That First C

SupermenLike most parents, I beam with pride when my son brings home good grades.  This is a sign that he is beginning to understand the correlation between good grades, worldly success and eternal prosperity. But when he went from a low A to a low B in Math earlier this year, I thought I was going to blow a gasket.

For some strange reason, he was having a difficult time breaking word problems into logical equations.  And this comes after receiving what I perceived to be quality private school educations in North Carolina and California.  But I get it, though.  My son is in a new school, a public one, and he would rather be friends with the other kids than compete against them for top academic honors.  But with only one week left in this six-week period, it looks as if he is destined to make his first C, something he has never done since his recorded grades started to matter, when he was in the third grade.

Real Men Must Establish High Academic Standards

Please understand where I’m coming from.  I know a C is a passing grade, but I’m cut deep by the fact that my son is at risk of making one.  As a Real Man, my academic standards are much higher than those parents who allow teachers to just educate their children without holding these same teachers accountable.  C grades mean our children’s academic performances are average. And, if you’re anything like me, that’s not good enough.  Our children have one job – to make A’s and B’s in all of their classes – and the fact they aren’t making good grades should be signs they aren’t taking their jobs seriously.  We must always expect more from our children, not less.

Because my son made a very, low grade on a recent Financial Literacy test, we had to have daily sit-downs to prepare for the retake.  Our sessions lasted a little over an hour, and each time I would explain the steps he needed to take to solve each problem.  But when I typed up a sample test, which pretty much mirrored the 20-question assessment (just different numbers), and had him take it, I found myself getting miffed at the fact that the only problems he could answer correctly without my assistance were the vocabulary problems.

Real Men Are Patient and Kind

I readily admit that my tutoring sessions with my son have, at times, tried my patience.  When he started humming some song that was playing in his head, I felt my lips quivering, my left leg bouncing, because I knew my words were going in one ear and out the other.  I threatened him with consequences for not giving me his full attention, but that only caused him to lose his focus even more, especially when he started crying because I told him he no longer had the privilege of watching his cartoons during the week, playing video games on the weekend.

Failure can never be an option.  Neither can mediocrity.  As our children’s first teachers, their coaches, we must use our creativity to get them to do things they view as impossible.  For my son, it is gaining mastery and proficiency in Math.  Because he isn’t as successful in this class as he is in the others (all A’s), you can tell there is a certain amount of pent-up dread when he has to complete assignments in it.  But because I have been there, done that, I know what it’s going to take for him to have a breakthrough.

First and foremost, he must be able to identify his weaknesses and develop a plan for turning them into strengths. He’s only able to develop these skills when I force his hand.  Yes, his teacher and I must provide the instruction, but he must have the self-initiative to sit at the table with his notes in front of him so Eureka Moments can be had.  It’s all right if he has questions; that goes hand-in-hand with the learning process.  But because I will not be with him when he takes the retake, or future quizzes and tests for that matter, he must be able to settle back down after I have answered his questions, so more Eureka Moments can be had.

Real Men Explain Why Their Academic Standards Are So HighHispanic Father and Child

As Real Men, our hope should be that our children understand why our academic standards are so high.  They should know that we want them to make A’s and B’s in all of their classes because it lets others know they have strong work ethics. Individuals with strong work ethics are esteemed more highly than others, they receive access to opportunities that are often denied to individuals content with settling for the average, the mediocre.  More importantly, though, they are positioning themselves to be leaders, not followers.

I know my son is destined to become a leader, but I also know I have to do my part to set him on the right path. Yes, I had the same problems in Math that he is currently having. And, no, I wasn’t the greatest of students, at least in high school. But that doesn’t disqualify me from helping him acquire the knowledge and skills to be better than me. If anything, it’s a challenge for me, resulting from the fact that I have to shake off my past disappointments in secondary school to prevent him from making the same mistakes.  And because, as a mature, educated adult, I now have a more thorough understanding of Math and a host of other subjects and topics, I am better able to help him reach loftier standards now and in the future.

Real Men Don’t Take It Personal

Seeing that first C on my son’s report card is going to be a low moment for me.  And if I didn’t know better, I would take it personal.  But I’m not because I know he has the capacity to understand when he is free of distractions. He just needs a teacher who can explain the real-life applications of the concepts being taught, and manage classroom dynamics well.

