Sunday, March 4, 2012

Settle Down, Helicopter Mommies...

The queen was here for a visit and we had a conversation about math. Long story, but suffice it to say that I had a couple of really crappy math teachers and a mother who push push pushed for me to always be in advanced math, when she really should not have. Turns out I was very good at math, actually, but rather than feel successful, I hated every second of it and had to work many extra hours to play catch up because I was missing a lot of foundational skills that either were taught so poorly I didn't learn them or that I missed when I was being re-placed in higher levels. The result was feeling helpless and as though it was a constant struggle, even though I was making good grades. Had I been allowed to be on grade level, I likely would have been a straight A math student and seen it as a strength and might have felt more inspired to go into the career I thought I would go into from the time I was five... but feeling unsuccessful in high school math made me feel like I couldn't achieve that dream (thank you, school counselor, for your input to this effect).

When I became a teacher, my goal was to make children love math. I was pretty good at teaching math... and teaching in general, and I really did love it. I guess Plan B worked out OK, and I was obviously going to excel at Princessing with or without advanced math, but who knows what might have been had I had the encouragement, confidence and support I really should have had.

And so I give you:

Dear Squawky Parents of Rising Ninth Graders,

I assure you that you your children will not fail at life simply because they are not in accelerated or advanced math in high school.  I also assure you that there are plenty of students in the United States who successfully attend college each year without having taken the (insert name of fancy university) Calculus class in their senior years of High School.  In fact, these students have even been known to pursue careers in math and science related fields!  Really, it will be OK.

Why on earth would you want your kids to be placed in classes for which they are already unprepared walking in the door... and that teachers who very likely know a thing or two about your little cherubs' math abilities have advised against?  This isn't actually about your kids, is it? For if it were you wanting what's best for your children, you would want to set them up for success.  I spent many years in education and I can tell you that I can count on zero hands the number of times an on-level kid whose parents insisted they skip over half a year or more of math in order to be in an accelerated class (in which a year and a half of math is taught in a year) was highly successful.  Believe it or not, teachers actually do often know about that which they are talking. Put your egos aside, my friends. All children are gifted, but not all children are gifted in math.

You might also consider the idea that overloading a high school freshman with all advanced and honors courses isn't necessarily in his/her best interest.  And I say this as an educator as well as a mother of a child who could, in fact, do just this.  She won't.  Because I know better.

I also know that once she "gets it" with regard to high school, she will be able to take whatever honors and AP classes she desires in her sophomore, junior and senior years, but that semester 1 of 9th grade is not the time or place to "just see how it goes". I believe that balance, time management and well-roundedness are far more critical life skills than will be taught in honors biology, AP human geography, and Fancy University Calculus combined, and I know that there will be plenty of time for her to take these courses and excel in them, if this is the path we choose together. And in case you were looking for my not so humble opinion on this matter: I don't think it's a fantastic idea to force your child to take AP exams if they have not taken the actual AP course.  I'm just sayin'.  
In related news, I have never heard a local news report stating that the high school has lost a freshman.  This may have to do with the fact that these are 14 and 15 year old kids who are really OK moving from point A to point B without someone holding their hands.  Sure, they may do so slowly and with multiple social interactions along the way, but I assure you that even if they have to go into a hallway where there is a *gasp* 10th grader, they will make it to their second period class.  Eventually.

Put your egos aside and focus on your kids' success. Children learn what they live. Teach them to self-advocate and realize their full potential while tackling life's challenges, be they academic or personal, with a positive attitude and an understanding that life's neither fair nor equal and that how we respond to what's put before us is the one true freedom each of us has.

Your Pal,
The Cranky Princess

1 comment:

Jamie said...

Great post!

I couldn't agree with you more!