My parents never gave material rewards for good report cards. Probably because we straddled the line between poverty and middle class most years, but I would like to think it was on principle. Their praise and pride was enough to make me want to succeed. Oh how I loved the end of the school year, but not because school was over. I loved desk clean out, project wrap ups, and getting grades. Nothing made me happier than someone else evaluating me. If some states have their way, it looks like I might get back my source of happiness, but will I rejoice in receiving a grade in the hardest class I have ever taken?
Lisa Belkin, author of The Motherlode, recently had in an article in the New York Times called, “Whose Failing Grade is it?” Some states are examining the possible use of report cards for parents on the premise that the child’s success in school is clearly linked to parental involvement. The grade would focus on things like the completion and quality of homework, tardiness, attendance, and basic preparedness of the student to learn. Belkin, as do many people, wondered if such a grading system would have any effect on parent involvement. I wonder if it will have the complete opposite of the intended effect.
Almost every mother I know worries about “failure,” in themselves as it relates to their children. I lay awake at night wondering if I need to enroll my toddler twins in Spanish Language camp for the summer, if Princess Camp is too prissy, and where can I find a Knight in Shining Armor Camp for my son. My inner Tiger Mother often comes out roaring and would probably thrive on a yearly grade. Then, I think about the parents I have known during my teaching career. At the time, I did not have children, so I always operated on the premise that parenting is really hard (this premise has not changed since having children) and that I had no right to judge (I still don’t, but I can relate). I had MANY students who struggled and failed, but in looking back I can honestly say that a parenting grade from me would not have made much of difference.
I had one student in particular in danger of failing my English II class because of tardiness. Her grades were fine, but she had been late many times and according to policy that kind of tardiness causes an automatic failure in the class. So, in an effort to get her to pass, I would call her every morning to ensure her promptness. On more than one occasion, her mom would answer the phone and in a sincere and sleep filled voice thank me for waking them up. If my daily phone calls were not enough to change things, would a grade have made any difference?
As I look back over this long winter, I wonder what my “grade” would have been this year, if grades could be given to toddler moms. Baby ballet, Gymboree, music class, playdates, countless MOM’s Club activities, plays (see We Get Kicked for that enriching experience!), museums. I list it all in my head as I lie awake at night and still I wonder, “Is it enough?” As I fret over our summer schedule my husband reminds me that our twins are only three and that all they really need for a summer activity is access to a working garden hose. Still, I stir, and self-evaluate. I am far from rousing a sleepy teenager for school, but I sure as hell do not want some teacher being my wake-up call.
I suppose that is the point. I imagine that most parents are always grading themselves, so a grade from someone else would only support the choices made or remind a parent of the terrible job they are doing. Getting a poor grade in gym class might motivate a person to get up and get moving but a poor grade in the most important subject of your life might make you lie down and give up. The reward for a good parenting grade is more abstract than praise and the blow of a poor grade is probably not a wake-up call, but just a reminder of how tough this subject is.
This is an original post for Jersey Moms Blog by Amy Griffiths, a New Jersey mom.
Photo credit given to Squidoo.