Editor's note: Sonja Gantt blogs each week for The Charlotte Observer's mommy site, MomsCharlotte.com.
The third quarter of school is ending and I had a "light bulb" moment about Parent Assist this quarter. It's a great tool if used properly problem is I don't think I've been using it the correct way.
For those of you without school age children, Parent Assist is the Charlotte -Mecklenburg school system's website that allows you to check your child's progress in the classroom. It started in the high schools but now it's available at middle and elementary schools as well. Teachers record everything from tardies and absences to grades on tests, quizzes and homework assignments. Gone are the days when parents would be surprised by the grades on the report card. Now the only way that happens is if you are a parent who never checks the site.
Here's the question. How do you best use Parent Assist? Should you obsess over every grade on every assignment? I confess that's what I've been doing. I don't check it weekly but when I do I raise questions about everything...even if the overall grade in the class is good.
Recently I was fussing with Gabrielle ( my middle schooler) about some missed homework that I discovered on the site. I was mad because we've talked about the importance of turning in all assigned daily work before. I think not only does homework build discipline but concepts often build over time and she needs to understand the importance of not skipping a step in that building process. Her overall grade in the class was solid. But I've warned her how easily grades can fall if you don't keep up.
This was a night when I'd come home for dinner. I was driving back to the station when it hit me. What if they'd had Parent Assist when I was growing up? What would my parents have seen? I can't remember exactly but more than likely I have to admit they most probably would have seen some late assignments and others where grades should have been better. My mom and dad only saw the final grades at the end of quarters and semesters. Though they very clearly set an expectation about what were acceptable grades they didn't know what it took for me to get those grades. I can remember doing poorly on some math quizzes and realizing on my own that I was going to have to put some extra time in to pull up my average. I can remember writing assignments where I waited until the last minute and didn't do as well as I could have. So the next batch of papers got additional attention and work from me.
There's something to be learned from taking responsibility on your own to clean up your own mess without your parent's prodding. Gabrielle assured me that she'd already talked to the teacher about that missing assignment. So, if she'd handled it was my arguing just unnecessary and unproductive? Certainly we don't want kids to get in over their heads but she probably doesn't need me harping on every single grade just because today's technology means that I can know about every grade. She does have to learn to handle things on her own.
I called Mitch and shared my "light bulb" moment. He laughed and remembered a number of times going to his teachers and begging for extra credit work to pull up a grade. His mother never knew about his pleas. We agreed we've gone over board and need to give Gabrielle some room to breathe. It is so hard to let go...but she deserves more breathing room than she did in elementary school. Isn't that what you have to do as kids get older...slowly loosen the tight rein until the point they're able to handle it on their own?
The toughest part of being a parent I think is watching your children make mistakes. We try to prevent that from happening. But if we do that constantly don't we ultimately handicap them in the end? It reminds me of my favorite parenting quote..."Prepare the child for the path...not the path for the child". It is better to have her learn the importance of balancing responsibilities now. None of us wants to raise a child who is so completely overwhelmed by life as an adult because she never learned to make critical decisions when she was younger.
I'm not going to stop checking Parent Assist and will continue to let her know when I see something I don't like. But I am going to try to stop beating her over the head with it and trust that she will take responsibility if grades fall below what we've agreed is acceptable and accept the consequences.