Education Outcomes and Parenting

Parenting is the most challenging part of my life. In my post-college life teaching and coaching were 1st on the list of challenge until I had children. The two coexist, however. Because of what I know as a teacher, I am concerned about the education and growth of my children.

As a teacher it is instinctual to examine desired outcomes to lead my teaching. The question is what is defining those desired outcomes? Performance, experience, and learning are elements that all work together in developing the outcomes, good and bad. Okay…then, as teachers, we have to assign arbitrary percentages and letter grades to the performance, experience, and learning. The physical sight of a grade provides shock effect, positive and negative. For example, we all know the parents that follow their children’s grades closely and will call or email at any slight drop in performance as dictated by the letter grade or percentage they ‘see’ online. The concern and support are great from those parents. However, what are these grades truly telling us? It is hard not to compare one student to another, however that is not an accurate or fair way of determining exactly what our children are learning and experiencing. I have fallen into this trap as a parent. Our grade school daughter receives an F on a math assignment and Desiree and I nearly flip out. Then I discover that there were only 4 problems, she got two wrong and the teacher has made the assignment worth 100 points…I suppose this is easier to break it down into percentages. The ‘F’ shows up online as we check her grades. WHAT!?!?!? We further discover that assignments and tests worth more points are equally weighted. We learn so much by failing, don’t we? Then our daughter feels the effects of her parent’s reaction and tries to examine her own confidence, potential, and self-image. Desiree and I are conditioned, as parents, to react to progress or lack thereof, by looking at the letter grade. We lose our perspective. We talk to our daughter about ‘getting good grades’ but we fail to talk about the process of learning. We fail to talk about her strengths and how she can utilize those strengths to develop her math skills and study skills. On the other hand, when grades are all A’s and B’s, does this indicate all is well?? Of course not, however, how often do we, as teachers and parents, really examine those ‘good’ grades?

As a teacher, I am overwhelmed with ‘grading’ essays and trying so hard to provide valuable feedback to over 100 students that I often fail my students. I fail them because I don’t focus on their strengths…I only focus on what needs to be improved in order for them to earn a higher ‘grade’. The desire to learn, be taught, and teach must be intrinsic. How do we do that? How do we accomplish that feat when letter grades and percentages are offering extrinsic motivation…or fear?  The fear of failure, the fear of ‘being behind’, and the fear of socially being an outcast lead us to press our children often leading to diminishing their self-concept and feeling of self-worth.

Being a parent is challenging…the most challenging part of my day. I know I must focus on teaching my children to utilize their strengths to build upon their weaknesses. As a teacher, knowing what I know, seeing what I see, this is a daunting, overwhelming, and exhausting task.

Check out this article http://www.alfiekohn.org/phpnews_1-3-0/news.php?action=mainnews&id=5 by Alfie Kohn. A colleague led me to this and I shared it with Desiree. This article provided Desiree with more ammunition to move toward home-schooling. I am not convinced that home-schooling is the answer. I just don’t know what the answer is….

Interesting article today in the New York Times Eduation section in regards to ‘tougher A at Princeton’ :

http://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/01/princeton/?src=twt&twt=nytimes

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About jpsteltz

Proud husband and father of four; Literacy Specialist; Reading Teacher; Literacy Coach; HS ELA Teacher; Published Author
This entry was posted in Education, Family and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Education Outcomes and Parenting

  1. I struggle with this often as a teacher and I am not sure how I’ll handle this as a parent. I am already dreading the nights I watch my kids hunched over the kitchen table agonizing over homework. I do want my kids to work hard and work on their strengths and weaknesses, but I wonder how the teacher will handle her efforts when she is one of 25 little kids? As a teacher myself I often struggle with that. Just managing a class of 25 can be a daunting experience. I’m not looking forward to watching my daughter go through the elementary years. I hope I can make learning fun at home.

