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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Math Geek Mom: Boarders and Helicopters
January 27, 2011 - 8:24pm

When graphing points on a number line, one can graph all points up to and including a point by using a line that ends with a closed circle, but can indicate all points up to, but not including that point by instead ending with an open circle. In the later case, one can get as close to the end point as possible without hitting that point, making the difference between the point and any chosen point infinitesimally small. I thought of this concept this past week when I heard of a proposal about grading parents of students that was proposed by a legislator from Florida. Like the open circle, it seemed to blur the boundaries between the success of students and the work of their parents, making any distinction infinitesimally small.

As report cards come out this week over much of the country, this idea is particularly relevant. Such a grade would be based on whether the child is sent to school fed and dressed appropriately, whether the student has done their homework and are prepared for tests, and whether the parents take advantage of opportunities to interact with teachers. As someone who sometimes worries that I may be falling into the category of “helicopter parent”, I was sure that I would be graded well according to these criteria. Which does not necessarily mean that I am a great parent, just that I know about teaching and the educational system, and know how to be involved and to advocate for my child. After all, in some situations, my husband and I may be the only advocates my child has.

And this all leads to the question, my fellow faculty members, what if WE could grade the parents of our students? What would we ask of them, if the law would allow us to do such a thing (which, I believe, it does not)? For one, I would like parents who encourage their children to become excited about education. I would like parents who see beyond the grade in a class and encourage their children to take more difficult classes and to challenge themselves. I would hope for parents who allow their children to fail once in a while, because failure is sometimes the greatest teacher of all. And I would hope for parents who give students the room to follow their own particular dreams and talents, wherever they may lead, even if that is to a degree that does not necessarily guarantee entrance into a well-paying field of work.

I already know that I may someday find myself in a situation of being “graded” in such a way, as my daughter is already talking about coming to Ursuline College someday. While we have different last names, it would almost impossible for her to hide her identity, especially since many of my colleagues were here to welcome her when she came home, and most of them know who she is and shower her with attention when she comes on campus to visit. I only hope that I can live up to my expectations for parents no matter where she decides to attend college, and that, by then, my “helicopter parent” days will be long over.


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