Feeling ineffective is high on the list of things I really can’t stand. It causes a lot of other feelings for me depending on the circumstances: guilt, isolation, depression, anger, inadequacy, discouragement, and most of all anxiety. I’ve never been a fan of the unknown. I’m a planner by nature and by consequence. I like to know exactly what I’m doing and usually have a pretty good feel for what the outcome will be. So when things don’t work out the way I think they will, especially when I’ve made a huge effort to achieve the desired outcome, I begin to feel ineffective.
Why am I writing about ineffectiveness today? It’s related to parenting. For a person like me, sending my kids off to school is challenging. For six or seven hours a day, they are out of my line of sight. Most of the time, this is a good thing. After all, both my kids and I need the outside world, social interactions and exposure to things outside our home and our relationship. But today we’re having homework issues, and that feeling of ineffectiveness is creeping in. My son is your typical 2nd grader (at least, I think that’s the case). He’s a smart boy but he answers most of my questions with an “I don’t know,” making it nearly impossible for me to understand what his day looks like when I’m not there.
This becomes especially frustrating around homework time. When I was in school, we did most of our work in class, we were given bad grades for incompletion and if we had homework, it was due the next day. The day was very structured but there was a lot of time to be a kid after school. School today is a very different beast. The kids are expected to do exponentially more work than I ever did and they are responsible for so many things. And as I parent, I have to rely on my loveable but distractible 8-year old boy for almost all of the information I have about his school experience. As you might imagine, it doesn’t always work so well.
Parenting is a magical and sometimes daunting experience. And parents of school-age children are at an interesting disadvantage these days. We are often not able to spend much (or any) time in the classroom so we don’t have a very good feel for what goes on there. And not only are we often not well-equipped to help our kids, but sometimes we’re discouraged from doing so. My son’s teacher has said many times that it is her job to teach him, we shouldn’t be having to “teach” him anything at home. But have you looked at 2nd grade math lately? We need instruction of our own just to keep up, much less help out. I’ve spoken with a number of parents who’ve been asked specifically not to show their kids how they used to do something because it interferes with today’s teaching methods.
So, as a parent, I find myself feeling very ineffective some days. I feel frustrated by a system that I don’t entirely understand. I’ve sat beside my son for days on end doing the same drill over and over and over. And I’ve sat beside him while he does work that I don’t think I did until I was in middle school. How would I have done if I’d been a student today? I wonder if the teachers today are able to assess whether real learning is happening or if they are just trying to survive with large class sizes and the ever-increasing weight of standardized testing. I know we have a lot of days where we’re just trying to survive the school year and that makes me feel ineffective (and a little sad) as well.
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.