Originally posted on July 28, 2014
A while back, the Internet was all aflutter about a child’s T-shirt proclaiming "I'm Too Pretty to do Homework”. Advocacy groups launched an immediate response and the item of clothing was pulled from the racks shortly after it had arrived. The protest centered around the complaint that if girls believe they are too good looking to work hard, they will devalue themselves and their abilities and others will quickly follow suit. While true, we must not be satisfied by only discouraging a store to carry one message tee. This is an issue that has been floating around for years that needs to be challenged every time it rears its ugly head.
Now, there is nothing wrong with looking well put-together and being a social person. Over the years, I have had students whose fashion sense and social skills range the gamut from geeky to graceful. Some come to class like they recently rolled out of bed while others appear to have just left a magazine cover shoot. It’s true that some families cannot afford nice clothes for their children, but that is different than the student who is dressed slovenly but has the latest smartphone in his pocket or her designer purse. All this is to say is that teens present their outer selves in many ways that may not be all that reflective of what’s inside.
The problem I have with the idea of being too pretty to work is that it simply is not true. No matter how good-looking they might be, teens will never have a job where they have no responsibilities other than looking pretty or handsome. The question is not whether the student is college-bound or has another reasonable pathway to success. What we’re talking about here is when student play dumb because being smart causes unwanted attention and differentiation. Our society might elevate the latest hottie or hunk to Greek god-like status, but that doesn’t mean we should. We must fight this urge with passion and vigor. While praising someone who is wearing a nice color or who is well dressed overall is one thing, we cannot allow the next generation to believe that looks are all that matter, because looks will not file reports or balance a home budget.
I get the temptation to want to be revered for appearance or athletic skill, but to hide behind them will only help in the short run. In addition to the wide swath of “regular” students who have sat in my class, I have had those seem to think their looks or some particular ability will exempt them from the responsibilities of life. What is interesting is that the ones who did achieve fame and success also worked fairly hard. My students who went on to be everything from professional sports players to a Rose Parade princess didn’t think a wink and a smile would make me give them a grade they did not deserve. Everybody has different skills and not everyone can get an A, but if they think they can build a life out of letting their looks pay the bills, they won’t have much to fall back on when those looks fade.
So, in response to the claim “I’m too pretty to do homework”, I would offer the following reply: No so much.
Originally posted on April 6, 2015
As a fan of presidential trivia, I remember how surprised I was to discover that nine of America’s commanders-in-chief never attended college, with Harry Truman being the last to rise to the highest office in the land with such a humble pedigree.
Another reason this fact stands out is because of the obsessive push we have about ensuring virtually everyone in the next generation earns a four-year degree. We assume acquiring this piece of paper signifies you are an adult who is fully prepared to conquer the globe. The corporate world has bought into this mindset by requiring even entry-level employees have a bachelor’s degree.
The problem is the promise of a better life does not always match the reality. Students in America have borrowed more than $1 trillion to cover the cover of such an education and the average 20-something graduate has acquired more than $30,000 in student loans, with many owing much, much more. These recently minted alums need to find a job that will allow them to meet this significant obligation in the next decade, or else. This was easier in my generation and those before me, but with the skyrocketing cost of education, such a task has become much more onerous. Many of these problems and more are examined in the CNN Films documentary Ivory Tower, which I highly recommend.
Now that we’ve identified the problem, what is the solution? Well, as I see it, there are three questions to ask before making a decision that will impact the next 15 years of your student’s life, if not longer.
Who’s offering the most “free” money? Colleges are in the business of providing students with an opportunity to learn and, like other organizations that package and sell a product, have become very adept at concealing its true costs. Sure, going to college can cost $20,000–$30,000 a year, but the university’s financial aid department is willing to present what appears to be a very appealing package covering almost all of these costs. A closer look, however, reveals much of this assistance comes in the form of loans that must be paid back. It may look like your student is getting nearly a free education, but instead they will be expected to pay back $8,000–$15,000 or more per year in loans. If your student has earned a full-ride scholarship based upon grades or extra-curricular activities, then he or she is in a very fortunate position and probably should sign acceptance papers as soon as humanly possible. Yet for the vast majority of students, going to college is nowhere near this easy.
Is a four-year college the best place to go? We have been conditioned to think a four-year institution is the best place to learn what is needed to be successful in the professional world, but helping students earn degrees that automatically will translate into a job a week after graduation has never been the primary goal of college. It is helpful to remember higher learning was originally modeled on the idea of Plato’s Academy, in which the wealthy elites would contemplate the meaning of life and the world around them. Clearly such an education is unnecessary to fix a drain, repair a car, or help someone open a bank account. While it is a larger battle to convince companies that internship programs would be much more valuable to them than the bachelor’s degrees many require, we should at least accept the obvious fact there are many, respectable professions requiring advanced training not found at your local university. These programs often are less expensive than a traditional college degree program and have a much greater likelihood of job placement after graduation.
