Go Beyond Grades w/ Tracie Potts

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Go Beyond Grades w/ Tracie Potts

You know, today’s math is not for the faint! Plus, the real question you should be asking your child’s teacher is if he or she is on grade level. National research reveals a significant disparity between what parents think about their child’s educational progress and how their child is really doing. Lucky for our listeners, Tracie Potts pulled up to the podcast donning her cape as Advisory Board Chair for Learning Heroes, an educational advocacy organization that empowers parental engagement. She and SJR discussed ways to strengthen the parent-teacher partnership, support student learning at home, and equip families with educational resources. This episode will remind you that teachers are skilled professionals who are willing to point people in the direction of developmental success. But it’s up to us, as parents and guardians, to meet them halfway. Become a Learning Hero when you visit www.gobeyondgrades.org for more resources, including summer learning opportunities!

Okay, Tracy.
So I am, I’m a blended family. We have 6 children total.
I am in the, you know, trauma stages as I like to call them of raising a fourteen year old and an eight year old.
The eight year old, you know, she she’s doing well. School is still pretty straightforward.
But with my fourteen year old, she’s moving into the 9th grade. Grades are even more important.
We’re talking about the PSATs and stuff.
I am trying to serve her in being responsible and organized and staying on top of her grades, even though I can’t really help her.
With her homework or anything else. I feel like this is one of the most stressful parts of parenting.
Um, and honestly, because traumatic for me.
I’m ready to just, like, log off and tell her I earned my stripes.
You gotta earn yours too, but you are encouraging parents. To be more engaged.
Can we talk about that a little bit?
Yeah. Absolutely. So I love that you called it the trauma stage of life because been there, done that.
And I think every parent at some point, Sarah, feels like, am I going back to school here? We’re parents.
We love our kids. We want to do the best for them and make sure they have the best opportunities.
Um, but it’s tough. Like, I remember when my kids were in 5th grade, I was like, new math Like, what is this new, but I do not get it.
I cannot. Um, but we also know that for our kids to be successful, we need to make that happen for them.
And so one of the things that I, uh, really connected with when I started working with Learning Heroes was, first of all, just that name.
Like, I wanted to be my child’s learning hero. I wanted to put on a cape and make it happen.
And really what parents need to know is we are a very important part of that process.
We’re not the teachers. We’re not in the classroom.
But it’s part of our role and part of our job to connect with the teachers.
So we’re in silos sometimes all at home trying to figure out, you know, how do I help with this homework?
What’s going on with these grades? I don’t necessarily understand the curriculum.
And I think the key here is for us to make that connection with the teacher and ask those very transparent questions starting with how is my child?
A lot of times, we’ll say how is my child doing very generically.
But I think the better question to ask is, is my child on grade level?
Being a little bit more specific than prompts the teacher to say, well, your child may be doing well. Right?
They work really hard. Or I see they’re turning in their homework, but they may still not be on grade level, and we see that with a lot of children.
So that then opens a better conversation about where should my child be and how can I help?
I have to tell you that I believe that part of some of the stress that we experience as parents is just feeling inadequate and being able to properly take care of our children, whether it’s edgy patientally, financially, emotionally, and to have to take care of ourselves as well.
Do you think that part of the reason why we see parents, myself included, listen, I’m not the pot calling the kettle black, often disengaging is that we’re so overwhelmed and nervous that if our teachers tell us, hey.
They’re not on grade level, or this is what it’s gonna take that we may not be able to serve them.
Like, what tools are available to us if we find out, hey.
They are struggling, but oftentimes we feel like there’s nothing I can really do about Yeah.
I think you’re right, Sara. We are working. We’re trying to put food on this table, literally. Right?
Get the kids in bed. We’re trying to manage bills. We’re trying to manage our own careers.
Sometimes, you know, I was the mom who was very involved in the community. So maybe we’re trying to do.
There’s a lot happening. So a lot of times we feel like it’s just me. Right? It’s on me.
And I don’t wanna fail my child. I think that’s what’s at the at the foundation of that.
Um, there is help out there, though. Remember, teachers are professionals. They are trained to help our children.
But they know a lot of children really well. We know one child very well.
And so it really takes both I think opening that line of communication starts to relieve some of that stress.
