Stop Checking the Parent Portal For Your Kid's School

It's Okay Not To Check The Parent Portal Every Week!

Okay, Parents, Hear Me Out

Before I founded The Social U, I was an educator.

I started teaching high school in the early 1990's before schools embraced the internet.  I was the first teacher in my school to share an email address (my personal email, not a school email address - we didn't have them back then) with parents so they could easily reach me during the school day.  I embraced technology and couldn't wait to share it with my students and their parents.

I took some time off from teaching after my kids were born and during that time, technology  use in schools exploded.  Every teacher suddenly had an email address, used technology in the classroom and required the use of it for homework assignments.  I watched my children use technology at school in ways I had never imagined and it thrilled me.

It thrilled me that is, until I met the school's parent portal.  From a parent's perspective, at first it seemed like a fabulous idea.  I could log into the system any time I wanted and see my kids' attendance records, learn what they had for lunch in the school cafeteria, and see the grades they got on all their assignments and tests. When they first gave us access, my kids were in middle school and I looked online a few days a week, just to "keep on top of everything," I told myself.  As time went on, I started looking more and more and then began bringing up what I saw online to my kids at the dinner table:  "So, I saw you got 3 points off on your history assignment, what went wrong?" I'd ask or "Why do you have an F on your science report? You told me you were working hard on it.".

It got to where I became a bit obsessed with following my kids' every move at school online.  Once they got to high school and I went back to teaching high school history myself, I stopped logging into the parent portal.


I realized a few things:

  • It sometimes takes a few days for teachers to get assignments graded so they often log the assignment into the system and start entering scores as they grade but often don't hit the "public view" button until all the kids' assignments are graded. Sometimes when teachers do that, parent portals display the grade as a zero.  When parents see this, they assume the child failed as opposed to considering that grades haven't been entered or haven't been publicly released and take it out on their kids or call the teacher & demand to know about the "failing" grade.  (FYI - as a high school AP teacher, my policy was not to talk to parents until students talked to me first - this is a lesson all high school students need to learn.  You don't want your kid to be the one in college whose mommy tries calling the professor because her baby didn't understand why they got the grade they did - and YES, this happens more often than you'd think these days.)
  • Parent portals can give parents the wrong idea about how the child is actually performing in a class.  All parents see are points or percentages from assignments without understanding how those numbers fit into a student's quarter or semester grade.  Many teachers weight  assignments differently or count participation in class as an integral part of a student's grade.  These items aren't usually reflected in the parent portal.
  • Parents are way too involved in their kids' academic lives, often micromanaging every single step they make from kindergarten through college which is very easy to do from the school's parent portal.  While I fully support parents helping to guide their children, I believe (as both a parent of current college students and as an educator) that the snowplow parenting* being practiced today isn't helping our kids, it's harming them.
  • We need to allow our kids to fail on their own in order to allow them learn how to succeed and to appreciate their success comes from their own accomplishments.  When we constantly check the parent portal, we don't empower kids to take responsibility for themselves and their schoolwork.  We rob kids of the chance to learn how to be accountable and instead teach them that mom or dad will always check on them to make sure they are doing everything they need to do.

So, does that mean I think parents shouldn't check the portal at all?  No.  It's okay to check once in a while, just don't make it part of your everyday routine.  Try asking your child about what's going on at school before you cyber-stalk.  If you get nothing from your kid, then check-up on them, but don't let their academic lives overtake your life.  It helps to remember that while raising children is the most important job a parent will ever have, your child's school grades are not a reflection of you as a parent, they are a reflection of your child.

*Snowplow parenting refers to parents plowing the road so it's clear of anything detrimental that might be in their way.

Julie Fisher, M.Ed., is the founder of The Social U and consults with schools, organizations and individuals through the MJ Fisher Group.  

Twitter: @Julz Fisher, @the_social_u