Year: 1996-1997
Month: March
Leader: Group K

Situation/Case Study:
STUDENT ACADEMIC PROBLEM

Description:
The parents of this student are older. The mother is a teacher in the district; the father is an active community member. They are new to the community and are highly competitive. They were very argumentative about all the grades the child received, believing that he should be getting all A's. The teacher acknowledges that he is quite intelligent, but that he has not been putting much effort into his work lately. Recently he was caught cheating in an enrichment class. The parents' response was that he should not have been called to task on this. They claimed that the teachers let him cheat and then made him admit it and they feel that he is probably damaged for life because of the humiliation of that situation. (The teacher involved talked to the boy individually with no attempt at humiliating him.) The parents had no positive comment about anything that was happening in school, claiming the work was too easy and the child was bored. The child was present during the conference and when the teacher asked for his response to any of the accusations, or asked him what grade he thought he should have gotten, he was silent or said he didn't know. The child seemed very embarrassed by the whole thing.

Hypotheses:
Parents can be so into children doing well that grades become more important than what is being learned, almost a status symbol. Parents interpret how well their kids are doing in school as a personal reflection on their ability or worth as parents. The ends justify the means. The parents feel that if they were successful in school their child should be also. The child feels the pressure to achieve and is driven to cheating. The parents feel helpless in handling their child and so blame others. The teacher is frustrated because the expectation is that parents and teachers should work together to help the child, not be adversaries. Parents can be frustrated when their children are not doing well in school and displace their anger on the teacher and school.

Theories behind practice:
Pressured. Like a failure (If I can't get an A I must be a failure). Not lovable. Overextended (he is in the G/T program). Embarrassed about his parents. Embarrassed about his grades. Fear of not being loved.

Impact on others:
Parental confrontation. Student achievement and grading. Parental expectations. Cheating and how to deal with it. Blaming. Not taking ownership of actions.

Solutions:
Be explicit and detailed in your documentation of student's work and behavior. Go through the process of dealing with life's disappointments with the student: Learn to deal with the problem. Whose problem is it? Learn resilience - moving on and letting go. Help child to learn that it is O.K. to make mistakes. That is how we learn. Offer to have him removed from the G/T program to reduce pressure and make grades easier to earn. Bring the principal in on the discussion. Have the student track his own work and record his own grades. Have the assignments go home to the parents. Call the parents to tell them just what is expected on each assignment. Send home a newsletter each week that is a weekly reflection from the student: This week I learned; this week something I did really well was; and next week I need to work on.

Comments:
The teachers described themselves as caring and loving people trying to reach out and to create the best for their students. 'They are easily hurt and frustrated when they are attacked by parents who seem to think that they are trying to create opportunities for their children not to succeed. They also become very frustrated when parents set the example of not assuming responsibility for anything that happens and make excuses for their children, blaming others, not taking ownership for their actions.