In defense of the parent portal, which can be helpful in many ways

In defense of the parent portal, which can be helpful in many ways

The parent portal is the website that allows parents to monitor their child's grades and stay abreast of other developments at school.

Not all parents like it. I get it. The parent portal is far from perfect. But I'm going to go against the grain with a radical* declaration: I like the parent portal.

It gives me a peek into one part of my teen's world and gives me insight into her academic work. My girl is a high school freshmen. School is her job. I use the parent portal as a way of keeping tabs on job performance and as a way of seeing if she needs additional help in any specific areas so that she can do the best job possible.

Do I use the parent portal to obsess over her grades? No.

Do I use it as a substitute for asking my high schooler how her day was or how her classes are going? Not a chance.

Do I use it to helicopter her and bother her teachers? Nope (Although I confess that I have at times used the links to teacher emails in the portal to send a quick note of thanks.)

Do I freak out when I see a poor grade or a missing assignment? Nope. She's a teenager, and I expect those on occasion. In fact, I think they can be wonderful opportunity to learn and improve.

Just because the parent portal exists, and that I access it, does not mean that I don't see value in letting my child struggle.

Is it susceptible to overuse? Yup. But that's on the parents who choose to use it that way. Just because some people misuse something doesn't automatically make it bad.

It's true that parent portals can make helicopter parenting easier, but parents could helicopter long before there were portals. And portal usage does not automatically equal helicoptering.

Let's stop making assumptions about other parents. Hate the portal? Don't use it. But just because it isn't your favorite doesn't mean that isn't not a valuable tool for others. There are several ways the parent portal can be helpful.

For parents who share custody, it can be a great source of information that is neutral and reliable, and ensures that all parents have the same info at the same time.

If you have a child who is forgetful, or a kid who tends to gloss over a poor test grade or grades (or who has been known to lie about grades), or just a moody teen who doesn't feel like talking on a certain day, the portal can be a helpful way to start conversation.

It's possible and even quite likely that the conversation will be about what that child's plan is for a certain class, or how a kid can advocate for herself or himself with the teacher. Or it could even be to praise a kid for a job well done and offer up some positive reinforcement and share your parental pride with them.

Seeing a string of good grades may help parents identify their child's skill or aptitude in a certain area of which they were previously unaware, and that can give some guidance in terms of helping kids develop those interests and exploring colleges and careers.

Everyone makes mistakes on occasion, even teachers. They are amazing, and they are human. My daughter has caught a few errors in recorded grades, and could get them fixed. I was surprised when she seemed hesitant to do so. She didn't want to offend her teacher. The parent portal was a great conversation starter about the importance of self-advocacy, as well as how to politely ask a person in a position of authority to correct an error (and that it's perfectly acceptable to do so).

It makes it easier to spot trends when you can see performance over a longer period of time. It also gives kids and parents time to catch a problem while it is still something a student can fix.

The parent portal can also be a way for parents to notice problems that go beyond grades. "Poor school performance or frequent absences from school"are signs of teen depression, according to the Mayo Clinic. They can also be signs of other issues that kids are incapable of addressing on their own. Using a parent portal to see attendance issues as well as changes in grades over time could be hugely important for identifying that a child needs help.

There are pros and cons to almost everything in life, and that includes the parent portal. If you don't want to use the parent portal, don't. But if it makes parenting easier and helpful people help their kids in healthy ways, then I'm all for it.

* Okay, maybe this isn't radical, but I have heard from people who feel very strongly.

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Filed under: Parenting, Technology

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