by Jaki Thomas
This is the time of year when the sad truth of your kid’s grades come to light. In the event that you have bad news, here are some things to not say when you arrive at your child’s school:
1. S/he’s always been a good student before this.
We do have access to your child’s previous grades, so we know whether or not this is actually true. If your child has one bad grade, it may be an issue with the teacher or that subject. If they failed everything (and failing 4 or more classes, to me, counts in the everything department), the problem is with your child. Either they really know nothing, they’re going through something, or they need immediate disciplinary intervention. Figure it out, and start working on solutions.
2. I had no idea his/her grades were so bad.
This is a sad statement that says a lot more about you than the kid or the school. You surely have electronic access to grades, whether you check them or not (and most electronic grading systems allow the school to see just how often you log in, so don’t tell the tale that you check every week if you don’t). Report card/progress report pick up are so you can avoid being surprised about the grades. Yes, the teacher should call you. But in the scheme of things, you have fewer children than the teacher has students. Take ownership of your child’s education. Lil Johnny and Susie know if they’re passing or failing; in fact, they know better than anybody. I guarantee it. So even if the teacher only called once or twice, it’s still you and your kid’s job to stay on top of those grades.
3. I think maybe s/he just doesn’t like this school.
That may very well be true, but you are in a position to do something about that. The school is not. If your child hates their school, you aren’t just finding out with the grades at the end of the school year. And that’s something you need to work out at home.
4. Can I get all the work my child missed so s/he can make it up?
Um. No. We certainly cannot bury your child’s teachers in all the work your kid has CHOSEN not to do during the semester so s/he doesn’t have to reap the consequences s/he has earned. I don’t know about other teachers, but that sounds like a punishment for the teacher, not the child. The teacher has to find, put together, and compile this missing work that your child is going to half do because they never wanted to do in the first place (that’s why it wasn’t turned in), and then the teacher has to grade that mess. Multiply that by 5-15, which in high school is a small number of students who failed a subject for failure to do the work in the first place. Um no.
5. Do you have some extra credit my kid can do to raise his/her grade?
This is very much like #4. The teacher has to come up with something that equals the rigor and skills of multiple assignments and will astronomically raise your child from failing to passing. In most cases, students aren’t failing from missing or failing one assignment; it’s a combination of many assignments over time. So what you’re basically asking for is magic miracle work that will do in one assignment what the child should have done over the course of several months. Either this assignment will be so involved and hard that you and your kid will think the teacher has lost it OR it won’t be nearly as comprehensive as it should be to be worth the amount of points your child likely needs. And you’re asking this poor teacher to create it and grade it on the off chance that your child even bothers doing it.
6. I think you just don’t like my kid.
Even if that’s true, grades don’t lie. There is no assignment in my grade book for personality or “Ms. Thomas don’t like you.” These are the numbers. And if you tell this to the wrong (or right, depending on how you look at it) teacher, they’ll have documentation on every time your kid was sleeping in class, failed to do work, spent the period talking, etc. That stuff is documented in my *electronic grade book* so it’s not even a secret from you. It’s the comment attached to the grade.
7. S/he says you lost the work but s/he did it.
Lost enough work to fail the class?! Even you can’t believe that. It just sounds crazy. More to the point, it sounds like a lie, which it likely is. Work that is turned in on time is rarely lost, and when it is, it isn’t lost alone. It’s lost with that same assignment for very nearly all of the students in the class because they were together. Now…if your child is turning work in late, then yes, it’s possible that that late assignment was lost (I won’t go into how turning work in late is your child’s fault or tell you that I have little sympathy for students whose *late* work managed to sprout legs and walk away; realistically, I tend to think “lost work” is work the student didn’t do that they are hoping we all believe somehow got lost). However, how much work could your child have turned in late *and* how much of that has to come up missing for your child to be failing?
8. What can we do now?
Now? It’s the end of May. Chances are good that if the F is low enough, there is nothing you can do NOW. If they’re within points of passing, they should do well on everything from now to the end of the year. This includes finals. Do well on all of that, and pray for the miracle. It may happen if your kid pulls it together. But if your kid’s percentage is in the 30s, 40s, and low 50s, sign up for summer school or online credit recovery and encourage your kid to keep a low profile in that class until the end of the year. Disturbing the class because they have realized they can’t possibly pass will lead to disciplinary issues that may make your kid fail other classes. No one wants that.
If you’re honestly considering saying any of this on your trip to save your child’s grade, please save your energy and devote it to making your child into a better student. At the end of the day, the goal of school is to teach your child skills that they’ll use for the rest of their lives. The question you have to ask yourself is what lesson you want to teach them. They can either learn to accept the consequences of their choices or they can learn to shirk their responsibilities and make excuses for their bad choices. Whatever you’re teaching is what they will use for a lifetime, so choose wisely.by