Parenting

I Was Offended At The Way My Kids' Teacher Graded Her Project (At First)

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My daughter is six years old and in the first grade. Every day after school, I open her backpack to check her folder for any worksheets that have been sent home or papers that might need signed.

Last night, this particular paper caught my eye. My initial reaction was something along the lines of, “Wow. Look at her printing! She’s doing such a great job!” But then I looked closer and realized she had missed a point due to forgetting a period at the end of the sentence. “Hmm…” I thought. “Her skills were nearly flawless with the exception of this minor punctuation error.”

Courtesy of Kayla K

Fast forward to this morning when I was talking to my mom on the phone and telling her about my daughter’s worksheet and this petty period.

“You know, Mom, it’s fine. Seriously, I know it’s not a big deal, but can we just acknowledge that it’s a little bit annoying that she received a minus one? Her printing was perfect. Her spelling was perfect. Everything was perfect but because she forgot that dang period, she got a minus one.”

Cue a long pause … and then my very wise mother carefully responded:

“Yep. She did do a great job. But here’s the thing, Kayla — that minus one helps set the expectation that sometimes, there are things that need to be fixed. And that’s okay! It’s really okay. It’s learning … and that’s why we go to school. With that said, I know. You want them to be perfect. I get what you’re saying. But still, wouldn’t you rather teach our children to understand that sometimes there’s something else they need to learn? Rather than make them feel like they have to be perfect all the time?”

Whooooaaaa.

Gosh darn it.

At the expense of potentially hurting my feelings, my mom was teaching me a lesson here about the lesson I needed to be teaching my own daughter. I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but at 31 years of age, my mom is still teaching me lessons about life. And thank goodness for that, because you know what? She was right (because duh, mom is always right).

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My basic human instinct as a parent and as a mother was to instantly defend my daughter — and as a result, I almost missed the lesson.

The powerful reminder that yes, as parents we all want to protect our children and give them the world and make them feel special and great and all the things. But far more important still is being careful about that, because we also need to make sure we’re teaching our children that the expectation is not perfection. In fact, that type of expectation may only set our children up for failure and self-destruction.

We want our kids to understand there’s always going to be room for self-improvement, development, progress, betterment, change, and growth. It’s unfair to expect a six-year-old to be perfect. It’s also unfair to expect a first-grade teacher to ignore mistakes and pay only attention to the strengths of her students. It’s even more unfair to think or assume we know it all. Because we don’t. Nobody does.

My basic human instinct as a parent and as a mother was to instantly defend my daughter — and as a result, I almost missed the lesson.

You know what’s hard? Everything.

You know what’s easy? Nothing.

You know who gets it right the first time? No one!

The only way we learn from our mistakes is by first realizing our own mistakes.

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My mom chose to respond to my frustration with raw honesty and careful, constructive feedback. It would’ve been much easier for her to simply agree with me, but she chose to sacrifice the potential of hurting my feelings in order to try to teach me a bigger lesson.

If that missed period hadn’t been brought to my daughter’s attention, it’s likely she would’ve forgotten it on her next test. Her teacher did the right thing … and I bet that next time, she won’t forget her punctuation. If by chance she does forget it again (because remember here – we all make mistakes), there’s no doubt I’ll be better prepared to respond more appropriately … all because my own mother took the time to point out an opportunity for me to better understand a mistake I was making.

It was a reality check. A powerful reminder that mistakes are okay.

… And that, no matter how old you are, moms sure do know a lot.

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