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Challenge: Perfectly Imperfect Parenting

Powering down PowerSchool

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Wrapping up this 2021-2022 school year, I feel a little bit unfulfilled. It was, for me, the biggest drop in parental involvement within those educational walls since my arrival onto this (step)momming scene. I do point a large part of that “missing involvement” to a year that started with both masks and social distancing as the top agenda item on every syllabus, thus (again) limiting in-person volunteer opportunities.

When the doors were re-opened? Maybe by then, I was complacent to offer my assistance from my keyboard rather than by standing at my usual post behind the school’s copy machine with rivers of sweat rolling down my back for fear that I choose the wrong collating option. Seriously. Choose the wrong “collate” option and you chip away at a teacher’s individual copy budget as the incorrect papers hits the recycle bin because why would that stuff be free to our educators???

Or maybe (tee-hee) our schools weren’t as vocal about the volunteer doors finally opening again after two years of parent-free bliss. I wouldn’t blame them, actually. Two years of not having a bunch of random student-relatives showing up several times a day to explain better ways to teach, grade, or administrate? Heck yeah! Follow that tranquil road as long as possible!

Whatever the case, my involvement in my son’s school year trickled down to the level of the occasional email check-in with teachers.

“Does anyone need any supplies? Anything at all – just let me know.” I typically had only a few takers – those brave enough to ask were then excited to see an Amazon box with their name on it in the office within a few days. I suspect most were used to false promises as the ones who did answer were those who had had our first child in their class a few years ago and, therefore, knew that I had no issue with sending a hundred dry erase markers or a case or paper towels. “Anything at all, just please do not ask to me explain Sohcahtoa again…”

Just wanted to wish you a Happy Holiday! Thank you for all that you do! Those emails were always met with kind responses about how enjoyable it was to have my child in class and, as a follow-up, it might be nice if he would complete his homework or remove his AirPods on occasion (“oh yes, we agree,” I’d send back, “this is his theme, ten years running…”).

The difference this year on that incompleted work is that we have had no warning on how that will look on the quarterly report cards.

No, I know, “What about PowerSchool?”

“PowerSchool? Never heard of it?”

Wait, what? No, but really. At least not this year. That is how far I tapped out of the parental involvement piece of school this year.

I gave up checking grades this year. Completely. It worked because Zack was our last child in the system, so there was no reason to open the app once Zack reached our pre-determined age of “fly, be spy free!” I deleted the bookmark from my browser completely and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND ITI Once I got used to not seeing that word staring at me from the Favorites Bar, I pretty much forgot all about “Grades.”

My days of helicopter assignment checking ended for actual ever and GOOD LORT it was bliss.

We’ve yet to see the end of this chapter – the actual end-of-year grades – so it may be a total disaster (don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging…).

Quick backstory: As both kids entered high school, we took our foot off the Grades Gas as we deemed that the time for them to choose their own responsibility adventure. They each knew our expectations (no late assignments, report card minimums, etc) and they each knew the consequences of missing those marks (removal of all things fun). With Zoe, we flubbed this a bit as she seemed to need constant reminding that school was for learning, rather than a place to create daily dramatic and emotional reasons for justice or outcry. We never really tapped out with her because she seemed to always require a safety net to reroute her back to reality.

Admittedly, we are still reaping the benefits drawbacks of this flub.

With Zack, we did better. Whenever he tells us that he has it all under control, we smile and nod. When he insisted that he needed a later bedtime because “homework is better at 10 pm,” we said, “of course it is” with a wink to the parental other. We keep our eyes on the calendar for that inevitable “last day” for assignments to be turned in each marking period and try (though not too hard) to keep it open, as there is a high chance that the teenager in our home will need the free-time.

With the next kid (Pretend-Child-Three who doesn’t actually exist but we definitely would have reached parenting perfection with), we will probably just email the middle school teachers on day one and say, “PCT can read a syllabus, knows that we expect on-time work, and grades that match their potential…but do let us know if we need to light any fires. Also, how many disinfectant wipes will you need this year?”

Here’s where I promised not to leave you hanging.

I mostly forgot Zack was still in school until I had to collect his grades for our insurance provider in order to grab that Good Student Discount. It was at that point that I discovered that Very Real Child Two had taken the entire fourth marking period off. If you’ve followed my blog, this story may sound repetitive.

It should.

On June 3rd of 2021, it was the exact scenario in which we discovered that our college-attending First Child had withdrawn from all of her spring semester classes. I asked for a screenshot of her grades for that Good Student Discount…and was sent a list of “W’s.” Quite poetic that on June 3rd of 2022, Zack came sprinting into my office full of sweat and panic and a lot of “so the thing is” pouring from his mouth.

Side-note: A 15% in marketing will not earn a Good Student Discount

Side-note to the Side-note: I was as cool as a cucumber. We did still get the discount (thank you marking periods one through three). I shrugged and wished him well in catching up before the school year officially ended, gently reminding him of our expectations and adding a quick “we’ll see what your father says.” I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS AS WELL!

One more side note: June 3rd has now been renamed ArmaGRADEn in our home.

As luck would have it, Zack had a serious case of sibling (mis)fortune. He did buckle down and turn in thirty-three missed assignments, yes. But also, about five seconds after he exposed his hiccup, his sister annihilated the family’s emotional hornets’ nest and diverted our focus onto other things. While we were having heated discussions on which window to toss her out of, Zack was quietly pounding away at his keyboard, flipping through notes, and hitting submit as he flipped all those F’s around.

The final grades arrived this week and they are probably fine. It’s just that if you add up all the dings for late assignments or the dings for rushed work, well, there are a lot of B’s that could have easily been A’s – and, honestly, we aren’t really okay with that in the land of we know this kid has more potential than late assignments and rushed work.

And while the dings are certainly Zack’s own doing, we (parents) are again left in that awkward (and familiar) place of handing out consequences for something that we think the school should be handing out consequences for.

Please hold while I pull out my soapbox:

For the love of Professor Doolittle, could we please STOP GIVING OUR CHILDREN PARTIAL CREDIT FOR LATE WORK? And by partial, I mean full credit or nearly all credit. When my child says “It doesn’t matter when I turn it in…they’ll still give me credit” what leverage does that leave us (parents) to teach our children about being responsible? Because they (teenagers) certainly get eye-roll-y when we return that verbal volley with “You know that’s not what the real world is like, right? You know that if I miss a deadline at work, my boss won’t give me “full credit?””

Of course they get eye-roll-y. In their real world, this is exactly what it’s like.

Late schmate…


We know this isn’t the fault of the teachers. We have actually asked (begged) for zeros, incompletes, no re-do’s, no extra credit, etc… and have been turned down.

In our school district, failure truly is not an option.

Wait, is this how NASA did it?

Anyway. Putting the soap box away before I slip.

The grades thing actually wasn’t even the hardest part to swallow at the end of this school year.

Between Zack getting his driver’s license, a lifeguard certification, a real summer job, and coming home on that last day of his sophomore year with a proclamation of “Just think, next year at this time I’ll be a SENIOR…”

…I’m reaching panic mode.

I’m writing today from a hotel room after doing a college tour which was theoretically for his sister – Zack was only tagging along for practice. Except his sister was silent (status quo) for the entirety while Zack was all “wow, this place is cool” and “I could see myself in a place like this” and “In another year, this will be me” and WHY IS THIS CONSTANTLY CHILD TESTING ME?

Maybe we should get that Pretend Third Child going.

Not really though.

I already replaced my PowerSchool bookmark with an Empty Nester’s Hot Spots site.

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