A for Effort?






Every parent eventually faces the fact that nobody, including their children, are perfect. They each have their own set of strengths and weaknesses to be encouraged, nurtured or overcome. When presented with life’s challenges all that we can ask of them is to always do their best, to meet these challenges with their feet set and head held high. But what do we do when they don’t?

Last year the teenager had a horribly disappointing first year of high school. There was conflict with her peers, arguments with teachers, and nine months of nagging from her parents about her grades. She fell behind early, made minimal effort to catch up, and ended the year without fully meeting the requirements to advance to the next grade.

Obviously, we were very concerned. Even though we live in a very rural part of the state and our town boasts a brand new, absurdly expensive high school, its drop out rate still sits around 6%. I don’t believe that standardized testing should be used as the sole barometer of a school’s success, but ranking 130th out of 156 public high schools paints a pretty poor picture.

This year we opted for a fresh start and sent her to an alternative magnet school. Our hope was that a higher teacher to pupil ratio and the advertised “personalized learning experience” would lead to a more fully realized potential.

I still have reservations, but it appears that this was the correct decision. She’s much happier, more socially mature, and more receptive to instruction. Other than a C in Biology she achieved all As and Bs, earned several college credits, and is now back on pace to graduate on time.

I’m very proud of how far she has come in a year’s time, but wish I could feel stronger about her having “earned” these grades. I’m not implying that she paid off her teachers or hacked the school’s grading records, but there was no homework, no term papers, and only a few scattered projects. I can’t comment towards what went on during class time, but her Biology grade was accompanied by a note that said Kayla’s “phone was a large distraction this last semester”, a problem I hold the teacher responsible for. I’ve ranted about this issue before .

I’m probably just falling into the “back in my day” trap. We had several hours of homework a night, never would have dreamed of calling our teachers by their first names, and certainly wouldn’t have brought our Walkmans to class. A high school diploma was something more than a certificate of participation.

But the bottom line is that she is on track to earn one, and the chances of her advancing her education past that seem significantly higher. Her self-confidence is up and she is rightfully proud of her accomplishments. Her school established a set of expectations that she successfully achieved.

It leads me back to a question I haven’t yet been able to answer. What is more important for our children’s development? Being ultimately successful, or the effort that they put forth to get there?




28 thoughts on “A for Effort?”

  1. I think with regards to graduating high school, actually graduating is the goal, regardless of the journey. I think once children enter higher education, the journey becomes more important. In higher education, people are generally studying something they find engaging and I think this is a big factor in going the extra mile in regards to learning rather than doing a bare minimum to get through subjects you have to learn.
    As for her phone affecting her, isn’t it the teacher’s job to tell her to put it away!
    Thanks for linking up this really interesting post to #AnythingGoes

    1. Her teachers all seem more interested in being the “good guy” and letting the kids “be themselves”. I agree with the basic idea but there comes a point where learning to respect authority figures is an important lesson also

  2. This is a tough one because I see exactly were you are coming from. My daughter has just turned ten and at the start of her school year, she and her brother had to change schools as her Dad became ill and this school was just across from our home, when her other one was a good car ride away. I was worried as in her previous school, she had lots of one-to-one support as she has very minor special educational needs and this school had a lot of pupils that excelled. The new school doesn’t take children out of lessons to give them extra support if the special educational needs are minor and this was a concern, however they do sit them on a table together and they are closely monitored by a teacher. I have seen her confidence increase and although changing schools was necessary, I can see she is doing better with the teaching methods of the new school than the old. I can genuinely go into the school and see that she is working hard and it means so much to me. They do however do a lot of work with Ipads which is of some concern as her writing is not the best in the world and I still feel it is a skill that she needs to develop further. I am sure that your daughter is still working hard, just the teaching methods will be different, but I also agree with your point about respecting authority and my child still has to refer to her teachers by their title and surname. This is a great post, thanks for sharing your experience #anythinggoes

    1. Although their methods are slightly different, it sounds as if both of the school options that you had were very good for your daughter. The fact that she is “working hard” makes a huge differnce and will ensure that she has a chance to be successful anywhere. My biggest concern is that my daughter isn’t working as hard as she could, partly because she isn’t being forced to. Part of the reason for that may be that her school is also doing a lot of in-class work with tablets, which makes it difficult for them to take any work home where I can see it. Within a generation I’m not sure that people will be doing any actual writing at all.

