Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Completely off topic

Yesterday I was paid a huge compliment by a parent. While dealing with an intense situation I reframed the focus the parent placed on their child's school performance in the midst of their crisis.

Basically I suggested that instead of hanging on the hopes that allowance would be made (that clearly were not going to be made) to "fix" their student's grade (due to not completing assignments) that the family itself reframe their focus on grades.  Bottom line: Your child's health/sanity/happiness is more important than grades that reflect their current struggle. Preserve the parts of their lives that are successful lest the focus on grades infect those realms as well. Focus instead on the effort, the small wins. Support success. (Focusing on a GPA or a graduation deadline is futile if your student doesn't make it that far!)

Anyway. The parent looked at me and said: that was brilliantly put!  I've never had it posed to me in that way. 

I was happy to help, but sad that this is a common struggle for parents - no matter how much help or support they get for their students outside of school, they always seem to come to school in the mindset that it will be a confrontation.  The sad thing is, it is probably more common that parents have to "battle" schools then it is a cooperative working relationship.   Thus far in my career I've been lucky enough to work at schools where the teachers genuinely care, putting in a lot of extra time for their students.  And although we have rules - it was nice to be able to help refocus the parents on what was truly important instead of everyone stressing about grades (especially when the parent was not actually concerned with their student even graduating on time!).

While in that meeting I knew exactly where my thought process was coming from - my parents.  All throughout school doing well was important to me.  I don't remember any real pressure from my parents in regards to grades, but as a kid it was always my goal to get good grades.  Then comes college... long story short I get hit hard in Calculus (a class I shouldn't have been in really...).  I make the call home to prepare them for a potentially horrible grade.  I was so stressed and worried about what they would say.  But on the other end I got the most wonderful message:  Michael, we know you are trying your best, and that is all we can ask.  We know you are trying your best and doing what you can.  We know you aren't out partying* and neglecting your studies, so if a D is the best that you can do in a course, then I am happy with a D.

Seriously.  That took so much weight off my shoulders.  I knew how heavy the focus on grades can be (whether it's self imposed or not) and I was so glad that the parent got the message.  But more importantly I have to thank my parents for giving me that gift as well.  So, whenever a parent asks if I have kids (as in, how can you relate) I always smile and think - nope, but I had great parents!

* As anyone who knew me at Uconn - you might say I partied.  Was there anything else to do at Uconn??  But partying never got in the way of my classes... or vice versa... whichever sounds better.  I always attended class and got my work done before any partying ensued.

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