Is a four-year college the best place to go right now? Over the years, community colleges have earned a negative reputation for the same reason Ivy Leagues universities have garnered a positive one: acceptance rates. Relatively few people can get into Columbia, Harvard or Yale, but anybody can take classes at your local community college. Because these programs are so easily accessible and affordable, it has lead people to believe teens go to community college as a last resort and most students at these schools subsequently drop out and become failures in life. They also believe the opposite is true for those attending the regional university. As someone who has taught at five colleges, four of which were four-year institutions, I can tell you this simply is not true. You have good and bad students at both places. You might have more poor-performing students at community colleges because a wider swath of the population attends these colleges, but that doesn’t mean your student will fall into the trap of failure any more than he or she would attending any other school (as a side note, graduation rates at your student’s four-year school of choice may not be as high as you might think). And their workforce training programs offer a practical education at a quite affordable cost.
The honors programs at community colleges, for example, are their best-kept secret. At the community college where I currently teach, I know the director of the honors program and we regularly discuss its merits: small class sizes, great internship opportunities and a dedicated counselor making sure students are on-track to graduate from our institution and transfer to the four-year college of their choice, all for thousands less than going there right out of high school. I tell my students to run the numbers, and then buy a pennant from their dream college and put in on their wall as a reminder that community college is a steppingstone, not a final destination, for those who have higher aspirations.
So, the most important thing to understand is whether it is best in the long run for your student to attend a technical program, a community college or a four-year university.
For, in the end, it matters not where you start, but where you end up.
Originally posted on October 5, 2014. We recently completed a class project on teen usage of social media, so this seems appropriate to post again.
As a child of the 80s, I grew up in the era of the PC. I got my first computer, a Commodore 64, when I was in junior high. Like many kids my age, we also had an Atari 2600. I was introduced to the Apple IIe in college and never looked back.
As adults however, it’s easy to forget how much children today are hard-wired, if you will, to the digital age. We may think of iPhones as a new invention, but they came out when my students were still in elementary school. My one-year-old niece can take a selfie almost better than I can.
For the first time this year, I am allowing technology in the classroom, mostly because I am forced to do if I want students to produce the best quality work. I am teaching a speech class, but we don’t have enough desktop computers on campus for me to hog a media lab one period a day for them to write their speeches. When students are working in my other classes, sometimes they ask if they can listen to music while they do so. While I play classical or jazz for some classes, at other times I allow them to choose their own tunes when they write or draw a scene from a story. The end result tends to be better work than I might have received otherwise.
Not, don’t get me wrong: if I confirm they are texting or goofing off, I am enforcing school policy and turning the device over to the discipline office. I have established a mantra that guides my philosophy for electronic usage: It’s a tool, not a toy. If you use it as such, we will not have a problem. If you deviate from that philosophy, we will.
There are some larger principles we can draw from this approach. One of the things we are being asked to teach students is digital citizenship: how to use technology in a responsible way. In an era where everything is instant, we need to re-introduce an appreciation for patience. Here are some suggested guidelines:
Think before you text.
Don’t take that risqué selfie.
Don’t post that mean picture to Snapchat.
Unplug and be in the moment.
But we can’t just blame tech-obsessed teens when many of use our phones almost as much as they do. I can’t count the number of times a student has told me they are responding to a parent’s text during class or are on a “bathroom break” because Mom or Dad expects them to return a voicemail.
This may sound harsh, but the “think before you text” rule should apply to parents as well. One of the best ways you can help your student focus on art, math, science or history is to wait to contact him during a break, if you must do so at all. If someone is in the hospital and you need to pick your daughter up during third period, her day is going to be thrown into chaos whether or not you interrupt her second period class with a text. And if you want to tell your growing teen you still love him as much as when he was five, try a note in with his lunch like we did back in the digital dark ages.
And, one final thought: I am amazed at how many smartphones I see whose front glass is cracked like a haunted house mirror. Even if you are frugal and purchase an older model phone, after taxes and activation fees, it’s still easy to spend $250. I have never understood how parents make this kind of investment and then don’t include a protective case for the device. Teens rarely think of protecting their phone when horsing around with their friends. You would never send a football player into the game without a helmet and shoulder pads. Why would you do so with a phone, which for students can be a communication device, research tool, word processor, camera, and music player?
Like I said before, it’s a tool, not a toy.
