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 for more resources, including summer learning opportunities! Twitter/X: @BeALearningHero Facebook: @Learning Heroes Instagram: @Learning.Heroes LinkedIn: @Learning Heroes (US) TikTok: @Learning.Heroes


okay Tracy so I am uh I’m a blended

family we have six children total I am

in the you know trauma stages as I like

to call them of raising a

14-year-old and an 8-year-old the

8-year-old you know she she’s doing well

school is still pretty straightforward

but with my 14-year-old she’s moving

into the ninth grade 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

it’s traumatic for me I’m ready to just

like log off and tell her I earned my

stripes you got to 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 fifth grade I was like new math

like what is this new Ma 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

then 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 in being able to properly

take care of our children whether it’s

educationally financially emot tionally

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

going to 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 often times we feel like

there’s nothing I can really do about it

yeah I think you’re right Sarah we are

working we’re trying to put food on the

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 want to 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

want to 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 often times 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 learned and there are

tools and plans I’ll never forget that

one of our children was uh showing signs

uh we were at 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 going to be held

back and if they’re held back here then

that’s going to 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 we’re

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 readymade tools

so for example the parent teacher

conference it usually only happens once

a year it’s about two months into the

school year and then after that it’s

kind of oh 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 gaps

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 shown 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 and 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 need some

help and some support and they know what

those re sources are in the community so

it’s not always writing a big fat check

to a tutor nothing against tutors I’ve

used them they’re great but everybody

does not have the capacity or the time

yeah right I was working overnights 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 can really point

you in the right direction number one of

what your child needs and where to find

that sometimes at no cost at all uh

businesses Community groups they now get

it 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 Faith

Sarah and I am as well I often think

about um 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’s work 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 the pandemic and my youngest was

just beginning

kindergarten and we had a homes school

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 of what those

two years of not having handson teaching

could have done to the opportunities for

our children children and then how AI is

going to significantly change the

workforce you know education making sure

that they have a sure 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 emotional wholeness and

wellness for our family as we recognize

that opportunities or lack thereof creat

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 opportunities do you

think that um my parents were big

advocates for education do you think

that we are still seeing that level of

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 a 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

three children and two grandchildren and

they have all had different Journeys

with educ 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 30s and she’s going back and

she has that self- motivation um to go

back and and earn a degree our middle

daughter um just finished a two-year

degree in four years she had some

learning challenges and she had to just

keep and our job you know again the

parents job as 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 we’re

like if we can get through this one

we’re good and now I’m thinking about my

grandchildren you know they’re they 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 is a

lifelong journey I had m

I supported my kids I’m now trying to

support my I just joined the PTA at my

grandson’s school because I want to be

there for him right um yeah but you in

the last couple of years we have seen

that motivation Wayne 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

middle daughter who uh just completed

her two-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 now he’s finally

just coming back around to the idea of

you know what I think that I’m 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 shed some of his past

experiences and past anxiety ities 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 going to 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 come to a place where we

no longer feel victimized by our

educational experience so that we can

actively engage in supporting 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 decade now has shown us that

grades you know your child brings home

an A or B we found that 90% of parents

think that okay the kid brings home an A

or a 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 does

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

four classes at a time that’s pretty

standard in common yeah so we just put

her slow down like take two yeah take

three 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 faith 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 want to

walk they don’t want to be the parent

advocate they don’t want to walk back in

a school ever for real yeah like you’re

just like that did not work for me I

don’t want to be there but they realize

that their kids need them as 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 uh

consider some of the issues that have

plagued our families but I don’t think

that there is um 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 advocated for and this is

just a unique opportunity to say you

know what I’m going to 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 going to

make sure the world sees you and make

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 answers 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

uh 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 are they there

right Mama is there okay everything’s

going to 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 20s and they’ll come to me oh Mom

you know everything can you tell me this

I’m like oh please stop right there I do

not do not know everything but they just

want to 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 and so many different

ways you have kids you have six kids

Sarah I so you we’re a blended family

but there are six of them we are we’re a

blended family as well so I get that but

there are you know six Souls of

different ages that that at some point

um need that wisdom that’s 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

want to 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 I’m grateful 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 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