My daughter Abbey is a good student. Her teachers tell me that she gets her work done on time, is a respected role model in the classroom and demonstrates great work habits. By the way, Abbey is in Grade 3.
Last term she came home with a math test in her blue assessment folder for me to review and sign off on (like it’s some kind of legal contract or something). I was shocked to discover that Abbey got a C on this particular math assessment. She knew when the test was scheduled and had spent time reviewing the content the two evenings beforehand without issue. Abbey usually gets A’s in math and has never scored lower than a B on any assessment or report card so I was a little taken aback with this result.
I could feel Abbey’s eyes on me as I opened the blue folder. She’s mature enough to understand the difference between an A and a C grade and she knows her dad and I expect good results. Our eyes only met for a moment before hers dropped.
“What happened?”, I asked.
“I don’t know”, she answered.
Abbey’s experience is no different than the experience of scores other students since the beginning of time. Abbey is not the first, and will not be the last, to be disappointed in a test result.
As a parent (and a teacher), I knew that this uncomfortable situation provided the basis for a great learning moment. I wanted my daughter to know that disappointments, mistakes, oversights and boo boos happen all the time but it’s ok under one condition:
YOU LEARN SOMETHING.
The great part about this experience is not only did my daughter takeaway some great lessons, I was reminded of what students go through when they receive a less than desirable grade.
- It’s ok to feel crummy when you don’t perform to your potential. Go ahead and have your pity party, feel bad for a bit and then let it go (she loved me belting out the hit Frozen tune).
- It’s just one test in a series of tests that you will take over the rest of your life. Yes, it matters, but there will be loads opportunities to showcase your brilliance.
- Take time to figure out what happened. Did you perform poorly because you didn’t have the time or take the time to learn the content? Maybe it was because you didn’t manage your time wisely during the actual test. In Abbey’s case, she didn’t read the questions carefully or ask the teacher for clarification when needed.
- My students really do feel crummy when they get a bad grade. It hurts even worse when they know they could have done better.
- It takes time to rebound. I shouldn’t expect my students to spring into my next class all bright and eager when they’re just not there yet.
- It might take someone, ahemmmm, me, to help my students put it all in perspective and remind them that the point of this educational experience is to learn content, process, resilience, self-awareness, study skills, self-reflection, listening, writing, communication, and on and on.
Life, and school, would be pretty boring if we had all the answers all the time. According to Richard Branson “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” Go on now and pick up some band aids.