This week is the moment of truth for students. They should be receiving grades in many of their classes.
I suggest you ask them what specific grades they have received. Don’t let them tell you they have a letter grade. Ask for the specific score. Often students will give their own interpretation of what a score translates to with respect to a letter grade. Often their interpretation is wrong.
Here is my general counsel on grades. A test score in the 60-70 range can be recovered. In most classes, students have grade components other than tests which can help bring up their grades. In some classes, students may be able to do a substitute for a bad test grade, so the impact of one bad grade may not be as bad. In order to take advantage of the test grade improvement, students can not miss classes. Grades below 60% will require considerable work to increase, but there are a lot of resources for students. The key is not to let students get discouraged.
You should encourage your student to do their own analysis of their grade. The syllabus gives guidance on how to calculate grades. Federal privacy laws limit what a university can report on grades.
My best advice to you is to temper your response to bad grades. The best response is one of calm reason but with the insistence that they seek out help. Excessive criticism will probably do more harm than good.
Often, you will see football players hold up 4 fingers indicating their focus on winning the 4th quarter. For our students, the 2nd and 3rd quarters are the one’s they need to win. These 2nd and 3rd quarters are the next eight weeks ahead of us.
We have just gone through the first quarter of the semester. And now we have a long time until the Thanksgiving break. Our students will get very tired in the weeks to come. Some will get discouraged. Others will want to quit.
If you sense, your student is struggling, please have him/her make an appointment to see an advisor or student support office. Often they lose a sense of what they have accomplished so far in their life, and what they need to do now to move on to the next level of accomplishments.
These past 5 weeks have been amazing period of growth for students. They are different now: much more serious, much more understanding of their responsibility, and much more thinking about their future. I don’t think they see their own growth, but I hope that you recognize the changes they have made.
Let me close with the story of Mike. Mike had a disastrous first semester. Over the semester break, I received a call from his father Ted. Ted was very unhappy, and he went on a five minute rant before I could get in a word.
When I finally could say something, my response to Ted was this: “Ted, your son Mike did the same thing you did when I taught you.” (I find that parents have very selective memories of their own development as adults.) Ted calmed down and we discussed how I could help Mike.
I met with Mike every Friday at Noon for the entire second semester. We would review his grades and how he was doing. That semester Mike had a 3.00 GPA, and from that point on he did well. Some 15 years later, I got this email.
“Jack, I want to share with you some good news about Mike. He was just promoted to Vice President ”
“I remember our phone call after Mike’s first semester in college. I was ready to give up on him. But you never waivered in your belief that he would turn out well. You were right. Thank you for your faith in Mike.”
You may be thinking that Mike is a rare case. But I’ve taught over 300 students who are Vice President or higher. There is absolutely no correlation between their career success and how they started in college. I think that the only real indicator of eventual career success is how they handled the challenge.
Last fall when I reviewed the grade reports, one stood out. Travis had failed the first test in every class. He made an appointment to see me. We discussed his grades and what he needed to do. None of what I recommended was tough to do. But it was very specific, and it was very structured advice. I also asked Travis to give me a weekly report on his grades and his approach to studying. I call this a discipline diary. Every week he would give me his diary in class. You could tell by the smile on his face that things were really turning around for him. You wouldn’t believe the change in grades either. He converted his failing grades to B’s and C’s with a few A’s. What was the difference? It was a lot of things, but my experience tells me you have to find the “right button” for each student. Finding the “right button” is not something you can teach others. It just comes from 1000’s of interactions with students.
Often I am the last person to give up on a student. Students just need some time and steady, but assertive support to realize their potential. I’m glad I could help Mike and Travis.