The Parent Portal. The online abyss of your child’s grades. Log in and see everything he is being held accountable for at school. That syllabus you signed for World History? It’s on there with a 0/3 points.
OH my GOD. A ZERO.
His average for homework is a zero. He has an overall 50% in the class. I signed that syllabus, so it must be a mistake. I’ll just email the teacher.
Turns out, my son was unable to turn in the signed syllabus because it was in his locker. School policy is that students are not allowed to go to their locker during class. Therefore, it’s a big fat zero.
My mind is buzzing. Is there something to do to make up for it? There has to be a way to make up the THREE points.
That’s it. I grab my phone and grit through my teeth as I start texting my son.
You have a 50% in World History. I signed that syllabus! Why didn’t you turn it it?
No reply. (He’s at school and isn’t allowed to use his phone. I know that because I signed that agreement)
Still… Back to texting.
ANSWER ME!! There’s going to be ramifications for your carelessness.
Of course, there is still no reply. I text my husband and go off about the lack of responsibility our son is showing. That’s it! No more video games! That will show him. After all, it is day 4 of school, and I just learned that my son didn’t turn in the syllabus that I had so clearly signed. Obviously, he’s going to fail the class starting out THREE points in the hole. Fortunately, his participation grade is factored in but the teacher clearly needs to assign more homework to offset the zero. We are going to have a sit down talk with him tonight. This behavior is absolutely ridiculous. And you know what else? We are both going to “Back to School Night” and make sure we see who this World History teacher is. How dare he give my son a zero the first week of school?
No doubt, it progresses. From low quiz grades to a test that is so low I had to double check my calendar to make sure he was actually in school that day. Just about every time, it’s the same cycle. An email to the teacher is followed up by a scathing text message to my son. We have a conversation at home about being prepared for tests and not just doing homework for completion. He would look at us and agree, yet somehow the cycle continued.
Nevertheless, I would sit down in front of my computer with my heart racing and log in to the portal. The anxiety would build as I clicked through to get to current grades. Something has to change, I would vow to myself, like I truly had anything to do with it.
Don’t get me wrong, the portal isn’t all bad news. There were also many proud moments experienced via the portal.
You got a 97% on your Algebra test! That’s amazing!
A 98% on your Spanish presentation?!? I told you that you could do it!
It’s like he doesn’t care. I shouldn’t complain when the grades are high, but why do I feel like I am alone in this?
Record scraaaaaattttchhhhh. It’s an “Aha!” moment.
Whoa. What has happened to me? When did I become part of my son’s grade? Why am I giving myself so much responsibility in his grades?
There were several moments when I took a step back and looked at what I was truly doing by obsessing over the parent portal. Talk to any other parent and they were doing the same thing. I knew I needed to let go a bit, but it really felt like if I didn’t do this it would be even worse. Micromanaging a middle schooler morphed into using fear tactics to control a high schooler. It just had to stop. What was I going to do for the rest of his life, manage his Outlook and remind him of meetings?
Last year we lived in Pennsylvania and my son was in 10th grade. The school was small and had an open campus. My son walked home for lunch every day. There were days I waited to go to work so that I could talk to him at lunch about his grades. Some days I left a note, “CALL ME.” He always would, at which point I would steal away to a corner of my office and quietly argue with him about what I had just seen on the portal. Talking through a clenched jaw, sounding like Mr. T, I would threaten consequences that of course did not change anything.
Still considering myself a newbie in my PA neighborhood, I was stung when my husband was moved to a project out of state. He was gone Monday through Friday, meaning every bit of parenting was on me. Beyond the mental stress of it, there’s the simple semantics. I drove to school and every practice. Every meal was 100% my responsibility. Working part-time ate up every hour while the kids were at school for me to get anything done. Simply put, I did not have the time for so many details that now seemed so minute.
I cut out as many stressors as I could. The parent portal was one of them.
I quit cold turkey. That’s it no more stalking. The log in and password were stored in my computer, so I told my son that it was up to him to log in.
He looked at me like, “Why would I ever want to do that?”
It was simple, I put the responsibility where it belonged, on him. He will monitor his grades, answer to his teachers, and THEN report to me.
This philosophy eventually worked. It was slow at first, because he felt the same way I did. He was nervous to log on and look at every single grade and see himself under the microscope. The responsibility of his grades was finally on him. Of course he didn’t want to log in, see bad grades, and report to me. He realized that it’s worth putting in the extra effort with his work and tests so that when he logged in, it wasn’t as scary. Slowly but surely, his overall grades improved.
The format was simple:
- Store log in and password information on the computer.
- Agree on reasonable grade expectations.
- Discuss possible consequences to low grades. For us, we decided that a “C” on a report card will result in loss of privileges to his computer until several weeks into the next marking period.
- Check in with each other. The goal is for him to not only report his grades to me upon request, but to monitor on his own for his own interests.
- If he is struggling in a particular class, I agreed that we may discuss changing the “No C” rule.
- Be honest. By no means do I want him to hide a bad grade from me.
- Celebrate. When he tells me about an “A” on a project or a “B” on a test that was very difficult, I stop what I’m doing and give him my 100% attention. It’s a big deal and I make sure he knows that.
We’ve come a loooooong way the past couple of years. The shift of responsibility helped both of us. At his new school, he logs in on his phone or iPad to check his grades. I still have full access, but I haven’t logged in to look at grades once. If a grade slides, he tells me what happened and how he will fix it. I am always here for support, even though he is sure that I’m not smart enough to help him with some classes.
It worked. I took a step back and let my son take a step forward. His grades are his, not mine. I am now on the other side of the portal and it is wonderful. It’s hard to let go, but it truly helps them grow (sniff, sniff).
I am curious. How do you deal with the portal and online grades? Is it as stressful for you as it was for me?