Another semester is on the books and already there are angry parents and disappointed kids. So I thought it pertinent to review some of the things we need to do to remove the surprise from report cards. First, students don’t fail in a week. If your student received an F on the report card, chances are great that he/she had that F all quarter – maybe even all year. Use the resources available to check your student’s progress during the course of the year. Go to the school website and check your student’s grades every week. I recommend Mondays because lots of teachers do the bulk of their grading and inputting on the weekend. If you want information before that in order to determine your student’s weekend activities, call or email the teacher. Second, and I apologize again for saying so, do NOT believe what your student is telling you when it comes to grades. They are not going to volunteer that they are failing. They think they can put off the inevitable by “evasion.” When you hear statements like “I finished it at school. I don’t have homework. I turned it in, but it’s not graded yet. Or, my favorite, the teacher lost my paper,” run to the nearest phone or computer and contact the teacher. I’m telling you – there is always work to be done and even the best students will sometimes have late or missing work. Third, “There is always homework” should become your mantra. Book reports, projects, outside reading, upcoming tests, additional math practice, spelling, vocabulary – there are always things a student can be working on. Finally, there is a lot of what I call mythology in the tales kids tell about their teachers and school experiences. Many times you’ll hear several kids saying the same thing about a class. That doesn’t make it true; it simply makes it an excuse. I recommend that every parent take a day off work and follow your student from class to class. You might not have a lot of time to chat with the teacher, but I guarantee you will get a clear picture of your child’s school routine. You’ll see where he/she sits, how the teacher delivers a lesson, where homework and class/lesson goals are posted. You’ll be able to review textbooks and student behavior and interaction. You’ll know a whole lot more than what you hear from your son or daughter. In order to attend classes, you’ll need to check in at the front office. You don’t need to arrange it in advance, although that’s certainly a courtesy you might consider. And don’t worry that if the teachers know you’re coming, you won’t get a clear picture. Teachers are too busy to “change everything” just because they have a visitor to their classroom. Remember: you are there as an observer. Any comments or suggestions you have should be shared with the teacher privately in a conference you schedule. Report card grades should NEVER come as a surprise. Check online and, if necessary, with the teachers at least once a week. Ask questions, look for homework, and never accept any of the litany of excuses you hear without checking with the people who know, the experts in the classroom.