  3. I’m glad that you feel this was ultimately the correct decision. It’s a hard one to make so i’m glad you made the right choice 🙂 #bigfatlinky

  4. Dude. That is a really interesting question you pose there: Does the end justify the means? And honestly, I’m not sure there is a clear-cut answer. To each their own, so to speak. I think the key here is that you mentioned her confidence is up and she is feeling better about this whole thing. Doesn’t matter if you think the grades were low hanging fruit. Wins are wins, right? So hopefully you will all build off of the momentum and see much more success. Thanks for sharing at #effitfriday

  5. Wow such a well written and interesting post/question posed. The journey is of course important, how a child grows, learns and ultimately finds what they’re most passionate about but of course they need to pass/qualify ideally into high education for the greatest opportunities in my opinion. Yes you can be successful without uni but it opens many doors and I attribute so much of my success to my degree and MA. I think high school in particular taught me a lot about what I didn’t enjoy so I could focus on what I did. Thanks for linking up to #brillianblogposts x

  6. It’s an interesting question. Personally I think that several hours of homework outside of school is far, FAR too much. Kids (and teenagers) need to be able to switch off, need to have some time to relax and wind down at the end of the day just like anyone else. Spending a full day at school, then coming home and having another couple of hours of what is often essentially makework? Bugger that for a game of soldiers. Right now, it sounds like she’s doing really well.

    1. I’d much rather my daughter spend her after school time engaged in sports or other activities besides traditional homework also, but I think longer term papers and projects of that nature teach responsibility, independent work ethic and time management skills. I probably wouldn’t be a very popular teacher

  7. It’s an interesting question – I think the journey and effort is ultimately most important but sometimes boxes have to be ticked along the way. Graduating high school is one if those that will enable her to continue. But either way it’s great things are improving. #bestandworst

  8. First of all I LOVE DWIGHT!

    Now seriously, it sounds as though you feel you made the right decision, which is the best thing. It also sounds like your daughter is thriving which again is a good thing.

    Maybe the high school is looking to prepare for college becaue you don’t have someone on your back at all times then?

    Thanks for linking with #effitfriday and sorry I’m so late!!

  9. Love the piccy. It must have been tough watching your daughter not do so well but it sounds like she has turned a corner with the new school. Definitely the right decision. Also good she is happier in herself which is the main thing. I can see the benefits of achieving at school but then you hear of people succeeding and going far without all the qualifications! Thanks so much for linking up to #bestandworst and see you soon xx

  10. It’s great that your daughter is doing better I have always taught them it’s really about effort then success will follow brilliant post as always Jeremy #tweensteens and beyond

  11. That’s a tough question! My younger son doesn’t put much work in, but he’s really clever and he will come out with really good results. It’s good that they learn to ‘learn’, but maybe the teaching is just better and suits her better? It’s great that she’s happier too. That’s the most important thing of all!

    1. That is the most important thing. My concern is that they seem to be making things so easy for the kids that they really aren’t getting much out of the experience. At this point, I’ll take our victories with her where we can

  12. This is such an interesting post. My 2 boys are hard workers. They’ve put in the effort to get through school. No. 3 my eldest girl is having a similar to time to how you describe. Peer arguments, teacher disagreements etc and I do feel like she just is a bit lazy and doesn’t try… So frustrating but as you say I’m unsure if it’s OK to just get through or if getting through with the bare minimum would be an awful lesson for her to learn. Aaargh! #TweensTeensBeyond

    1. this is an older post of mine, and I’m afraid I have yet to figure out the answer. Its very frustrating, but impossible to make somebody try as hard as they can. I don’t know

  13. I understand the dilemma but this looks like a positive move to me. She is engaging with her education and conflict is down. That has got to be a good thing. If she can learn to enjoy education then that sets up a positive pattern. Thanks so much for sharing this with us at #TweensTeensBeyond

    1. It was a positive, my fear was that by making things so easy it was just setting up further problems down the road when things started getting hard again. Thanks for reading Sharon

  14. During my own upbringing my parents always instilled in me the importance of doing well and I have repeated that doctrine with my own. The key element for me though is that I want them to want it for themselves. We can’t make our children work hard we can only provide them with the opportunity to do so and to shine in the process. There is no denying that a good education and in turn good grades speak volumes and open doors and ultimately hints at a person who has a good work ethic and who doesn’t want that. It sounds as if your daughter has turned a corner and she is lucky that you were able to help her to get there. Thanks for joining Jeremy a really interesting post. #TweensTeensBeyond

  15. A very interesting question. Great news that there has been a turnaround. Is there a right answer I wonder? By way of comparison here, I have seen where similar aged kids have followed different styles of learning through different exam systems and in turn levels of work. It’s how we measure success – I’ve seen evidence that both work. The perceived ‘easier’ route may not always appear to be a test of commitment but different learning styles can draw out an enthusiasm that perhaps couldn’t make it to the surface before. I wasted my secondary years but once I was in the world of work, I threw everything at it. I hope your daughter continues to do well Jeremy and thanks for sharing with #tweensteensbeyond

    1. you make an interesting point. I have no doubt that my perspective is different than hers based on how I was able to learn and the things that worked for me

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