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  2. Toni says:

    Very well written, John. I’ve been through this with one of my kids. We are so programmed for “the grade” that we forget what is really important and that is the learning. I know school can be frustrating at times but I don’t know if home-schooling is the answer. I really can’t see Dawson as a home-school student. He is so social and he loves the social component of school. He brings laughter to the classroom every day (in a good way) any teacher that gets Brooklyn gets such a gift. I always hoped that some of “Brooklyn” would rub off on every single student in my class!
    I seriously don’t think there should be letter grades in K-5. Wouldn’t learning be so much cooler and fun if we didn’t have to be tested on everything we learned? What a gift that would be!

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    • jsteltz says:

      I love school…that’s one of the main reasons I became a teacher. I do believe that my children enjoy school. Some times it becomes more emotional for the parents than what it really should be. Parents have a tendency to look way way way into the future, like maybe there is some correlation between a ‘D’ in math in 2nd grade and the success they will experience in high school, college, or beyond.

      I believe in the school system, for the most part. I believe school to be more beneficial than detrimental. I know home-schooling isn’t the answer, but I do know that grades cause much anguish and anxiety for parents and students. I hope my children can continue to enjoy schooling and be all they can be…there is no grade for that 🙂

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  3. Stacie Kaminski says:

    My oldest is in middle school so now I am starting to worry about him getting into a good college. As a high school teacher I see kids w/ EXCELLENT grades and co-curricular experiences and recommendations be put on wait lists! I want lots of doors to be open to him and Lauren but I see how tough the competition is.

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  4. Teresa says:

    I also struggle as a teacher and as a parent. I too am dreading to see my son struggle or be disappointed whether its homework, grades, or making the team (if he decides to play sports). I try to keep things in perspective and create a learning experience even if the experience is awful or disappointing. I think I am old school on this, because I always come back to how my parents raised me. My parents taught me that you need to be sad, disappointed, feel pain, in order to know what it really feels like to be happy, excited, or proud. It’s okay if my son falls as long as he learns from it and gets back up. Lets face it, life isn’t always fair. I think we are seeing in many kids today, the inability to succeed and keep going when things get rough/tough. Too often today, kids don’t have basic survival skills because parents continually “made everything kay” becuase they couldn’t stand to see their child suffer, whatever the case may be. Honestly, what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger, more grounded individuals. I want my son to be able to stand on his own two feet. As a parent, sad but true, I won’t always be here to make everything better. Do I want too–ABSOLUTELY! That just isn’t reality.

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  5. lynn says:

    Don’t ever forget that you homeschool 24/7. The experiences that your children get in the school setting will always be character building because of the way you help them deal with those experiences. Really feel dealing with peers is a huge part of learning. Hard to get that environment at home.

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    • jsteltz says:

      It’s so funny…As I was thinking about this post later in the day, I realized that Desiree and I are ‘home-schooling’ all the time, every day, in every situation. Lynn, you are so right. Both Desiree and I know that our children learn so much from being in the school setting like character building. I just wish we could all, as teachers, move away from grades.

      I was talking with a colleague this afternoon about that very topic…getting rid of grades. He made the point that grades drive scholarships, college admissions, etc. So, the question is, in some office somewhere out there, is money driving the current educational system that requires teacher to track progress of students via grades? My children have learned so much from being in school, and we believe they have had great experiences because of the teachers that have mentored them. Why are we so caught up in grades? I have good kids that will be successful and we want our children to have every opportunity they can get. The more I ponder this stuff, the more questions I have.

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  6. jsteltz says:

    I received this response via email from my aunt. I thought it would be appropriate to add:

    John,

    I enjoyed reading this so very much. How we know as grandparents looking back at when our children were going to school – the anguish. feeling guilty becuz it seemed we had to constantly be after them to do their homework and like you said, we worry about the grade. I remember feeling so guilty that I decided to hire a tooter for the boys – I felt I didn’t have the patience I needed to teach the boys.

    I wish I could put into words (like you do so WELL) exactly how I feel and felt at the time.

    I feel your writing is excellent – I hope you will plan to write a book some day.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with me and I’m going to love following your blog. Please don’t ever be afraid to ask for feedback. I’m not a teacher, but I can help with whatever I know.

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  7. Kay Stangel says:

    I would love to have you notify me of follow up comments and of new posts via email.

    Thanks John!

    Have a great weekend.

    Please also send to my home:
    rstangel@lakefield.net – that way I can print them out for your mom and dad.

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