Saturday, February 9, 2019

My son has an F. Should I ask his teacher to change it?

My 8th grader had been worried about one of his grades for a couple of weeks. I told him he needed to talk to his teacher and see what he could do to bring it up, but apparently, he had not.

It was the day before grades were closing when he came to me after school, “I can’t fail! I want to be able to play baseball!” (He was afraid an F would render him ineligible.)

“Oh, that’s right! And aside from baseball, you might not be able to get your working papers signed.” (He’s already got a summer job lined up.)

“Awww,” he slumped, defeated.

Clearly, the F he’s getting on his report card could really make a mess of things for him. I wondered if I should talk to the teacher about it. There was a lot at stake!

Normally, I’m not a fixer.

So, why, in this case would I consider intervening?

First, the subject my son is failing is not an academic subject. It’s band.

How do you fail band?

When I asked my him what the grading criteria are, he told me there’s homework that he hasn’t done.

“But you never bring the instrument home.”

“I can’t carry it on the bus.” (He plays a baritone horn. It’s really big.)

“But you’ve never asked me for a ride.”

“Mom, it’s stupid. No one else has to get a ride to take their instrument to and from school.”

He has a point. In a way, this is large instrument discrimination. While I work at home and could probably arrange to drive him, should I be expected to? What if I had a job in an office?

Secondly, it’s not like he can’t play the instrument. He had a solo in the last concert and he and his section mate (also getting an F, as I understand) are the only two baritones in the whole band, and significant contributors.

Shouldn’t the facts that a) he has the instrument every time band meets (because it actually belongs to the school and never leaves the band room) and b) he can play it tip the scales a little in his favor? (These are, in fact, the other two grading criteria.)

“Maybe I’ll just quit band!” My son had opted out of band and instead signed up for drama at the end of 7th grade, but somehow when schedules came out at the beginning of this school year – surprise! – there was band.

So lastly, how should an elective, that my son didn’t even want to take in the first place, be held against him? Quitting would be the easy solution, but I didn’t think it was the right one.

This was an opportunity for me to reinforce the idea that even if we think rules are stupid, we still have to abide by them, unless we are able to peacefully and logically negotiate an exception or modification. It was also a chance for me to help my son take responsibility for communicating with
his teacher in a mature way.

I helped him craft an email asking if he could do the assignments late and still get some credit and whether he could he do them at school. I showed him how to copy his guidance counselor. I told him I would pick him up from school if he wanted to do it the next day, before grades closed.

Much to his chagrin, he didn’t hear back from the teacher.

“What am I gonna do!?”

“I am not sure, hon. You might get an F. But if you work out a plan to get future assignments done, you shouldn’t have any problem getting an A in the 3rd term. Then baseball tryouts will be after 4th
term starts, so I think you’ll be okay.”

Do I believe my son should have the special dispensation of doing his “homework” at school?

Yes, I do. Aside from the fact that he can’t easily get the instrument home, it’s school property and I don’t really want the liability.

Do I believe the F on the report card should be changed?

I am not sure. I believe it could be changed if the band teacher is willing to compromise, but my
son and I discussed the fact that it is the teacher’s choice about whether or not he bends the rules.

Am I going to ask the teacher to change the grade?

No, but I am prepared to help my son negotiate a solution going forward that works for both him and the teacher.

Learning how to resolve this conflict is just one of the many bricks in the foundation of my son’s ability to be a fully functioning adult when it’s time to leave the nest.

Originally published on TODAY Parenting.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

A typical Saturday for a working mom

“I’m going to take my mom to church today, any interest in going? my husband asked. “We could go to the college hockey game after…”

“Not to church, no. honestly, I have way too much to do today.” I had just come home from kickboxing.

“Like what?”

“Well, I have to take D to the eye doctor. Then we’re out of coffee and a bunch of other things so I am going to have to go to the supermarket. And I have a to-do list that’s a full page long and I don’t remember what’s on it. That’s why it’s on the list.”

(And it’s true. I have numbered items, highlighted items,
and boxed or circled items, and exclamation points in an effort to prioritize the

“Laundry, probably,” I continued.

“I’m going to strip the bed as soon as the dogs get up.”

“Laundry, definitely, then.” I’d probably end up doing four loads. “I’m not sure about the hockey game. Let me ask the kids.”

On the way to the eye doctor, my son informed me he was working that night so he wouldn’t be able to go to the game. I made a mental note to text my youngest between hockey practice and his fundraising gig. (He was with his dad, which was how I’d been able to get to kickboxing.)

When we returned home, I decided to cancel the future eye doctor appointments because I found out the doctor we saw no longer takes our vision insurance, but they’ll “try billing the visit to the medical insurance.” (Fortunately, my son didn’t need new glasses.)

What I did on Saturday afternoon:

  • Researched which eye doctors I can use
  • Washed four loads of laundry
  • Cleaned up a sink full of dishes
  • Tried to figure out how many tickets I need to buy online for a fundraiser (e.g., does it work with others’ schedules?)
  • Exchanged emails with school officials to try to sort out youngest’s term grades; Printed a copy of the Gettysburg Address and formatted it for easier memorization
  • Signed youngest up for baseball
  • Renewed one of my domains
  • Corresponded with family and friend about upcoming business trip to see if we can squeeze in a visit (we can, on both ends, yay!)
  • Contacted family about visiting in FL, research potential flights
  • Logged receipts in my budget spreadsheets
  • Thought about what to send Oldest for his birthday at college
  • Let dogs in and out, repeatedly
  • Cleaned up suspicious substance from kitchen floor
  • Hand-wrote a card to a friend
  • Messaged with a former neighbor
  • After several hours, I decided to take a nap with one of the dogs in between loads of laundry. 
(I reevaluated going grocery shopping because my husband texted me saying he took his mom out to eat.)

  • Made a salad
  • Called customer service to get a password reset on one of my financial accounts so I can download tax forms
  • Started sewing my son’s sweatshirt that had needed repair for at least six weeks
  • Delved into leftover work from the previous week

My husband came home from dinner, so then I put off a bunch of things that are on the list but likely won’t get done until they’re urgent, including finishing cleaning up the Christmas decorations and trying on business clothes, both of which involve the attic and it’s cold up there.

Everyone had to get up early Sunday, so it didn’t make sense to stay out late anyway. I left my work teed up for Sunday afternoon and finished sewing the sweatshirt while my husband and I watched Netflix.


By the way

Working mothers are still likely to do the bulk of the housework

A lot of the work women do is invisible.

But no one will see it

I set up the nativity in the back yard again this year. In the past it has been out front near the fire hydrant that is on our property, and...