When Bad Report Cards Happen to Good Kids

Written By: Rachel Strong
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It's mid-term season once again, and semester (or quarter or trimester) grades will be coming out in the next few months. Some students are happy to come home during this time, eager to show their parents the small slip of paper. Other students drag their feet or always try to be the first to get the mail. So what should we do when our students bring home a less-than-perfect report card?

The first thing to keep in mind is that grades are completely subjective, and cannot be used as a test of intelligence. Some people just do not do well on tests. Some people do not learn well from books. If your student falls in those categories, getting As and Bs will be difficult, if not impossible, for them.

Also, just like when we were in school, teachers have their favorites, and even though you think your kid is the greatest, his teacher may not agree. The excuse "My teacher hates me," is an indication that at least your child believes there is favoritism and it may be time to schedule a conference with the teacher to discuss your child's frustrations.

When the report card comes in, especially if your student is not eager for you to see it, make sure you do not react in anger. Your child is probably already feeling like a failure-especially if there is a big emphasis on grades in the household-she does not need this feeling reinforced by her parents. This is a time to talk to your child calmly.

Remember, bad grades are not a reflection on you, they are a reflection of how much of your student's homework she is turning in; a reflection on how much she is studying for tests, if at all. Grades are not necessarily a reflection of your student's intelligence, either. Very smart children may get bad grades simply because they are bored and do not feel it is worth it to put in the work.

When the lower grades come in, talk-calmly-with your student about that particular class. What is difficult? Is it too easy? Is he or she bored? Is it too hard? Is he or she having a hard time focusing? Is he or she having a hard time with the concepts taught in the class? Would a tutor help? Would he or she like your help with his or her homework?

Be open to what your student says. If he or she needs help, offer it-whether it is from you or from a professional. If he or she needs help focusing, maybe a trip to the optometrist is in order. Maybe it is time to test for learning disabilities. If a normally high-scoring student is suddenly getting Cs and Ds, maybe there is something else going on, and a trip to a therapist may be in order.

It is also helpful to remember that Cs may not be as bad as one may think. Not every student can set the curve on each test. No one-let alone a young child who is still learning-is perfect 100% of the time. The letter grades are broken down as follows.

A - Excellent (usually 91 - 100%)

B - Above Average (81 - 90%)

C - Average (71 - 80%)

D - Below Average (61 - 70%)

F - Not Acceptable (below 60%)

Not every student is going to be excellent. Not all students are going to fall into the "Above Average" category, either. Someone has to be below average to make average, well, average. Students need to know that it is okay to be average. While every parent wants to be able to go to work and brag about their child's grades, there is nothing to be ashamed of your student coming in at the high point of the bell curve.

When you speak with your child, make sure you emphasize how proud you are about any positive aspects (good comments from the teacher, improved grades from the previous report card) of the report card.

Please remember, if you have more than one student, the thing you absolutely do not want to do is to compare one to another. While you may be frustrated, or disappointed, or angry, resist the temptation to say to your student, "Well, your brother got all As, why can't you?". It didn't help you get better grades when you brought home a bad report card, it will not work as a motivator for your child.

And one last thing: Remember that when you graduated from college-or high school for that matter-your GPA was not printed on the diploma. Most likely, a job interview did not hinge on how well you did in your high school Calculus class. When too much of an emphasis is placed on things that will not matter in five or ten years, you may be inviting depression-or worse-into your child's life.

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