Fail fast, fail often, don’t let your self esteem hit you in the ass on the way out

When my older daughter was in the 7th grade, she made mostly A’s with the occasional B — all but one place. She had persistent Cs and sometimes Ds in French. She’s one of those kids with no visual memory for spelling. As a result of being a total bookworm, she’s got a giant vocabulary, properly used, horribly spelt. Bookworming squeaks her through in English, but in French, there’s not enough repetition in the world to drill all those irregulars into her skull. I was aghast. I watched her distress, thought about all of the authoritarian booming that could be done there and what good it would(n’t) do and stepped onto the stage to see what sort of parental patter would fall out of my mouth.

“You know, I’m sort of glad this is happening” I found myself saying. Really? I am? “I never saw grades like these until highschool Trig in the midst of my parents divorce and I thought my world was ending.” Dude. Where did this come from? Um. It’s true. Wait, what else am I going to say. “See the thing is, if you learn to deal with a bad grade now, you know how to try, how to study… how to apply effort… how to work with a teacher… how to own your own learning…. you’ll be a better student later. If you’re like me and got straight As and you don’t know why, when things don’t work all of a sudden it’s a problem. So this is great! You’re ahead of the game!” She dried her tears. We made some plans for how to study, how to be absolutely sure homework actually got done, and she went to work, not a failure, learning how to try.

Fast forward a few years and while she’s managed to make French give her consistent Bs, “ARGH!! French!” has been the “Remember the Alamo!” battle cry Betsy screams as she throws herself weapons drawn at every. single. quarter. I don’t know exactly where this determined, resilient kid came from (she believes *my* parental BS? WTF?) but she shakes her puny fist at the subject that denies her A’s and then signs up for another year. She could technically ditch it this year and skip the IB diploma, but she a. wants to actually SPEAK French and b. wants everything else contained in the IB diploma work load, so she sticks it out to get the benefit of the piece of paper.

There’s a bunch of other things going on right now that I don’t really want to throw in here about B’s successes and her failures. She’s been struggling with some non-academic challenges and all along, asking the exact right questions even when it’s not going the way she’d like. She may not be getting to show off some stuff she’s just done, but I admire the hell out of what I know she feels like are her “failures”. So, for this kid whose grit I admire so much, I’ll end on the up note. The quarter just ended. Her French grade? The first time ever, 91.

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