September 8, 2016
Today started like any other day. I woke up to my alarm, got ready for school, and headed down to the kitchen. I found my son in his normal location, the kitchen island stuffing his face and watching ESPN highlights on his phone. He barely looked up and blurted out, “Mom, are you OK?” Given I that I had barely entered the kitchen, his question baffled me. I replied with, “Yeah, why?” His response surprised me. “You’re wearing your red boots.” Sure enough.
I confess. I own red cowboy boots. When I am contemplative, tired, or concerned, I wear my boots to remind me of two things. First, no matter what life throws my way, I need to pick myself up by my bootstraps and “get her done.” Second, they remind me with every step to find the joy. I mean really, how can you help but find joy when you see bright red fun following you all day?
As I drove to work, I contemplated why I chose to wear them on this day. When I arrived at school, I decided to walk the halls. I pictured the face of every precious student whose locker lines the perimeter. I realized that I wore my boots on this day because the excitement of a new year is wearing down. We are in the nitty gritty of the year. The locker monster devours assignments at will. Planners erase homework assignments.
I reflected on ways to remain focused on the task at hand while seeking the joy available in every day. Teachers provide students opportunities to fill out their homework in each class. In advisement, students complete a final check of their planner to make sure that they have their work recorded. Google Classroom serves an additional resource if planners are forgotten. We begin grade tracking today. Additionally, students set goals for the week and track missing assignments. Hawk Time begins today. Ask your student or students what they discussed in Hawk Time. Ask them to share the video clip they watched. Ask them how they can catch someone’s red balloon. I digress.
As I reflected, I reminded myself that middle school is mile 13 of a marathon. I contemplated ways to build our partnership with families on this journey. I confess that I stopped helping my children with homework in 4th grade. In our home, we required our children to check IC each Sunday night. They recorded their grades and any missing work. Then, they set goals for the week. They shared their findings with us. We began this process in 6th grade. We did this to build habits of independence and self-advocacy. If they had issues with any grades or work, they sent emails to their teachers and cc’d us. They failed from time to time. There were drama and tears, sometimes on a nightly basis. But in high school, when it matters, they knew what to do when there was an issue. If you don’t have a practice like this in your home, consider adopting this one. Maddy texted me last weekend thanking me for forcing her to manage her work. She said she had no doubt she would succeed in college.
I close with this, missing work and academic struggles do not define who your student is. Neither do they define who you are as a parent. They provide insight and opportunity to work out the kinks before high school. Embrace them. Build from them. Avoid allowing them to defeat you.
Food for Thought: How to Teach Children That Failure Leads to Success
Interesting Reads: When More is Not Enough: How to Stop Giving Your Kids What They Want and Give Them What They Need By Amy L. Sullivan