If parents watched math tests like they watch sports

Photo by A Healthier Michigan

I’ve been watching kids sports for 12 years now and I’ve seem some crazy behavior from parents. Every once in a while, I wonder if there’s some way to channel all this extra energy and support into academics.

What if parents followed their kids’ math tests like they follow their kids’ football games?

Whenever I mention this possibility at a game, parents give me a blank look. No one laughs, no one explores the idea, they just look at me like I don’t get it. Which obviously I don’t.

Most parents cheer on their kids during games. I’ve seen them cheer on base hits, yell with delight when they catch the ball, support their kids after heart breaking poor plays, hug them after falls, cheer them on during new accomplishments, celebrate wins, pay for extra coaching and spend time practicing with them.

Some times the support is not so positive. I’ve listened to parents yell non-stop at their kids. “RUN. RUN. RUN. THROW IT! DON’T DROP IT. SLIDE!” (I always wonder why the parents just don’t play themselves.) I’ve seen them chew their kids out after the game for bad plays. My favorite was the dad yelling “LOOK LIKE YOU’RE HAVING SOME FUN OUT THERE!”

But what is clear through this all is that parents really, really want their kids to do well in sports and they are willing to spend hours each week driving them to practices, watching them play and giving them advice.

Sports are typically events with an audience

I think it’s great parents support their kids and I understand that team sports are about entertainment. That typically sports games have an audience. And that the audience enjoys watching the game and cheers on their team. However, the experience changes drastically when the audience member has a vested interest in single player’s success. When they feel they are responsible for that player’s success. Suddenly it’s not hoping your team wins but it’s doing everything possible from the stands to make sure your player wins. And to make sure your player does not lose. And since you aren’t playing the game, you reduced to encouraging and yelling. And paying for extra coaching afterwards.

What if we followed our kids’ school achievements with that same amount of energy? What if we spent hours watching our kids practice and compete in English essays and Geometry tests? What if we stood over their shoulder during tests and yelled “Great sentence structure! Love that adjective!” and “No! No! No! That’s not a division problem. Add! Add! Add!”

I’m sure it would help our kids do better in school, don’t you?

Originally published on Medium.