The second trimester progress reports are in the mail to you, and will arrive very shortly. As the school year unfolds, many insights into your child’s academic and social performance are being shared, and perhaps not all grades and comments may be what you hoped for. You know better than anyone else how you (and the teacher) have spoken time and again to your child about not calling out or talking out of turn during the lesson, and yet the behavior persists. You have employed every ingenious trick to get your child to complete homework without getting distracted, and yet it seems to be of little or no avail.
Frustration may be the order of the day, but seize the opportunity that meaningful, sincere and insightful reporting from school offers. The question now is– what to with this child of ours who, after all, should try harder and be more successful.
Lack of effort is the least common cause for students not meeting expectations. Children are naturally curious, feel great when they are successful at a task or project, and attach great importance to making parents and teachers proud of them. The key to understanding student failure to thrive and succeed is to recognize that there is something in that child’s learning process or environment that makes success too hard to achieve. This means, the proper reaction to a less than perfect report card is not to cast blame, but to become a detective – to locate, identify and correct the impediment to learning.
Unfortunately, it could be anything. It could be the child’s innate intelligence, a specific learning disability, an emotional upset, inability to focus sufficiently in a group, a distracting learning environment, anxiety about events and/or people in his or her life, an impatient teacher or parent, lack of self-confidence, etc. The list is endless. This investigative work is best done in a partnership; between father and mother and between parents and teachers. Parents provide invaluable insight into the child’s overall life and environment; the teacher offers an in-depth view of how the child actually performs during the school day.
By resolving to identify and rectify the causes of unmet expectations, parents can transform a disappointing report into a catalyst for the child’s ultimate success. Like the mirror, which points out blemishes and imperfections, serves as a tool for improvement and beautification, the insights shared between school and home, if accepted reasonably, can be the catalyst for improvement in school and a springboard to success in the child’s future.
Best wishes for Nachas and Insight on this and every Shabbos,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann