For week 3 of the Math Blogger Initiation challenge, I have decided to write about what I do when a parent at a conference says, “Well I was never really good at math either,” when talking about his child. That quote really irks me. My gut reaction is to laugh a little while saying, “Please don’t say that in front of your son!” Because everything is nicer when you laugh while saying it, right?
But in all honestly, I actually do say something like, “Even though math wasn’t your strength, that doesn’t have to have an impact on Rob (for the sake of this post, I’ll call this parent’s son, Rob). It’s important that you don’t talk about how you weren’t good at math with Rob. Even though we all struggle at some point with math, I believe that everyone can succeed, and I need Rob to believe that too. Here are some ways you can help him!”
I tell the parent about my homework website, and how he should ask Rob about his math homework every day. Because by asking about Rob’s math homework, you are showing him that it matters to you that he does it, and that he asks for help the next day if he doesn’t understand it. I show the parent how to access the online textbook. I tell the parent to show interest in Rob’s math projects because even though the parent might not be able to help Rob, it will help Rob to explain what he’s working on to someone else.
I finish by saying that I set high expectations for all my students in class and will do anything I can to help Rob succeed. I ask the parent to support me in school by supporting Rob at home and creating an atmosphere where math is a positive word. It’s all about attitude.
What about you? I would definitely love to hear feedback on this infamous saying from others!
I appreciate your post. This is certainly an irksome issue for us math teachers. I really like how you acknowledge the parent’s comment, then immediately pivot to “that doesn’t have to have an impact on Rob” and telling the parent a number of ways they can help their child. That’s a response this old dog could stand to learn from. Thanks!
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I haven’t experienced a parent excusing their child like that before. I’m digging your vision to making math a “positive” word!! I’m a fan of the blunt approach. “Ma’m or Sir, that’s not a valid excuse. It’s not your report card but it’s his/hers. We’re in the business of making kids believe in themselves and comments like that do not support student success.” Or something like that. Parents can be delusional, and a timely dose of reality can shift their perspective to something more assertive.