One Powerful Parent Tool That You Forgot You Had

You have it. I know you do. All schools offer it nowadays.  

It’s on the front page of the school’s website, for heaven’s sake. 

When parents talk to me about their kids, the topic of grades is usually on the top of their list of concerns. But how can you help your child succeed in school, if you don’t know that there is a problem until a few weeks into the grading period?  

Enter, the online gradebook. At our school, we call it the Parent Command Center, but it goes by many different names.  It can be much more than simply a daily report card for your child, and if used cleverly, it can be a great tool to help your child learn study habits and responsibility. 

Consider these two scenarios.

Scenerio 1:  

It’s Thursday evening, you happen to remember that you haven’t checked on grades in a while, and you pull up the Parent Command Center on your phone. After a few tries at remembering your password, bingo! The grades pop up on the screen. Overall, not too bad. Your darling, Joey, is holding his own. But then... you scroll down to Science. A D?! How? When? Where...... 

With your feathers significantly ruffled, you call darling Joey over to your side and immediately begin to interrogate him about this grade while noting that there are two zeros pulling his average down. The words lazy and irresponsible cross your mind. Meanwhile, Joey cowers and gets defensive which results in a power struggle that the makes the dog run to the other room. 

Not an ideal result. 

Scenario 2: 

It’s Thursday evening, you call darling Joey over and ask him to get your phone and log in to the Parent Command Center. Joey knows the login information and looks at the grades and then passes the phone on to you. Together, you notice that Science is not where you want it to be. Disappointing, but not an emergency because the grading period hasn’t ended yet. You ask him about the zeros and find that he has the assignments in his binder right now. 

Great. A solveable problem. You make a plan to get the assignments done and let him know that ya’ll will check the gradebook again in a few days to make sure that the zeros have been adjusted. Even with late points being deducted, the message is that we all make mistakes. The expectation is that mistakes are remedied. 

The dog has remained un-traumatized, and your relationship with darling Joey survives another day.  

This ubiquitous tool is too often ignored by parents (raising my own hand here, my friends). But the information that it contains is so valuable. Look for patterns. Is homework the common factor? Is it the bell-ringer (also known as Question of the Day or Problem of the day)? If so, talk to your child and help him see the pattern and together explain that you expect homework to be done at a certain time. Or ask him what he is doing when class begins and why isn’t this bell-ringer completed? Many kids randomly complete their bell-ringers on different sheets of paper each day. When the bell ringers are picked up at the end of the week (or two weeks), they can’t find them. Hence the zero. They don’t understand that even 3 points each day adds up to 30 points after two weeks.  

The online gradebook is probably one of the most powerful tools that both you and your child can use to increase their success in school when you remember two key things. First, your child must know the login so that he or she can check the gradebook on their own. This should be part of their homework routine. Secondly, you and your child should look at the gradebook together so that you can be their success coach rather than only their grade watchdog. When you use the gradebook as a tool rather than a “gotcha’, your child is learning how to use his resources to increase his own self-reliance. 

So, take a deep breath and find that gradebook login. 

Lisa Williams, LCSW has worked with students for fifteen years as a teacher as well as a social worker. She loves to help struggling students and parents find ways to solve problems and increase school success. She offers in-person visits in St. Francisville, Louisiana as well as easy, online sessions for imperfect parents all over the state of Louisiana.