Safe Opportunities

Lizzie has had Safety Patrol all week. She has it next week too … and the week after that. My only silver lining on that is that when it is finished, there will only be two and a half weeks of school left. I guess someone has to be in the group that is at the end of the school year, adding yet one more level of drama known as morning elementary school carpool … as though middle school and preschool carpool wasn’t enough, but I wish it wasn’t Lizzie’s group.

Oh well, this too shall pass.

Safety patrol is when the hopeful and shiny faced fourth graders try to exact discipline over the jaded fifth graders by enforcing the hallway rules of the school. Don’t run. Stay on red (a red line painted down the length of the hallways on each side in an effort to keep “traffic” moving). Every single one of my kids has been optimistic about being on Safety Patrol. After all, you get to wear one of those cool, Crossing Guard belt things that reflect headlights. Not that there are many headlights in the hallway, but still. Unfortunately, the reality of Safety Patrol has hit them within the first (of two three-week assignments) week. The fifth graders ignore and even sneer, the fourth graders don’t pay attention either (because they are peers), and it really isn’t all that much fun bossing around second graders and kindergarteners.

The one good thing that Safety Patrol does provide however, is a ten minute in the car time with just Lizzie and Bennett. We get to discuss the day, the week, the weekend. What’s happening in school, what’s going on that weekend, what are we having for dinner? (Tonight, by the way, curried shrimp with snow peas  and fish fingers for the little kids.) It gives me a chance to talk to them about their grades and their projects and the books they are reading. This is precious time.

It also gives me insight.

Lizzie has not been doing well in math. This is completely out of character for her. She is a straight A student, but all of a sudden has a high C. Naturally, I am concerned because this is the result of more than one grade. I’ve always told them, I’m fine with a final B if you’ve worked your butt off for it and you finally understand the material. A C however tells me one of two things, either you just don’t care, or you just don’t understand. I know they care. They don’t have the luxury of not caring (another one of our mantras). So that makes me think that there is something going on here that I should to get to the bottom of.

I had spoken with her teacher (not her math teacher) about her low grade and the units she didn’t understand. He was unaware of her struggles. Interestingly enough, so was her math teacher which I found out via a few emails.

“She never asks questions in class.”

Hmm …

So, I took the opportunity this morning to discuss the math issue.

“Mrs. Rad didn’t know that you were this lost. Why didn’t you ask her about it?”

“Because I didn’t want the other kids to think I am stupid.” (In a small voice.)

Ah HA!

This, I can completely understand. I don’t want her to feel stupid because she’s not. She simply doesn’t understand this particular unit, and the smartest people in the world admit they don’t know and find people who do. But in the world of fourth grade insecurity, it isn’t always like this. So Lizzie and I discussed strategies to get around this particular speed bump, because sitting in ignorance as the grades go down and down is never an option.

1. The most obvious, go up to the teacher after class. Tell her that you need more help with this. Ask if there is a time that you can meet with her before or after school to go over it again. Teachers love students who care.

2. If you aren’t comfortable asking this teacher because you simply can’t understand how she teaches, ask your homeroom (main) teacher. He is a different person and says things in a different way. He may have a method that helps you understand better.

3. If this still isn’t an option for what ever reason, use Ms. Candice’s idea. Write your question on a sticky note, put your name on it and at the end of class as you are leaving, put it on her desk, her grade book or computer screen. She can suggest a time and a place for more learning via sticky note back.

4. If all else fails, and even if all of those succeed, let mom and dad know you are having an issue. We don’t know the “new” math and the strategies they teach, but we are very good at intervention and driving you to school early to meet with the teacher.

The most important thing for kids to remember is that they must, must, must take ownership of their own schooling and grades. If I have learned to teach my kids nothing else, its that their grades are their grades. Not mom and dad’s, not the teacher’s, not the administration’s. No one cares as much about your grades as you do because its your life. Your goals. Your college education.  Learn early on to ask questions, get help, and be your own advocate. After all, being smart and having good grades isn’t really about knowing things, its about knowing whom to ask and where and how to find the information you need.

Lizzie skipped safety patrol this morning and went in to her teachers instead for just a little more help before the test. I just got an email from her teacher because I had emailed and said thanks for the extra help and that part of learning is learning how to learn. (ha!) Her teacher responded, “Yep! And Lizzie did great on her test today!”




About krob3

Wife, mom, swim taxi, singer, writer. This is what I do.
This entry was posted in Children, education, Life, Parenting, school. Bookmark the permalink.

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