One thing I used to hear from teachers, I was the the parent advocate in my school for many years.
And one of the things that I often heard from teachers is when we know a parent cares, we will work with that parent.
So Wow. They want to know they really just want us to open the door often times.
Um, you know, teachers, especially in the last few years, have had such a challenging situation.
Um, sometimes they have parents who are, as you said, stressed. Sometimes they get phones hung up on them.
They really just wanna know that we are opening the door.
I love it. So you are described as an advocate for equity and family engagement, training parents, how to speak up for their child and support learning, which I know is so important, especially for parents who are marginalized either by race or socioeconomic status.
And this level of advocacy is required in order for our children to get the attention they need.
Oftentimes, our children are deemed problem children, or maybe they’re seen as divisive within the classroom, but actually what they’re asking for is help and support in meeting them in the way that they learn And there are tools and plans.
I’ll never forget that one of our children was, uh, showing signs.
Uh, we write a public school, and they were showing signs of just not being able to keep up.
And I think my biggest fear was, like, they’re gonna be held back.
And if they’re held back here, then that’s gonna follow them.
And I was surprised to learn that there were so many interventions available for my child, but I had to be willing to have conversations with people who knew what they were talking about You’re part of an organization called learning heroes.
Can you tell me a little bit about learning heroes and how it can help these parents to become more engaged about the resources that are available to them?
Yeah. Absolutely. So we work directly with parents. We also work directly with school districts.
A lot of times, uh, a really important buzzword right now is family engagement.
Every educator, every school district, is talking about it. But what we do is help them do it effectively.
So we’re helping the educators reach out to parents were also giving parents tools.
Look, the first time I connected with learning heroes was because of my child.
I wanted to have a conversation with the teacher and I didn’t really know what that conversation should look like.
And we have ready to go tools, ready made tools.
So, for example, the parent teacher conference, It usually only happens once a year.
It’s about 2 months into the school year.
And then after that, it’s kind of, uh, if something’s wrong, they’ll reach out.
That’s not really how we want that relationship to go.
So we have tools that walk you through how to prepare for that conversation.
What types of questions to ask.
It’s important that we ask the right question, um, as part of that conversation.
What about the gap during breaks and summer break.
One of the things that we’re really particularly concerned about now is summer learning, especially after the pandemic, as you said, it really shone a light on inequities that were already there in many of our, uh, marginalized communities for many of our children What can we as parents do to make sure that our kids don’t lose steam, so to speak, between May August or September?
There are a lot of resources out there. Many of them are free.
Many of them are offered through schools or community organizations.
And oftentimes, it’s the teacher who can sit me down as a parent and say, this is specifically where I’m seeing your child needs some help and some support, and they know what those resources are in the community.
So it’s not always writing a big fat check to a tutor, nothing tutors. I’ve used them.
They’re great, but everybody does not have the capacity or the time.
Right? I was working overnight when my kids went to a tutor. So I was home in the afternoon.
I could drive them to the tutor, but everybody doesn’t have that, um, opportunity.
So teachers could really point you in the right direction.
Number 1 of what your child needs and where to find that sometimes at no cost at all.
Uh, businesses, community groups, they now get they need to invest in education because we are educating their future workers.
So there are a lot of businesses out there that are investing in these tools to help kids.
Um, and teachers to me, I have found are really the start to find out where that information is.
Look, I I I know that, um, as a woman of face, Sarah, and I am as well, I often think about um, being my child’s first teacher, right, teaching them, by the way, teaching them in the morning, teaching them, we are called to be our children’s first teacher.
And so as a family advocate and a parent advocate, the way I really often look at this is we have a place in education.
And I think that is really the thing that I’ve enjoyed empowering parents to understand that it’s not about just, you know, we don’t just send our kids to church and expect them to come back holy.
Right? There there’s a group that has to be done at home.
To reinforce that, to reinforce what they learned in Sunday school or or what they heard.
It’s the same thing with school. We can’t just send them to school and expect them to come back smart.
So there’s work on our side as parents to support that.
And and while it may feel overwhelming with all the other things that we’re doing, It’s part of our calling and their resources there to help us do it.
So my boys were seniors during pandemic, and my youngest was just beginning kindergarten. Right.
