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Your Kid's Not 'Smart' - And It's OK

Year after year, without fail, students rush into their teacher's classrooms at the end of the quarter asking the age-old question - "Is there anything I can do for extra credit to bring my grade up?". There was a time when that question could easily be answered with, "No, try harder next quarter...", but the feasibility of such a stance is becoming more challenging to defend. Are teachers getting softer? Absolutely not. Is admin pressuring educators to inflate grades for their school’s reputation? Nah! Who’s the cause of teacher’s inability to give your children the tough love of receiving the grade they truly deserve? It’s you, mom and dad. IT. IS. YOU.

No, I’m not writing this article to bash you, parents (please believe me). I’m writing this to have a sincere conversation with you about your child’s performance in their classes. You want the best for your child; every parent does and every parent should. However, your intentions for the best may be hurting your child more than helping them. We teachers see the worry on your child’s face. We see the stress consuming their mind. We see this and we weigh the consequence of giving your child the grade they desire but haven’t earned, or giving them over to the disappointment of the people whose approval they seek the most; the former option has grown more tempting in the minds of us educators over the years.



“But my child is lazy”, you say. “He/she is not living up to their full potential”, you argue; all fair points that apply for a significant sample size of the student population. But does this apply to your child? Have you truly investigated the study habits of your kiddo, or are you using their grade/GPA as the only metric of their efforts? I submit to you this possibility - one you may not want to openly admit - what if your child is just not that good at math? Or science? Or history? What if that honors class you ‘strongly encouraged’ them to take was honestly too much for them to handle? What if they’re simply not cut out for the rigor of the course? Why isn’t that OK?

Einstein penned an amazing quote - “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” Have you taken the time to explore your child’s gifts? Or have you been judging them like the fish mentioned in the quote? Have you unintentionally sentenced your child to an insecure mentality because you’ve forced a one-size-fits-all standard on them? Is it worth fighting your child to be a 3.5 student academically when they’re thriving in areas outside the realm of the traditional classroom setting? Is having a blue-collar job or a career in the arts something to be frowned upon? Of course not!



Parents, hear me out - some of your children aren’t doing well in certain classes because they’re not that smart in those areas - and that’s perfectly OK. You have the awesome opportunity of exploring with your child their unique gift; navigating a feasible path to success, financial security, and happiness.

“Where do I start?”, you ask. Start by promoting within yourself and your children the truth that their worth cannot be measured on a 4.0 scale. There’s much more to who they are than some arbitrary number associated with them for 4 years. Help your child embrace and declare they are greater than their GPAs. Consider the following scenarios and dialogue-promoting responses below...

 Scenario Response
Your child comes home with their first D/F on an assessment "I understand we all have our bad test days. What do you think caused you to get this low grade? What will you do to avoid earning this grade on your test/quiz again? What can I do to help you?"
Your child has consistently performed poorly (D/F) in a particular subject

"I've noticed you haven't been doing as well as you'd like in class. Is it the content, teaching style, or your study habits causing this low performance?

If content: "Do I need to look into tutoring for you?"

If teaching style: "Are there any videos on YouTube that can explain the content in a way you'll understand better? Let's look and see."

If study habits: "In this house, we've developed a culture of responsibility. What will you commit to yourself to do in the future to improve your study habits?"

Your child has no clue what they're career path should be

"Hey, listen, it's perfectly OK. Don't stress about your career now; I'm your parent, and I still have struggles with my ideal career goals (c'mon, this is true, right?!). What are your passions?"

If passions are expressed: "Ok, that's awesome. Have you done some research about the schools/institutes offering programs in your area of passion? Let's have a little plan date and explore your options. I'm buying the Pizza!"

If passions aren't expressed: "That's perfectly normal. So, I'm guessing you're looking for a way to make a comfortable living; there's nothing wrong with that. Remember - what we do is NOT who we are; you're worth more than the career you choose. Let's have a little plan date, and explore some sensible career options you may like. I'm buying the Pizza!"

Your child is the star student, and they've received their first non-A grade on an assessment or in a class

"Hey, hey, it's OK. I know this sucks; I know how much you pride yourself on getting the grade, but there's a good lesson to learn in this. If you'd like, we can discuss this over some food. If you don't want to, I totally understand; I'll give you space..."

Once time has passed: "Hey, I wanted to revisit our conversation about that grade, if you'd like. Is that Ok?"

If yes: "I know you're probably still upset, but I wanted to let you know your GPA doesn't define you. Your worth cannot be measured on a 4.0 scale. You're my beautiful/handsome child, and I see so much in you than your grades. You are a {insert non-academic praiseworthy attributes}, and I love you."

If no: "Ok, I completely understand. I just want you to know that you're my beautiful/ handsome child, and I see so much more in you than your grades. You are a {insert non-academic praiseworthy attributes}, and I love you."

 

Parents, notice in all these scenarios, the ownership is placed back on your child. Why? Because, despite how much they're your baby girl/boy, these young adults have SO much to offer in terms of self-governance; you have to provide a safe environment for them to exercise this independence; they have been placed under your guidance and protection, but they are their own person; allow yourself to be a soundboard not a megaphone. These conversation starters are suggestions; feel free to tweak them as they fit for your child/family situation. This is no easy task, of course, but, my goodness, it’s a worthy task! I urge you to embark on this journey with your child. You won't regret it...

With love,
Mr. Francis

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I've created a line of keepsakes to serve as reminders for your child to value themselves beyond the grading scale; I believe they'd serve as great complement to the conversations you'll be having with them. Consider checking them out below...

 


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