Archive for grades

The Most Overlooked Report Card Truths

If you are like most parents with school aged children, you have either received a child’s second report card recently or will be receiving it very soon.  For some of you, this will be a time of joy and for others; a time for concern.  I have been through the highs and lows of report cards.  As a former teacher, I obviously had to give them to each student.  As a parent, the only thing that has changed is that I am on the receiving end.  Today’s post is meant to highlight what this particular report card really means and how to help your child get a jump start on the next term no matter the final grades.

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6 Parent/Teacher Conference Tips Not Often Heard

Parent- teacher conferences are a time where there should be a meeting of the minds.  Teachers should be able to lay out their case for the child’s progress academically, socially, and emotionally.  Parents should be able to compare what they are hearing to what is going on at home.  At that point, a plan should come together as to how to work with the child going forward. It should be the ultimate collaboration crammed into about 15 minutes.

When I was a teacher, I was meticulous about laying out my arguments about how a child was performing before a parent walked through my door.  Instead of dominating the meeting, I would lay out these arguments as quickly as possible in order to allow the parent to agree or disagree with my assessment.  Because I have been on both ends of the parent teacher conference table ( I was an elementary teacher for 7 years) perhaps these tips will guide you through a conference.


The first tip is for a parent to keep samples of student work just like a teacher.  This is especially helpful if there is a disputed grade in a subject.  Bring the student work to the conference and compare it with the work the teacher presents.

The second tip is to respect the knowledge of the teacher concerning your child but don’t take it as the law.  You have been around your child for years.  At this point, a teacher has had your child two months (give or take).  I’m not saying that teachers do not know what they are talking about.  What I am saying is that you know your child better than anyone.  There’s nothing wrong with trusting your instincts unless the teacher can present irrefutable evidence.

The third tip is to approach the conference as a problem solver.  The last thing a parent should want is to be lectured for 15 minutes about poor grades or behavior then sent home shamefully.  Let’s pretend there is a behavior problem in the classroom.  As a parent, you should be able to present a few effective methods you have used at home for handling discipline. If concentration is an issue, what do you do at home to help your child concentrate?

The fourth tip is for parents to understand that teachers aren’t the only professionals in the room.  All parents should be treated like professionals because when it comes to your child, you might as well have a PH. D.  If you feel like you are being talked down to or belittled by a teacher, you can choose to address it on the spot.  If you are not confrontational or if you have a situation that catches you off guard; going to the principal is always a good option.

My fifth bit of advice is to not get too excited or too depressed about the results of a parent/teacher conference.  A conference is simply a snapshot in time.  If a conference goes well, be happy for your child but understand there is still more work to do.  If a conference doesn’t go well, that’s fine in most cases.  There is  plenty of time to turn the problem around.

Finally, here’s the key once a conference has concluded.  Follow up with the teacher (in the next couple of weeks) by phone or email to make sure that the game plan from the conference is being implemented to everyone’s satisfaction.  Often, I had parents who I would not see again until the next conference 5 months later.  It’s much better for all parties (especially children) when the parent clearly demonstrates they are keeping their finger on the pulse.

I hope you liked today’s article.  Don’t forget that there are many other lessons parents can learn from my parenting book Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures.  Feel free to read the preface located right below my picture.  I hope the lessons you will learn from the book will serve your family well.  Here’s the direct link to the book from

I also wanted to announce that over this past weekend, I receive the 1,000th comment on  For everyone who has ever cared enough to leave a thought on my website, I truly appreciate your time and effort.

My next post will be on Tuesday.  Have a terrific weekend.

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The Bottom Side of Normal

Hope everyone has recovered from their Christmas weekend.  I am excited to be back with you!  Over the holidays, I acquired some new followers from near and abroad and want to welcome all of you.  The lessons I hope you take today can be implemented where ever you live no matter where your child goes to school. 

Today’s blog is part two of what I started last Monday called An Educational Opportunity.  Basically, I said to use some of the time off with your kids to gain an educational edge.  I also talked about interpreting grades beyond the letter (A-B-C-D-F)  If you haven’t seen it already, I’d encourage you to look at it.  The goal is for you, the parent, to look beyond your child’s grade and concentrate on the intricacies.  What makes his/her grades so high or low?  What could have been done better?  A specific way for me to explain this is to focus on my three year old, Luke.    

Luke is one happy and fun loving kid.  He’s the child you may find in the grocery store hollering, “Merry Christmas” to everyone he passes.  Another example of his spirit could be found at Christmas Mass.  He was a bit slow in his responses (understandably) and when the congregation said, “Amen,” he would holler it a second too late.  People would turn and laugh which was a bit embarrassing; but funny as well.

The main problem with Luke is he has a speech delay and was recently tested for a second time.  My wife and I found out he scored on the bottom side of the normal spectrum.   At first glance, that may seem pretty disappointing, right?

For those of you who have regularly seen this blog, you know about my oldest child’s educational achievements.  Details can be found on earlier blogs (October15th and October-18th editions) but he has tested in the top 1% nationally in reading and math.  One may think I may be disappointed Luke is not following in the footsteps of his brother.  One may also think my prior education blogs may not be as valid because I can’t produce the same result with a different kid thus far.   But wait. Before making any assumptions, did you remember my advice of looking beyond the initial grade?  Of course you did and that’s why you’ll keep reading!

Here’s more of the story.  Luke had fluid in his ears for what could have been months.  Lauren and I didn’t take him to the doctor because we didn’t know it existed.  He didn’t get ear aches like his brother so there was not  a reason to be alarmed. If it would have been treated, the speech problems would have been much less severe.

The first time Luke took the speech test, he was so low, he couldn’t even complete it.  To go from that to the bottom side of normal was a huge leap.  Obviously, I’m very excited about the results.  I’m also extremely confident in my abilities to teach and I feel Luke and I are off to the races (educationally speaking).

Because this blog is partially meant to teach, let’s attempt to apply Luke’s circumstances to your kids.  When your child receives a grade in any subject, knowing the back story is as important as the grade.  Let’s say, for example, your child went from a “B” last year in math to a “C” on their last report card.  The key to helping as a parent is to pinpoint the subtle changes.  Were his/her study habits different?  Was there something taught last year that wasn’t retained in your child’s mind this year?  If I asked, could you adequately explain the problems to a simple guy like me?

Now, let’s flip the scenario.  Let’s say your kid went from a (C+) to an (A-).  The same basic rules apply.  Pinpoint the positive changes and capitalize on the success.  Did your child study harder?  Did you give them more of your time/encouragement? Did the teacher have a positive impact?  What were the factors of change? A leader teach is able to help this student wi...Image via Wikipedia

I certainly can’t go over all the grading scenarios in education.  But, as a former teacher, I know this.  The grade in any class should stem from an overall body of work.  There are reasons some children succeed and others don’t do as well. When you find and attack those reasons, you should expect better report cards.

On a side note, if your kid is already doing exceedingly well, why not challenge the teacher to provide more difficult material? True learning only occurs when additional knowledge is gathered and retained by the student.  In other words, it’s possible for a kid to get an “A” in a class and not learn much.

If you enjoyed The Bottom Side of Normal, please consider sending it to a parent who would enjoy it.  That gesture would mean so much to me.  To those of you who have ever passed along my material, thank you!

This Wednesday, I am back with a behavior blog.  The title will be Sowing Seeds.  It’s a tactic I’ve used for years with good results.  Can’t wait to tell you all about it.