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Friday, March 8, 2013

What Teachers Really Think About Parents: The Grade Over Checker.

The opinions in this article are my own, earned after 24 years of teaching experience, and are meant as advice to make your life easier and less stressful.

As a teacher and a parent, I think I can read parent types really well.  Some of you are far too obsessed with your child’s grades.  Your child needs to be more obsessed than you are.  Some of you don’t check enough.  There needs to be a happy medium.

A few years back, a mom told me she checked her A student daughter’s grades every few hours. “What?”  I said to her.  I was shocked.  Lady, have you heard the saying “A watched pot never boils?”  That saying  is true when it comes to checking your kids' grades online.  Your child is an A student, not because you are obsessed with her getting A’s, it is because she is intrinsically motivated to do well.  Believe me, I have had students whose parents check their grades constantly, yet the kid performs in the below average range because they refuse to hand in work.

Parents and kids, in the district where I work, can log into their grade report anytime they want and see into their teacher’s gradebook.  Of course, they can only see their own grades, not those of the rest of the class.  But sometimes grade checks can go overboard like the example above.

Recently I had a student approach me and admonish me for not putting in a grade for her late work two days after finally handing it to me.  Her work was, according to my calculations, two weeks late. 
This particular assignment was an in class assignment that she chose not to complete during class.  According to my student, her mother nags her about it every day.   My response was that late work goes to the bottom of my grading pile.  It is the last thing I look at when I have the time.   There are many teachers who won’t take late work.  She is lucky that I do.

I don’t think parents realize that in the world of grade inflation, colleges really don’t factor in your straight A average in determining scholarship awards.  My daughter had a 4.0 throughout high school, and it really didn’t help her earn scholarships; her ACT score was her moneymaker. 

Colleges are much more interested in  SAT or ACT exam grades, rather than an everyday grade for a worksheet.  They want to know what you have learned in high school, not if your teacher gave you 10 points for completing a worksheet.  Standardized test scores are much more likely to measure actual  learning.

In suburbia, grade point average is a badge of honor….for the parents.  “Hey look, I am a good parent!  I made a kid without a learning disability, so I am worthy of your approval.    He has a 4.0 thanks to my constant barrage of emails nagging the teachers to let my kid retake the test he didn’t study for the first time.  Here is proof, he is on the honor roll with 95 percent of the student body.”

Parents need to foster intrinsic motivation.  If your high school kid doesn’t have his motivation yet, let him/her deal with the consequences of relearning the material he did not learn the first time.  Your child's grades are not a reflection of your parenting ability.  Kids are bound to mess up, after all it is their job to make mistakes.  Some kids need extra help.  Let the teachers teach.  No teachers are “out to get” their students by downgrading them on an assignment.  It simply means they have not yet mastered the material for one reason or another, and they need to go through it again in another way.  It not is a reflection on you as a parent.

I have chosen not to check my son’s grades this year.  He is a senior, and he knows what he needs to do to be successful.  I am showing him that he has earned my trust.  He did have a period of time when he was struggling in a class and I did find it necessary to keep up with his class grade, but only weekly.  Once he brought up his grade, and kept it up, I turned the responsibility right back over to him. 

 After all, I am not even going to be allowed to see his grades while he is in college unless he chooses to show them to me.  It does not matter if I am paying his tuition, buying his food, or allowing him to sleep in my house during breaks.  Once he starts college, he is considered a legal adult, and his grades are his responsibility. .  He, legally, is not obliged to update me, though I certainly expect that he will.   I am glad that I taught him that he is responsible for his own success, especially before it could have cost him thousands of dollars to find it out the hard way.

If your son/daughter is not responsible enough to keep up their grades during their final years of high school, perhaps they are not ready for a four year college experience. You are not a failure if your child does not choose the four year path.   Perhaps junior college, technical college, or full-time work is the way to go so they have time to mature and accept responsibility for their own success.  I have personally known many students who found a delayed appreciation of the value and cost of higher education once they matured and were responsible for their own success.  

You are not your child’s choices.  Their good choices and their poor choices are not a direct reflection on you.  Hover if you want, but you are only causing yourself anxiety and stress.  Sometimes you need to sit back and allow them to make mistakes.  Your struggling student will learn his lessons, it may take years, but have faith.


  1. I completely agree with you. The people who need to be reading this article, probably won't read it, though. A "helicopter parent" would be turned off by the title alone.

  2. True. I am not sure that I expected that audience to honestly see themselves in the above description.

  3. Well put! Students need to make their own decisions and be responsible for those decisions. Parents can only influence their child's intelligence so much, after that it's all they can/should do to encourage good study skills and support them.

  4. New follower from the Monday Mingle! As a kindergarten teacher (yep, it happens even there) and mom of tweens and teens, I can totally relate on several levels with this post. One of my kids has to be checked up on regularly, and yet another requires no prompting or motivating by me at all. There are definitely parents who are on constant overkill (I have one this year that could be certifiably's kindergarten, for heaven's sake), but so many of them so need to open their eyes to what their child is up to. Great, great, great post!

  5. This is a great post! We are your newest GFC followers and found you on Mom's Monday Mingle! Check us out at when you have a chance. HAve a fabulous week!

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