November 8, 2018
Yesterday 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 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.”
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 wandered through elementary and Hey Hey PreK and looked at the drawings and words written on paper by tiny hands. 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. Classwork interrupts the joys of recess.
I reflected on ways to remain focused on the task at hand while seeking the joy available every day. Standing in carline each morning allows me to check the eyes of each student as they pass me to enter the building. Our joke of the day from Mrs. Gibbons in PreK and elementary starts our day with laughter. Reminding the students every day that they matter ensures that they know they are loved.
As I reflected, I reminded myself that middle school is mile 13 of a marathon. That sometimes elementary school can feel like Mile 3. Wonder and Awe that you started the race. Or Mile 7 when you think, can I do this for 19 more miles?
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 and their goals with us. We began this process in 6th grade. You can imagine the joy my children found in having an educator for a parent. 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 mattered, 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 is a Peer Jack at NAU. She mentors out of state students because the drop out rate among this population is 60%. She teaches them self-advocacy and organizational skills. She shared that she finds herself baffled by how scared they are to even email their professors.
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 middle school, before high school and most importantly before college. 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