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?