Monday, October 22, 2012

Parental Priorities

This one's not exactly about math. It's kind of about math, but more education in general.

I'm not one to judge right and wrong ways of parenting. A lot of things have to depend on the individual child's needs, the family's background and values, etc. But I have some observations about different types of parents.

There are parents who apologize profusely for their kids missing school for legitimate reasons, like medical issues. Then there are those who check their kids out of class to go get smoothies.

It's not like either extreme is always great or always terrible. Sometimes the kids who miss for doctor's appointments aren't great about getting caught up on what they miss, and sometimes the smoothie-getting kids are.

Still, I wonder what message the smoothie-run parents are trying to send. That they're a cool parent? That sometimes you have to give yourself a mental-health break? (I can agree with that on occasion.)

What message are the kids getting? Like I said, those kids are often okay with making up what they miss. They're usually kids who clearly believe school is important, at least to some degree. But what about other students, who know why their classmate misses a class or two in the middle of the day? What does it say to them about where their priorities belong?

I don't know. I do know that with math in particular, if you miss a component or two and don't catch it up, you risk being very lost on concepts that follow. If you don't solidify basic equation solving, for instance, you'll have a very hard time with most other topics in algebra.

Most parents do the best they can, especially considering the bull-headedness of some teenagers. Some teens already understand the importance of their education, even the parts that don't immediately seem relevant. Others take a while to figure that out.

I just hope parents aren't delaying that understanding.


Rena said...

I was a smoothie kid.

My mom didn't do it often, but I remember those moments as beacons of sanity in a world that seemed designed to destroy me. If I hadn't had that reprieve from my peers, there would have been fisticuffs. My friends were better at stabbing me in the back than having fun, and my teachers treated me like I was a non-person. By the time I was 12, I knew that my opinion didn't matter because I wasn't old enough to be a real person, and no matter how good my grades, I was just a kid. And being "just a kid" meant that I was worthless; I didn't matter.

No one knew my mom took me out for lunch when I missed my honors math class (a subject where my teacher teased me almost as much as the students). There were few fates as bad as actually liking your parents, so no one knew but me and my mom. She even lied on the excuse slip.

The other students didn't notice. Their biggest concern was that they had to find someone else to pick on when I missed my class.

And I didn't exactly slouch off. I went on to college, grad school, and all of it in hard sciences, so I didn't miss out on the education side. At the time, it was nice to know that at least somebody cared, even if it was just my mom, because it sure didn't feel like anyone else cared.

R.C. Lewis said...

Excellent point, Rena, and that definitely qualifies as the "mental health break" I mentioned. And on behalf of math teachers, so sorry yours (and other teachers) treated you so poorly. :(

With my "smoothie kids," it's no secret where they're going. (At least, the ones I know about.) I think that's part of why I wonder what message is being sent, despite the fact they keep up with the work. Also, because they're usually "popular" kids. Just something I've been pondering.