Before turning over this book to my sister, I promised some more words from Jessica Lahey to commit to some form of memory bank in case my memory proves deficit for sure.
“One way to keep grades in their proper perspective and help kids gain control of their education is to shift your family’s focus off grades and onto goals. Because goals are self-determined rather than teacher determined, they can be much more useful measurement of success. When kids establish their own goals for learning, they gain a sense of ownership and competence. . . .
. . . . No matter how small or how nonsensical your child’s goals may seem to you, they are his goals, and you should respect that. Even nonacademic, seemingly frivolous goals are important, because the process of setting goals is not about the goal itself, but the grit required to put a name to an ambition and see it through to fruition. Simply taking the time to talk about the things they want to achieve over time shows kids that we respect their needs and aspirations.”
“While scores and grades prioritize grades over learning, there is one aspect of modern report cards that is quite helpful, particularly when done well. Narrative comments and feedback on students’ performance, according to research, are “better than grades at both promoting kids’ self-motiavation to learn and boosting their achievement.” Elementary school teachers do a good job of providing feedback on report cards, but as soon as grades take over from narrative comments as the main method of evaluation, students and parents begin to lose out. “
“Your attitude about autonomy and grades will inform your child’s attitude. It’s that simple. She spends her days immersed in academic competition with her peers, fully aware of the relevance of grades to honor rolls and colleges, so why not be the the one person in her life who doesn’t fuel the raging fire of academic pressure and insecurity? I’d much rather be the person my kid wants to talk to over dinner about that funny thing that happened to his friend after math class, the movie he wants to see next weekend, his hopes and dreams. We have such a limited amount of time with our children as it is, so we might as well enjoy it while it lasts. My favorite view on the value of failing in high school comes from longtime high school teacher Jonathan Shea, who has seen the pattern of try, fail, and try again play itself out over and over:
‘Students recover. People do it all the time. And the failure helps them learn about themselves. First, they learn that people want them to be okay. Second, they learn that they can overcome a problem, but that work and attention are more important than genius or perfection. Students need to fail because this is when they learn to succeed.'”
“If the unpredictability of our own journey is frustrating, the suspense that parents experience as we watch our children’s stories unfold is downright unbearable. Because we can’t possibly know how their stories will end, their failures are all the more acute, immediate, and treacherous; more Shakespearean tragedy than quaint anecdote.
When my children make mistakes that endanger their own happy endings, the bottom drops out of my world, and in those moments there’s nothing I’d like more than to be able to flip to the end of their story and reassure myself that everything turns out okay. Sadly, that’s not how parenting works. We don’t have access to spoilers, and we can’t skim through the uncomfortable chapters in our children’s story arcs in order to skip to the happy ending. Worse, we can’t even know if there will be a happy ending.
What we can do, however, is be patient, and trust in our kids. As I watch my own children make their way toward their denouements and strategize goals that I may not even be around to witness, I have no choice but to focus on the details of their journey. They are writing their own stories, in their own voices, with plot points of their own invention. Their narrative is not mine, and I can’t edit them into perfection.”