Saturday, September 15, 2007

Report Cards, Mid-Term Reports, Helicopter Parents, Self-Esteem, Red Pens, and Shame

How old am I? Up until high school, all my report cards were hand-written by my teachers.

In high school, we had the new-fangled punched computer cards. They were a dull red, each one punched full of rectangular holes; the name of the course, teacher, and grade were on the top in really tiny print. Remember those old sci fi movies where the computer took up an entire wall, floor to ceiling, and was covered with reel-to-reels? I think we had those.

In college, my grades were sent directly to my parents. They knew before I knew. (Now, my students' grades are posted on the internet and can be accessed with an individual login/password. Parents know the grades only if the student tells them.) (There are no hard copies, unless the student prints out the page.)

When I first started teaching, the teachers met every nine weeks in the library and passed around the yellow cardboard folded grade cards and filled in the grades and comments. Those were the only all-faculty "social" events we ever had in that school.

My next school took great pride in its time-saving, labor-saving computerized grade program. At the end of the nine weeks, each student was given a handful of computer cards to give to each teacher. It took about thirty minutes out of each individual class to fill in the little ovals for grades, citizenship, and comments. I told you it was time-and-labor-saving. Heh.

The last few years in the public schools, we put our grades on the school's computer program. MOST of the time, it "took."

There were a handful of teachers in the building who never did catch on to using a computer for anything, and some of them had students record their grades. Can you imagine?

The elderly secretary the school had for a zillion years refused point-blank to use a computer. We were the last building in the system to become computerized, because of her.

Now, I can sit at home, in front of my own computer, and put each individual quiz grade on my own classroom website, supplied by the college. My students can, at any time, from school or from home, access Blackboard and look at their grades.

In my college days, I had to wait for weeks before my grades were released to my parents. Now, my students know exactly where they stand at any point in time, and they know their final grades a day or two after they take their final exam. Sometimes, I put their final grades on the website a few hours after they take their final.

There will always be students who have no idea of their standing in a class; honestly, when a student says to me, "How am I doing in this class? What's my average?" I want to scream. Even if he is computer-illiterate (and if so, he won't make it at the college level, sowwy) all he has to do is check his folder. All graded work is supposed to be kept in there, and if he's that anxious to know his standing, he can add up his scores and average them on paper. Sheesh.

The students who are going to succeed just go online, type in their login and password, and check their grades themselves.

Besides, any good student at almost any level knows how he's doing in any class at any given point in time. If they show up and take their quizzes and tests and turn in their homework, they're probably doing well. If they don't, they aren't. It ain't rocket science.

Dear Parents, please don't call your child's teacher daily and ask for an average, at least, not very often. Chances are pretty good that if you can't find any graded papers in your kid's backpack or notebook, he's not doing very well. Please don't expect that your kid will be allowed to make up all that missing or poor work.

Your child's teacher has an entire classroom of students, and if each parent asked the teacher to send home a daily report, the poor teacher might as well put up a cot and start paying rent because there isn't going to be much of a home life. And yes, parents ask us to do that all the time. At the secondary level, one teacher might have over 200 students.

At midterm, most schools send out half-way-point standings. Check your child's grades. If he's doing poorly, call the school and make an appointment with the teacher. NEVER just walk in off the street and ask the teacher to give up her lunch or prep without prior notice. (Would you walk into your dentist's office, or your doctor, or your lawyer, or your accountant's offices without an appointment? Or at least, an emergency involving blood and bone fragments?)

Please don't march in like a Teutonic Reichmaiden and assume that the teacher is a psychotic who hates all children and yours in particular, and that your child is innocent, totally innocent, and his straight-A work has been shredded by the teacher so the world will never see it. I hate to burst your bubble, but it's probably more your child's fault than anyone else's.

Every single night, require your child to SHOW YOU the contents of his backpack. If the papers are wadded up, give your child some incentive to not ever do that again. Require your child to file papers immediately in a pocket folder because you're going to be looking them over every night. If this interferes with television for either of you, cry me a river.

Do not even turn on that television until this has been done. If there is homework, make sure your child has it finished before the tv is touched. Ditto computer, telephone, and any other electronic gadgetry your child has been playing with instead of doing his academics. Don't, however, deny your children who ARE doing it right just because one of them isn't. Sometimes, the sound of a sibling enjoying tv or a computer game or a friend can light a fire under a slacker kid. If it makes him vicious, you've got problems that aren't school-related. Call a shrink.

If your kid is an athlete and brings home a bad mid-term report, ask the coach to bench him. Usually, schools do that anyway; sports are games, and games are only for kids who have done the actual SCHOOL part of their kid-duties. A good coach will do that anyway.

Is your kid one of those students for whom sports are all he has going for him? Is playing ball his life's priority? Help him change those priorities, because his are all wrong. Don't EVER argue with a coach for benching your kid for low grades. Even the kid knows he deserves it.

I really don't have to deal with these issues much any more, because at the college level, I don't have many parents demanding that I change Junior's grade, etc. I do have a few, though. It's incredible and really quite sad that so many parents seem to be living their own lives over again vicariously, through their children.

I'm not a mean teacher, in spite of some of the comments I've gotten lately from the same group of people, over and over. Yes, I know who they are; I've been to their websites and they don't like me there, either. I am, however, a teacher (and a parent) who required all of my students to work, to obey, and to behave. I still can't think of a single viable excuse for slacking off on any of those three things. Once those three things were mastered, the creativity could flow. Once students learned that I would not put up with anyone who did not understand the big three, we could have fun. It did not take most of them very long to learn that it was better for all to behave in ol' Mrs. G's classroom, because for those who did, the rewards were many and awesome, and for those who didn't, well, okay. . . .I poisoned them and buried them on the playground, under the wood chips. Nobody missed them.

That might be an exaggeration, but will you hate me if I tell you that I thought about it on occasion? Oh, so do you. Don't lie to me.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Keypunch cards with very tiny lettering on the top.

And I say things like, "Shame on you!"

Because, you see, I really do believe that people are encouraged from a very early age to believe that they have a perfect right to please themselves in all ways, whenever and wherever they are, and that their parents are the main ones who encourage it.

Perhaps if we help our children learn that some actions and words ARE shameful, our children will treat each other better, and everyone's self-esteem (you really don't want to get me started on that topic) will rise naturally, instead of being inflated with bullshit so it rises regardless of what the child says and does.

Also, I use a red pen.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 1:10 AM | |


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