Wednesday, May 31, 2006

School Memories: Unbecoming Parent Comments

This memory harkens back to student teaching, right as the first semester was ending for my freshmen and I was entering the scene. Grades had been earned by students and delivered home.

Perhaps I should alert you to the fact that this district I was in was very affluent; students spent spring break in Europe and in their second homes in the mountains. Parents were powerful, and they were quite involved in their children's education.

One particular parent had a bright daughter. This parent was a teacher in a neighboring district; if my memory serves me right, she was also an English teacher. Her daughter had received A's in all classes...except for English, where she received a B+. What a scandal. The mother had at least two meetings with my cooperating teacher about this, as well as a phone call. After all, it had to be discovered how this girl could have faltered and just let herself go. What depths she had fallen! In the words of her mother, words that prefaced the initial meeting, "How can we remove this blemish from my daughter's grade report?"

Being a perfectionist, I grew up with putting too much stock in my school performance. It took until college for me to fully recognize that my self-worth was not determined by my grade point. This epiphany came when I was faced with the possibility of receiving my first B ever. Never fear--I managed to get through that trying time, and my B didn't come until a later class. Although I put pressure on myself, it wasn't because my parents demanded it of me. In actuality, my parents just expected me to do my best, whatever that would be. Many times they made no mention of my grades when they came out.

So as I entered the teaching profession, I gained a larger perspective. Now I was in my own classroom, seeing firsthand students' efforts and their resulting grades. Some students do the minimum necessary to still get an A, whereas others do all the assignments and devote extensive time to each task, but with all their efforts, they will just skate by with a C. I was reminded anew that a C was average, not something demanding apologies and crestfallen looks. My feelings towards my students were not based on their grades in my class (although I still believe they should make an effort, whatever grade that results in).

With the evolution of my perspective, I was taken aback with this fellow teacher's comment. A B+ as a blemish?! Why start showing your daughter that even though she tried her hardest and turned in all assignments on time, but happened to fall short of an A, that you don't think it was good enough? What pressure that girl was facing. I don't envy living in that home when grades came or when big projects were due. What unnecessary pressure to pile on her, when students find enough ways to become stressed and overwhelmed. I'm not surprised to sense these expectations from parents, but I rarely encounter them from parents who are also teachers.

Needless to say, the B+ remained.

No comments: