Saturday, March 26, 2011

Grades, grades, grades….

   When your child blames teachers for bad grades in school, listen carefully and analyze his or her words. It is true that children often whine in order to justify a bad grade, but it’s also true that some teachers do not have clear assessment criteria or that the criteria are not always the same for all pupils.
   My daughter was constantly complaining that she could not get more than B in one subject, although she knew well and understood the material. She told me that the only pupils who were getting A, were those who sat in the front row, constantly shouting: "Ask me! Ask me!”, even though their answers were often inaccurate.
    First, I checked her knowledge, and it was really very solid. Then, I explained to her that the teacher sets the rules for class, not the pupils. I praised her for being able to define the existing rules, and proposed her to decide how she would like to behave regarding those rules. My recommendation was:
“In my opinion, the grade is less important than the knowledge, and if you are satisfied with your knowledge, study hard and pay no attention to the grades. If you really want to have an A, then sit in the first row and persistently require to answer teacher’s questions! It’s your choice.“
She did not sit in the front row, she studied really hard, and finally got her longed-for A.

    Son came home from school and said that he got B, although only one of his answers was wrong, and his friend had only one correct answer and got D. He thought that this was a great injustice. Our conversation continued, approximately, like this:
„Did you know all the answers?”
“No, I got one wrong.”
“What does your classmate’s D got to do with you?”
“But he did not deserve the D!”
“Did it affect your knowledge?”
He was confused, he wanted, in his childlike way, to justify a lower score than expected.
We agreed that a B was good grade, and if he wanted an A, he was supposed to learn lessons better.

   Both of my children attended the same elementary school and had the same the teacher for a subject, full of terms that had to be learned by heart. Both complained that they did not know how to respond, that the teacher wanted them to present everything that was written in the book, but that it wasn’t supposed be learned by heart. I checked with other parents and concluded that none of the pupils understood what the teacher wanted. The teacher failed to explain his demands. Together, we tried various methods of learning and presenting the lessons. In the end, they were writing the thesis for each lesson, memorizing the order of the thesis and told a lesson in that order. That had good results.

   My son was exceptional in maths and physics, he always won high places in competitions, but he was writing and drawing very messily. We practiced for hours, but the progress was weak, if there was any.
  One part of the Technical Education program was drawing technical drawings, and he would constantly get a D. He knew it was a realistic assessment, but he was unhappy because D would ruin his average grade. I talked with the subject's teacher, who fully understood the absurdity of the situation, where one of the best pupils would appear mediocre at rating because of an average grade.
  One day my son said: "I have two As in TE, how, I have no idea!"
   I am grateful to the teacher for the understanding, but I think he was wrong. Imagine how the others in the class who really deserved their high marks felt. It would have been more useful that the teacher explained them, that their classmate was very good in other subjects, that he achieved outstanding results in mathematics and physics, that he was trying to improve his drawing and therefore deserved that his overall success not to be spoiled.

   My daughter complained, again, that she could not possibly get an A from a subject which she knew and understood extremely well, because the teacher was strict and no one had an A. For the millionth time, I explained to her that the knowledge was important, not the grades, but to no avail ... She wanted an A (She really liked those As.) By chance, I met the subject teacher and told him the "sad" story of my daughter’s grades. The teacher confirmed that she really knew the subject and did not comment any further, but the A was there very soon.
   I think that this time I was the one who made a mistake. It would have been better that I proposed to my daughter to speak to the teacher herself.

   In this and many similar cases, I was trying to explain to my children, that the school was also teaching them about life. At school and in life, it’s not us who is making most of the rules. We observe the circumstances and we try to achieve the best results possible considering the current reality. Of course, we have be sure that the striving to a momentary success does not harm either themselves or others. At the same time we look for ways to change and improve the rules.

  The grade is momentary, the knowledge and the skills are permanent. The most important thing is to continuously improve our knowledge and develop our skills. The better our skills and knowledge, the higher is the possibility to participate in creating a new set of rules. If our participation in setting new rules is greater, these rules will suit us more.
My child: Behaviour at school
My child: A child's position in the family
My child: Family rules are important
My child: Stubborn child
My child: Children in a world of constant advertising and spending

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