Potential Perils of the Parent Portal

Communication-parent and child, child and teacher, teacher and parent-is critical for providing the best possible educational experience for everyone involved. By now, most schools have “parent portals” where parents are able to log in and see their children’s grades as soon as the teacher enters the grade into their virtual gradebook. In fact, I can check my son’s grades on my cell phone in a quick minute, and I know his scores, his missing work, and also often his upcoming projects. All of this data is good-mostly.

This post is partly a case of “do as I say, not as I do,” but I have noticed a trend in parents, and I try to curb the tendency in my own actions because I see the negative impact that this behavior is having on kids.  I have “car rider duty” at the end of each school day, so I stand in the gym with a group of kids and wait for their parents to pick them up. A few years ago, kids were greeted with smiles and hugs. They eagerly awaited their parents arrival, and their parents showed genuine pleasure at being reunited with their kids.  Now, with the constant progress updates at the parents’ fingertips, the first greeting often involves tension if not outright disapproval at some underperformance on the student’s part. Kids do not display the joy they used to, and parents confront their children about their school performance before asking about their day, sharing a hug, or even smiling.  

I used to confront my son the second I picked him up from high school. I would lay out all of his failures before him and demand he answer for his mistakes. After watching this same phenomenon happen to kids at my school, I have decided that I was treating my own son shabbily. If every time I walked in the door after work, my husband greeted me with a tally of all of my shortcomings, I would quickly become angry, discouraged, depressed. I believe that kids need to be responsible for their academic obligations. I also know that children have a greater chance of flourishing if they take time to bond with their parents before hearing the laundry list of transgressions. I hope that when parents get used to the constant availability of grades, they will go back to greeting their children with more joy and less criticism. I, for one, miss seeing the smiling faces.