“Micro-managing”, Revisited

Mary, the “mom”

About 2 months ago, I blogged about my concern that I was micro-managing my son with Edline, a program which allows students and parents online access to assignments, course calendars, grade sheets, absence reports, etc. I knew that managing his responsibilities for him wasn’t going to help in the long run, but Edline made it sooo tempting.

Well, when our virtual teen, Rach, joined in the conversation, it was a dose of reality for me. I always find it so helpful getting a real-life teen perspective from her. So, I took Rach’s advice to heart and backed off. I still peeked at Edline, but for the most part, I was simply supportive.

Well, come to find out that there’s a big difference in the maturity level of a 16-year boy (or at least this one) and an 18-year girl. Shocking, I know! So, while I really do value Rach’s advice, it turns out, my son is not really ready to manage this completely on his own. And, I’ve decided that he’s got two more years of high school to come around to the maturity level that Rach obviously has. So, it’s OK that he’s not there yet.

So, with all of this swirling through our home, I open my Sunday New York Times and see an article titled “I Know What You Did Last Math Class” which reports on families using Edline and similar services and how they are popular but can stress out families. It was interesting and funny and now I know I’m not alone in trying to find the right balance in using this service.

I want to try and use it as a means of communicating with my son about what’s happening and as a tool to help him to organize his work – not organize it for him. I definitely don’t want it to be confrontational or nagging. (Rach helped me understand just how unproductive that can be!) I’m thinking this can be a learning experience in itself. And, hopefully, by the time he’s a senior, he’ll be managing it all himself and ready to face the workload of college without Mom looking over his shoulder.

So, now I need to go look at Edline and try to remember not to jump to conclusions, not to nag and not to be confrontational when we discuss it. I know what you’re thinking…” there is no way a self-professed control freak is going to be able to walk that line.” Maybe not, but I am going to try!

Brad, the “dad”

Let them alone, but stay involved. Help them, but don’t help them too much. Stay close, but not that close. Yipes. Nobody told us that the national pastime for parenting was Tug O’ War.

I’ve actually given up on subtlety when it comes to grades. Our middle-schooler made that possible when a Progress Report (one of those surprising little middle-of-the-term-it’s-not-a-grade-yet-but-watch-out mailings) showed up on the doorstep with a D+ on it. Yeah: DEE PLUS. From then on, worrying about whether I was being too interventionalist, whether I had to “let her fail” so she could learn, whether I was slowing down her personal development by making things too easy … all that? Floop! Out the window.

We don’t do D+’s in this house. And Edline is now only one of a whole arsenal of tools that I use without a moment’s hesitation to keep her on the straight-and-narrow (and she is: I’m proud to say the Elf was even more ashamed of losing academic control than I was, and the instant she realized there was no getting away clean, she buckled down. We’re back to A/B’s again.).

I know we can’t protect them from everything. But we didn’t teach her how to look both ways before she crossed the street by letting her play in traffic and get ding-bopped by a couple of cars. There are places she can fall down “safely” and places where it’s just plain stupid to let her fall. And I’ve come to the conclusion that grades mean too much – that the schools themselves have made grades mean too much – to let her report card be one of the “let them fail” places.

So I’m on her like a duck on a June bug …. and any time she gets a little grumpy about that, I only have to say two words and her ducks down and accepts it. It’s amazing what the simple utterance of “Dee Plus” can do.

Look on the bright side, “Mom.” Maybe your son can get a D or an F – just once! – and then you can lose the guilt, just like me.

Rach, the “teen”

For a few years in middle school, I consistently brought home D’s. I acted a lot as the Elf did – I was so much more disappointed in myself than my parents were (that says a lot, they were heartbroken).

I agree though, too much focus is put on grades. It’s not about “the great war” or the quadratic formula anymore. It’s about getting an A. Learning has gone out the window in most schools. Grades, test scores, and resume builders are what school is about. And, that’s really sad.

But this is a problem we can’t really bring up with the students or the schools. This is something we need to bring up with the government. Funding is determined by test scores, not students, and certainly not learning.

Nonetheless, a lot of emphases is still put on grades. I still think programs that let parents “check in” on their kids are a bad idea. But the few parents that encourage their kids to use it a tool are making it all worthwhile.

I must admit if I had kids and they were doing badly in school. I might use a program like that to make sure they were getting their grades up. I guess it’s a good thing, for parents whose kids don’t honestly tell their parents about schoolwork.