A Parental Note

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One of my neighbors is having trouble with a parent. The parent says my colleague is picking on her kid. She called and chewed out my poor colleague out on the phone, demanding a meeting. But all of this kid’s teachers are having trouble. Mom just doesn’t want to acknowledge that her boy is developing disturbing behaviors now that he is in 7th grade.

I do feel for some of these parents. They’ve been doing their best sometimes and until adolescence that best seemed to be working out. Call it hormones, call it what you choose, though, a number of kids decide to step off the education bus in middle school. A few do this earlier, a number do it in high school, but for most the turning point is middle school. Research documents the fact that middle school performance is an excellent indicator of college performance, research that most likely does not matter here. At this rate, this kid will never see the inside of a college.

The right parents can get some of these kids back on the education bus when they start trying to get off, although the best efforts of the most dedicated parents don’t always work. Good parents take away the game system until the grades go up and, sometimes, the grades go up. They help the school. Suspensions don’t turn into multiday vacations with Battlefield, Black Ops and Cheetos. Afternoon tutoring becomes part of the student’s schedule.

I looked at the newspaper article about the Elgin mom (see preceding entry) and my response was immediate: I felt profoundly sorry for her daughter. That girl will probably be suspended repeatedly, she’ll fall hopelessly behind, and she’ll leave school early, quite possibly to have a baby. A mom who encourages fighting sets her daughter up for all those suspensions. Most kids cannot make up the missing work because they’ve missed too much class time and too many explanations of new material. My colleague next door sends the math home to suspended kids, I’m sure, but that does little good when the kid is never there to hear how exponents work.