, Salem, MA


December 7, 2012

Son says everything's fine, but progress report tells different story

Editor’s note: Our North Shore Gardener, Barbara Barger, is on medical leave. We expect her column to return in the spring, just in time to answer your gardening questions.

Q: I just got a school progress report for my 12-year-old son, who is in sixth grade, his first year of middle school. Typically a good student, it looks like he is getting all D’s and F’s. I had no idea he was having any trouble. My son has told me everything is fine, but the teacher comments indicate that he is not completing homework and not fully engaged in class, and this is why he’s failing. What can I do now?

A: First, take a deep breath and remember that progress reports are just that — communications to let you know how your child is doing in school. The progress report indicates that your son is having trouble, but he hasn’t failed yet. Before you confront your child, you need to get more information from the school in order to best decide what you want to say. If you confront him before you have the facts about where he is struggling, you risk creating conflict unnecessarily. Your goal is to resolve this problem without creating a second one — a power struggle. Remind yourself that your son may be overwhelmed, not used to the independence of middle school and, like most children, living in the moment, not realizing that his actions have real consequences like troubling progress reports and failing grades.

Second, to get the information you need, schedule a meeting with all of his teachers together. Don’t settle for meeting with just one teacher and the guidance counselor; you want to hear feedback from all your son’s teachers so you can look for themes and behavior patterns. Set your agenda ahead of time, with the goal of determining where he is struggling specifically and how he can improve now. Have your child participate in a portion of the conference so that he can hear firsthand what is expected of him. You also want your son to see that his parents and teachers are communicating. Moving forward, I suggest that you access all the online avenues available to parents to check on homework assignments and school expectations. You could do the checking together and then as you see he is following homework expectations, continue to check privately to keep on top of it.

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