And we had a homeschool teacher who was supporting us throughout the pandemic, but when I look at the stats, when I look at what’s happening globally with education and even with artificial intelligence, I think that it would be such a mistake for us to not look at the implications having hands on teaching could have done to the opportunities for our children and then how AI is going to significantly change the workforce, you know, education, making sure that they have a shore foundation as it relates to education may be you know, some of the only weapons that we have easily available to us as we seek to really establish financial wholeness and wellness.
And in social wholeness and wellness for our family, as we recognize that opportunities or lack thereof create such a divide in our ability to experience, you know, peace, wholeness, hope, and joy as opposed to the depression and anxiety and frustrations that can come from having lack of opportunity do you think that, um, my parents were big advocates for education?
Do you think that we are still seeing that level passion as it relates to being advocates for education within our communities.
And if not, how do we get to a place where we can restore that?
Yeah. That’s really good question because like you I mean, I feel, and I have always felt with my kids.
Education is a gift. This is a gift. This is a lifelong gift. That we give our children.
It opens doors for them. It allows them to, um, experience things now and later in life in terms of their career in terms of how they can provide for their families.
Um, this is something that I want my children to have.
I have 3 children and 2 grandchildren, and they have all had different journeys with education, our oldest, um, started college.
It wasn’t you know, she struggled through high school. She started college. It wasn’t for her.
She’s now in her thirties and she’s going back and she has that self motivation.
To go back and and earn a degree.
Our middle daughter, um, just finished a 2 year degree in 4 years. She had some learning challenges. Wow.
And she had to just keep in our you know, again, the parents’ job is motivators.
We had to just keep telling her just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
You will get there. We have a son now who’s in college, and I really want him to put one foot in front of the other.
That’s the last one. Like, we were like, if we can get through this home, we’re good.
And now I’m thinking about my grandchildren. You know, there there’s 11. They’re just starting this journey.
Um, and and so speaking to what you were talking about, it’s a journey. It’s a lifelong journey.
To me, education and a lifelong journey. I had mine. I supported my kids.
I’m now trying to support my grad I just joined the PTA at my grandson’s school.
Because I wanna be there for him. Right?
Um, but you in the last couple of years, we have seen that motivation way.
Look, I I was the same mom as you. My son was a senior.
My daughter had just started college, um, when the pandemic hit, and I saw I saw the light fall from their eyes because it was so much harder to attain what we were telling them you, you know, you need to do well in school.
You need to focus. But, you know, the mental health challenges, I mean, they were just alone.
These are young people. Right? You and I are more mature.
Like, we can navigate that differently, but they were in these little silos all over the place.
And I think there’s a long term impact of that.
I see it with my kids and many others as well.
I totally agree. I I got so much inspiration when you talked about your daughter who, uh, just completed her 2 year program because my son is 21 now.
He was a senior during the pandemic when he got finished through the pandemic.
He was like, I’ll never pick up a textbook again.
And then now he’s finally just coming back around to the idea of You know what?
I think that, um, I’m ready to come out of that state of trauma.
He’s seeking to go back to school.
And so even encouraging him to share some of his past experiences and past anxieties as it relates to school so that he can move into the career field that he has found interest in.
Has been a beautiful journey, but I’ve been telling him just like I’m sure you’ve, you know, you’ve been telling your children, like, it’s gonna take, like, one class, one lesson, at a time.
Like, we don’t have to do what everyone else has done in order for you to achieve some of those goals.
All that matters is that you’re trying And I feel like the goal of learning heroes, uh, for those of us who are in this parenting stage, is for us to come to a place where we no longer feel victimized by our educational experience so that we can actively engage and porting our children in a way that they get to benefit from the lessons that we learned and that we are currently learning.
Yeah. And that’s why we call the campaign go beyond grades.
We focus so much sometimes on grades, but one of the key points of our campaign is that grades don’t tell us the whole story.
And our research over almost a a decade now has shown us that grades, you know, your child brings home in a or b.
We found that ninety percent of parents think that, okay, the kid brings home an A or B, A’s and B’s, they’re doing great.
But those A’s and B’s reflect things other than educational achievement.
If your child is trying really hard, even if they’re not meeting the mark Yeah. That’s reflected.
