A 12-Year-Olds Daily and Weekly Grillings:
Being a big believer that kids function best when they’re real clear about what’s expected of them, at the end of every summer, in the day or two before school starts back up again, I issue my son, who’s now twelve years old, what’s lovingly become known as his “marching orders” for the coming school year.
However, I don’t just issue them and then hope for the best, leaving it to chance he’ll have a great school year, I have a very definite follow-up system in place to insure he does.
Here’s the gist of it:
It all begins with…
The Daily “Grilling”
Every day, as soon as he comes home from school, I ask him the traditional “how was school today?” (pretty original, huh? :-)) and more often than not, I get the also traditional “good” (equally as original, I must say :-)).
Now, and this is what makes all the difference in the world, I’m not as concerned about what he says in reply as I am to how he says it and the look on his face when he does (fortunately for me, my son has a pretty expressive face).
For example, if “good” comes out of his mouth, but his face turns beet red and he looks like he’s about to cry, I know immediately something’s wrong that needs attention right then and there.
Assuming we make it past the first question in one piece, I follow-up with “did anything special happen today?” and “did anything not so special happen today?”, again not being as concerned with his answers as I am how he answers them and the look on his face as he does.
Usually, these three questions, the ensuing conversation, and a close look at what he brings home from school in his backpack, give me a pretty fair idea of how he’s doing in school on a day-to-day basis and instantly alerts me to any trouble he might be having.
But, I don’t leave it at that. For a more in-depth analysis of what’s going on in school, we have…
The Weekly “Grilling”
One night every week, year-round, my son and I go out to dinner together, just he and I. Not a formal “grilling”, per se, but during the school year our conversation naturally turns to school.
This is where I find out things like who he’s sitting with in class, who he’s sitting with at lunch, what he’s doing during recess and who he’s doing it with, who his friends are and what they’re like, troubles other kids are having in school, what his teachers are like, and so on.
It’s absolutely amazing to me the amount of useful information I pluck from these relaxed conversations and the learning experience they usually turn into for both of us.
In my conversations with the parents of my son’s friends and classmates, it’s also absolutely amazing to me how I know far more about their kids and how they’re really doing in school than they do (just thought I’d throw that in here :-)).
Now, our daily and weekly “grillings” tell me 99.9% of what I need to know to insure my son has a great school year.
However, in the off chance I miss anything critical, I have a “safety net” in place…
My Intelligence Network
As early as possible and/or practical in the school year, I make it a point to meet with or at least call my son’s teacher or primary teacher to introduce myself and establish a working relationship with him or her for the coming year.
During this brief conversation, I give his teacher my personal cell phone number (which only a tiny handful of people on earth have and I let them know that) and explicit instructions to call me as soon as possible should he be having any trouble in school whatsoever.
I let him or her know, as tactfully as possible, that should there be something I need to know, I don’t expect to hear it at a formal parent-teacher conference, from a progress report, or on a report card, I expect to hear it from them that day, when I’m in the absolute best position to deal with it, and they’re free to call me 24/7 to do so.
In addition, I make friends with as much of the school staff as possible (principal, assistant principal, nurse, custodian, lunch room helpers, other teachers, etc.) and touch base with them every so often to see what’s going on in school and find out if there’s anything I need to know about that I may have missed elsewhere.
Here’s the deal…
Kids, in my humble opinion, are far too important and, quite frankly, there’s way to much that can go wrong, especially nowadays, to leave their future to chance six, seven, or eight hours a day.
A number of years ago, the National PTA and the Ad Council ran a great series of public service television commercials as part of their “Know More, Do More” campaign, one of which featured Luke Perry of “Beverly Hills 90210” fame that went something like this:
“All right, I got a little pop quiz for ya. It’s about me. What was my zip code? What city was it in? Name three kids I hung out with in the lunchroom. Name three kids your child hangs out with in the lunchroom.”
I can name three kids my kid hangs out with in the lunchroom right off the top of my head…
Can you name three kids your kid hangs out with in the lunchroom right off the top of yours?
If not, here’s another question for you to ponder…
What else don’t you know about them?
Think about it! 🙂