I now find myself pushing him to advocate for himself in the classroom by posing questions to the teacher during her classroom lectures and after them. That’s the only way he’s going to gain the understanding he needs to perform well on upcoming assignments and tests, by taking ownership of his learning.  He also receives additional instruction at Mathnasium.

We Real Men tend to take our little children’s’ lack of academic success personal because it reflects badly on us, our rearing of them.  I’m not going to lie; it makes me feel good when my son brings home a report card riddled with A’s. I’m now able to brag to my friends, and anyone who will listen, that my boy is an honor roll student.  It’s almost as if I’m trying to live through him.  But brothers beware.  Our time has come, and gone.  How we performed in primary and secondary school, and even college, has no bearing on our present circumstances, and those of our significant others.  In short, it’s not about us; it’s about them.

It’s our children’s time to sink or swim.

The burden is on us, and their teachers, to teach them how to swim with a sense of urgency.

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Turbulence Ahead: When Children Take Their Parents Back to School

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Earlier this week, I posted something on Twitter that rings increasingly true the older my son gets.  I wrote:

Keeping your child on point in school is a taxing endeavor, especially in math. Pray for me, family. I predict turbulence ahead.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am able to give my son the help he needs.  He’s in the fifth grade.  But my prediction about the ensuing turbulence grows out of what I consider my own shortcomings in grade school Math.  While I have always had a good handle on addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, I was challenged in Algebra and Geometry in high school, Statistics in college.  And now that I’m a working adult, I feel most comfortable working with numbers when my Casio calculator is by my side, or I can type formulas into an Excel spreadsheet.

As parents, we are often tasked with helping our children understand subject matter that is first introduced to them at their respective schools.  The subject that I am most versed in is English Language Arts, so I feel I’m more than capable of reinforcing my son’s understanding of the different parts of speech, as well as the necessary skills for comprehending something he just read.  But when it comes to helping him with his Math homework, I find myself cringing, but only slightly these days.  I fear that I will offer him an explanation that confuses the issue more than clarifies it.

But remarkably, I’m finding that the more I help my son in Math at home, the more these fears dissipate.  My fears are dissipating because I feel as if I’m learning as my son learns.  For my son, these lessons represent the first time he has had to convert ounces to pounds, or multiply mixed fractions.  But, for me, when I help him with his homework assignments, I’m receiving what I call refreshers.  In short, my son’s circumstances have taken me back to school, and I feel my experiences with him at the kitchen table bode well for his academic and vocational future, and mine as well.

I know there are many parents out there who share similar concerns.  Because they were C-D students in high school, and not A-B, they feel ill-equipped to providing the kind of homework assistance their children need.  Consequently, their children struggle to make good grades in school because there is no one around to explain difficult subject matter to them.  Some of these parents reside in low-income neighborhoods, and don’t have the funds to send their children to the Sylvan Learning Center, or Mathnasium even.  However, if they opt to be neglectful in this area, their children will suffer the consequences.

It has been proven that children who struggle academically get into more trouble than those who don’t.  Getting into trouble means they get suspended more (either in-school or out-of-school), and some of them even align themselves with negative peer groups.  If no interventions are put into place to save the child from himself, he will develop a mindset that has him settling for mediocrity in his personal and professional endeavors rather than striving for excellence.

For this reason alone, I encourage all parents to canvass their home cities for the purpose of identifying after-school tutoring programs that help children and youths achieve academically.  Programs like Sylvan and Mathnasium cost, a lot, and are really designed for parents who can afford to pay.  But there are no-cost programs that are held at community centers and nonprofit organizations like the Boys & Girls Club and YMCA.  For low-income parents who never attended college, there is also the federally funded TRIO Upward Bound Program for high school students.  This educational access and opportunity program provides after-school tutoring, but also allows participants to take guided tours of college and university campuses.

Homework 2Parents who are committed to raising their children the right way should take pride in being able to help them with their homework.  They should never cast their helping in a negative light.  If anything, they should perceive it as an opportunity to cultivate winning attitudes in their children and personal development in themselves.

This opportunity should be used to re-learn things we have already been taught.

This opportunity should be used to allow our children to see how vulnerable we can be.

After the smoke has cleared, you, and they, will smile,.  More importantly, your children will now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are committed to helping them succeed…by any means necessary.

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