The Expectations Gap

My son started 4th grade this year.  It’s notable for me because my most vivid memories of school start about this time.

My son and I have been spending a lot of time together lately. We work on homework, read, and especially talk about the “enormous” challenges of 4th grade. Depending on the day, we spend at least 45 minutes a day doing “school stuff.”

When I was nine, there wasn’t such an opportunity. As soon as I could fling my school uniform onto the closet floor, I was out the back door and playing with my friends.

“Como te fue en la escuela?”

    “Bien!”

“Y la tarea que?”

   “No tengo! Bye!”

Of course, I was telling my mother a lie. I always had homework but chose never to do it. But then my mother was too busy cooking, cleaning, washing, and distracted to check. My father, who usually worked the night shift, slept when I got home from school so there wasn’t a good time to do “school stuff ” with him either.

Frankly, even if there was time, today it’s hard to imagine how they could’ve helped with reading and writing homework. Even at nine, I knew more about English grammar and math than they did.

I don’t blame my parents for their lack of involvement. They were too focused on managing a household. It also didn’t help that I disliked school intensely back then.

When I reflect back to my 4th grade experiences, it’s hard not to compare them to my son’s experience now.

It’s easy to see the massive gap that exists between his experience and mine: the expectations gap.

For me, the expectations gap had a cumulative effect which followed me into middle school, high school, and eventually college (there wasn’t an expectation of attending). It’s the expectations gap that exists today in many Latino families for many of the same reasons.

There is no question that parent expectations can positively impact children’s academic performance; however, our children will only rise to the challenge when it’s presented to them.

Photo: Yours Truly, 4th Grade, Our Lady of Loretto Grammar School