And that’s a good thing. Right? If they’re diligent. If they’re responsible, they’re turning in their homework.
They’re raising their hand. They’re participating in class. Doesn’t always mean they’re getting it.
And so that’s why we really have to go beyond grades and have those conversations.
But I love what you said about your son. It does remind me a lot of my daughter.
Um, she at one point realized that she, because of her learning challenges, could not handle 4 classes at a time.
That’s pretty standard in
So we just wanna slow down. Like, take 2.
Take 3. Yeah. Do what you need to do to keep moving forward.
Um, I I I was a high achiever in school, and sometimes our experiences set the bar for our kids.
And we also have to realize they are different people. My kids are very different than me.
I love them dearly, but they’re different learners than I am.
And so this was really a fake journey for me.
I had to pray to figure out how to learn who my kids are and how they learn and then how I can support them and meet them where they are without imposing my experiences on them.
You know, for some, some people I love that first word you used.
Like, some people were traumatized by school, literally. They don’t wanna walk they don’t wanna be the parent advocate.
They don’t wanna walk back in school ever.
For real. Yes.
Like, you’re just like, that did not work for me.
I don’t want to be there, but they realized that their kids need them part of that journey.
And so sometimes it’s a journey for us too.
You know, we talk a lot about breaking generational curses, and I think we consider some of the issues that have plagued our families, but I don’t think that there is, a generational curse more honorable than not just choosing what we want to break, but what we want to introduce.
And as it relates to family engagement.
I want us to consider what do we want to introduce to our children as it relates to being there, supporting them, understanding who they are, advocating for them, and maybe the ways we weren’t advocating for.
And this is just a unique opportunity to say, you know what?
I’m gonna grab my cape, even though I needed rescuing at one point, and I’m going to get into my child’s world and figure out what’s the best way to help them navigate it.
Some of the greatest gifts that we can give our children are not sitting on the shelves at stores.
It’s not something that we get as a result of our bank account.
It’s how we choose to show up for them.
And help them to see that you are not facing this on your own.
I see you, and I’m gonna make sure the world sees you and makes space for you.
I I just can’t imagine what would be more liberating than that.
Yeah. And and I love how you put it, like, grabbing that cape and being there and just showing up.
And it doesn’t mean we have to have all of the ants It doesn’t mean that I have to completely understand how to help.
There were lots of times I didn’t understand how to help my child.
My my poor daughter um, and I cried through homework so many times until I realized that she was a different kind of learner.
Than I was. And it actually ended up being my husband who was very similar to her, who could help her a lot more.
But just being there, like, I don’t know about you, but I remember many times at school concerts, um, my son was in band when he was in high school, um, award ceremonies, all kinds of events, just seeing my child turn around, just doing it.
Are they there? Right? Mom is like, oh, okay. Everything’s gonna be okay. Just showing up matters.
It matters so much. We don’t have to have all the answers.
You know, our our kids, sometimes my kids, even now, they’re in their twenties, and they’ll come to me, oh, mom, you know, everything.
Can you tell me this? I’m like, oh, please stop there. I do not.
I do
not know everything, but they just wanna know that we are going to be there for them.
And educational support is part of that. Right?
We have to be there for them in so many different ways. You have kids. You have 6 kids, Sarah?
So you
We’re a blended family, but there are 6 of them.
We’re a blend we’re a blended family as well, so I get that.
But there are, you know, 6 souls of different ages Yeah.
That that at some point, um, need that wisdom that there in our head or that faith that’s there in our heart.
And sometimes we have to dig deep and think about who we are in order to give them what they need.
So that’s why it, to me, it’s like we’re on a journey along with them. Sometimes, but that’s all good.
That’s all good.
Absolutely. Well, I wanna thank you for the work that you’re doing.
Uh, I love a good challenge, but this doesn’t even feel like a challenge.
It just feels like someone’s grabbing your hand and laying the path out for you.
Griffle for the work that you’re doing and for the ways that we get to glean from it.
So thank you for your time and having this conversation.
Thank you so much. It’s been great talking to you.
I get encouragement, um, seeing other parents like you, um, who have a platform and a voice and are using it in a way to inspire other people.
So I appreciate you having the conversation with me today.

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