Sunday, January 25, 2009

Parental Involvement

There is a banner that hangs in the entranceway of the lower elementary school that says something to the effect of "Parent Involvement is the Key to Learning Success!" It could come across as either a warning or an invitation, depending on your interpretation.

I have seen it written that studies indicate that Parental Involvement is important to academic success , yet they often stop short of explaining just what kind of involvement they're talking about. There's the PTO which consists largely of fundraising activities which help the school as a whole but not necessarily with an individual child's performance. The school has metrics against which to measure Parental Involvement, but I have checked and they are simply counting attendance at conferences (15 minutes once a year.) I know a lot of SAHMs who love to trumpet their constant presence in the school buildings as "practically like having a job" but I think that while running copies and assembling handouts may prove convenient to the teachers it still isn't directly helpful or necessary to any individual child's performance.

So it seems to me that the most target way to ensure one's own child's success is also the least visible, which is for the parent to become intimately familiar with all of the homework assignments and personally ensure that each one is completed, and work through it with them if they are having trouble.

Except I don't do that. At our house it pretty much comes down to asking the boys if they have any homework or studying each night, and, if the answer is affirmative, kindly suggesting that they get working on it before watching yet another episode of Sponge Bob. And sure enough, not every assignment gets completed, which is reflected in their grades. I can justify that now's the time to learn from failure, rather than in High School when GPA's count towards college admissions criteria, but sometimes I just don't feel like I should have to work on that with them, it's their responsibility. I do know that other parents work through every homework assignment and project with their children, but I'm just not willing to do it. What I really want is for them to be motivated from within to excel in school, but I struggle with how to instill that.

So Jeffrey brought home his report card on Friday. He got 3 B's, a B-, a B+, and one A. I asked him how he felt about those grades, and whether he thought he could do better. He admitted that they could be improved, but then said loudly "I bet I still got better grades than TIM." Timmy looked annoyed and admitted that his report card would arrive the next day, and that it would likely include some C's. I told him that C's are unacceptable and I expect more effort next semester. He agreed to that. Jeffrey said "Yeah! Do better why don't you?" I told Jeffrey to mind his own business.

On Saturday Jeffrey came in from a trip to the library and had picked up the mail from the mailbox. "TIM! Your BAD grades are here!." I shot Jeff a look and sat down with Tim to review the report card. He got one C, a C+, a B, one A, an A- and an A+. I reminded him again that he needs to bring up those C's in the next semester. He agreed. Jeff piped in "Yeah!"

I pointed out to Jeff how Tim's card calculated his GPA to be 3.242, and that it included a scale of the numerical values for the different grades. He eagerly dug out a calculator and translated and computed his own GPA. It came out to 3.116. He looked sheepish. When Tim asked to see what it was, he broke into one of his slow big grins. Jeff got defensive. "Well that doesn't matter because I'm getting better grades next time and I'll beat you by more!" Tim said "We'll see about that 'cause I'm going to do better too."

I'm still kinda stumped about how to succeed with Parental Involvement, but I do know that they are always learning something, and now we've got motivation too.


Anonymous said...

I have learned over the years that people don't want advice from someone without kids. Even from someone who had a double major in psych/soc. as I have, plus all those career observations of children.
I know that your boys can do better, and maybe could ask their teachers how they might improve. A general review of how to study might help, too. Glad that they are challenging each other. Let us know how things progress.
Could it be that they are both so bright that they have good, acceptable grades because they usaully "get it" without studying, and not reviewing the subject matter properly if it did go past them? Aunt Chris

Mindy said...

It could be that they usually "get it" with little extra effort, and that's why any bad grades can usually be attributed to not turning in work that was done, or forgetting to put a name on the paper, or just not following the instructions that were given. But still, motiviation is needed to correct.