idea we will continue to run the race of public school.

Fifth and second grade are off to a great start. I'm not sure what is harder for me to believe, Penelope as a fifth grader or Pandora as a second grader. It is true - time flies. Second grade is a huge adjustment in our district. Our students no longer see 'S' or 'N" on their work, they see numerical grades. While the children adjust fairly quickly, the parents tend to take longer to get on board. I could have written this post three years ago when Penelope was in second, but since she is a high achiever no one would have listened. It doesn't matter that I am a former educator, I was at that time a parent to a straight A second grade student.

So, here we are - second grade with Pandora. Pandora, the hard worker, but not a straight A student. I will start by saying I am PROUD beyond measure of Pandora. I never thought we would survive kindergarten and now she is in second grade! Pandora is learning, gaining confidence, maturing, and EARNING grades. PSA: GRADES ARE EARNED NOT GIVEN

Ask any teacher and they cannot tell you how many emails they have received with the following question, "Why did my kid get a ____ on the test?"  The blank could have an F, a C, even a B- the issue is not the grade, the issue is the verb, "get." Your child, my child did not GET anything, they EARNED it. For all the K-12 teachers out there, let me answer that email for you.

Why did your child get that grade?

1. They did not get the grade, they earned that grade.
2. They earned that grade because they did not study.
3. They earned that grade because they were up late and fell asleep in class.
4. They earned that grade because they did not follow directions.
4. They earned that grade because they were late to school and flustered while completing their assignment.
5. They earned that grade because they cheated off the dumb ass they sit next to in class.
6. They earned that grade because they never completed the homework assignment.
7. They earned that grade because they did not complete all the questions.
8. They earned that grade because they did not recheck their work before turning it in.
9. They earned that grade because they rushed.
10. They earned that grade because they were talking while working.
11. They earned that grade because as indicative of their daily grades, they are not understanding the concepts.
12. They earned that grade because they never came to tutorials.
13. They earned that grade because their extra-curricular activities are more important to them.
14. They earned that grade because they never raised their hand to ask a question.
15. They earned that grade because you are not in class to help them.
16. They earned that grade because the work showed that level of mastery.

Grades are not a reflection of whether or not the teacher taught. Trust me, they taught. I don't know one teacher that sits at their desk doing nothing all day. Are some teachers better than others, hell yes. But for the most part, teachers teach. It is our children's job to try to learn. TRY.

Grades show what a child understands. Grades show effort. Grades show mastery. Grades show what is earned by the person doing the assignment. Pandora has made Fs, Ds, Cs, Bs, and As. Every grade is earned. Every grade reflects accurately how much time and effort has been put into the objective. Pandora has a fabulous second grade teacher. She teaches her heart out each day. Does that mean Pandora always gets an A? Hell no. Sometimes Pandora doesn't understand. The teacher will know before a low grade if Pandora learns to advocate for herself. We are working on that. Parents might say their child is afraid of the teacher. I get that. In life, we face many fears. Encourage your child to speak up for themselves. Tell the teacher, even the "mean one" when you don't understand. If you say nothing, you cannot receive help.

As I am writing this post, Pandora is frustrated. There are tears. She has taken three moments to herself. We are trying to complete a study guide over text features. Pandora is not happy. Guess what? Too. Fucking. Bad.
Am I yelling at her? No.
Am I making her complete the study guide with minimal help? Yes.
Am I showing her the strategy of process of elimination? Yes.
Am I trying to reassure her that it's okay to not be perfect? Yes. (Just like her sister)
Is Pandora trying to learn the material? Yes.
Am I texting my friends saying Pandora is getting an F tomorrow and fuck it? You bet your ass I am.
( I am only human, after all)

Will she make an 'A' on tomorrow's test? I have no idea. What I do know is her mom didn't print the study guide until five minutes ago and the test is tomorrow. We did not prepare adequately for the exam and depending on what Pandora can accomplish during a frustrated afternoon will directly impact her grade. Whatever grade shows up, that grade is earned. And that grade is not a reflection on her teacher. It is a direct reflection of Pandora, Pandora's study habits, and Pandora and my time management. (Yes, I help my second grader by printing study guides and sitting down with her. However, my fifth grader - she is on her own.)

Can grades notify parents of a learning disability? Yes, but one F does not equal a problem. Two Fs do not equal a problem. You know there is a problem when your child is studying, reading, going to tutorials, getting extra help, and still does not understand the objectives. If that is happening, email the teacher and have a conference.

Are some teachers tough graders? Yes, but when did high expectations become a bad thing? I have watched Penelope struggle year after year as a writer. I have watched her try and give up and try and give up. The teachers that expected more, got more. She wrote beautifully for them because the expectation was set and she wanted to meet it. When I look at their weekly folders, I do not focus on the grade. I focus on what objective was missed and why. Crappy handwriting means you rushed. Skipped problems means you did not pay attention. I only reteach the concept if the assignment shows a lack of understanding and then I email the teacher asking for when they are available for extra help. There is no shame in extra help and the sooner your child understands that, the easier it will become to ask for that help.

I pay attention to grades. I get wrapped up in the rat race of grades, GPA, class rank, etc. I worry about my girls and the pressure they put on themselves. I worry about the anxiety grades can cause. Hell, I look at the on line grade book twice a day, sometimes three. However when a low grade pops up in the grade book, my first thought is "What the fuck did my kid do wrong" vs "What the fuck did the teacher do wrong."

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