Originally posted on July 21, 2014
I recently wrote about the idea of helping your student focus on fewer activities rather than more. And while keeping teens focused on doing a few things well remains good advice, I realized some might think I'm suggesting you tell your children they can't try new things, which was not my intent. Toward that end, let’s talk about the benefits of trying out a new activity, club or sport.
One reason echoes what your parents told you at the dinner table countless times when you or your siblings protested a new dish: You won’t know if you like until you try it. In my last post, I talked about the football player singing in the spring musical. Well, maybe once he performs in front of others, he will discover he loves acting and wants to continue with drama, even if means he chooses to give up his sport later on. There also is the possibility he can do both and this is an opportunity for him to learn how to juggle multiple responsibilities, just like you do.
But what happens when participation is required, not voluntary? She might have signed up for art class, but it was full and now she finds herself in photography. This provides a good opportunity to transform a negative into a positive. While painting canvases and shooting pictures require different skill sets, her artist’s eye will serve her invaluably as she captures the world around her in a much different way than her classmates. And, with the way media are being mixed today, developing skills in both can be an asset down the road.
Like you do in your own life, any time a teen wants to add something to his or her schedule, there is nothing wrong with employing a simple cost-benefit analysis. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but you and your child should talk about his or her motivation and what he or she may have to sacrifice in order to participate. Why does she want to take AP Chemistry? If she has good grades in the sciences, has a friend or two in the class who can help her and is considering a career in the field, this sounds like a worthwhile move. Why does he want to join the basketball team? If he enjoys playing casually with friends and wants to get in better shape, this might be a good move for him, too.
When your teen joins or remains with a new activity, club or sport, he or she is making a deliberate choice. There are a myriad of ways to occupy one’s time and narrowing the field to the best ways to spend that time is a valuable tool for daily living after high school. As I quoted Thoreau’s Walden before, it seems fitting to do so again when it comes to the benefits of living a deliberate life.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
Who knows what your children will discover about themselves if you let them explore their own “woods” a little bit?
Originally posted on July 14, 2014
One thing America prides itself on is being a land of infinite variety. We have ice cream parlors famous for the number of choices they provide, popular restaurants with secret menus for regulars and big box stores featuring rows and rows, or webpage after webpage, of options.
The same is true with class schedules for today’s students. Seeking to meet the diverse needs and interests of modern teens, high schools provide an abundance of activities, clubs, electives and sports. While we think being involved in more groups in high school means your student is likely to get into a better college, it seems that doing fewer things better would be more impressive to a school looking at thousands of applicants playing the same game as everyone else.
Now, there is nothing wrong with trying something out for a season or a semester, but adding activities on top of each other wears you out and doesn’t do as much for your teens as you might think. They become exhausted when they have daily club meetings and sports practices in addition to their usual stack of homework. And, with travel ball programs training students in the off season, being at practice all the time eats up time that could be spent on other activities, perhaps involving the whole family. In addition, the costs associated with partaking in all these activities, after you factor in uniforms, equipment, travel expenses, training and so forth, adds up pretty quickly.
While it is fun to see the star football player belt out tunes alongside the rest of the drama cast in the spring musical, perhaps this should be the exception rather than the rule. It is perfectly reasonable for your student to have 1-2 sports or activities at school that occupies his or her time in addition to regular schoolwork. And now with the push to have students complete mandatory community service hours, there is little time for old-fashioned, nonscheduled teenage fun. Besides, maybe it’s time we get back to the notion that it’s good for adolescents to find ways to entertain themselves without an electronic device or a coach telling them what to do.
When I teach Henry David Thoreau to my juniors, I pause for a moment to focus on what he said in Walden about making our lives less complicated. “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million, count half a dozen...”
When it comes to our lives, and those of our children, this is an idea worth considering.
Originally posted on September 1, 2014. Sadly, the number of students I have lost has increased since then.
Working in a place as teeming with life as a high school campus, it can be very hard to process the complex emotions that abound when we lose one of our own. While we hope our students never have to experience such a loss so young, the odds are strong this will not be the case.
I teach at a suburban high school in a middle-class neighborhood with high home values and city streets that seem to roll up as the sun goes down. People move to our area to send their kids to our school and neighboring campuses. One might think we have escaped the specter of death, but that simply is not true. In the last 10 years, I personally have known a staff member and four students that we lost, one just a few weeks ago. Since no one is immune to such suffering, it is vital we find ways to help students endure this experience.
At a larger school, a death might not have as significant an impact, but on my relatively small campus we all feel the loss when we someone dies. Personally, if he or she was enrolled in my class, I remember where the student sat, the jokes he or she cracked and a host of other, otherwise insignificant details. It’s a given the mood on campus is going to be awkward for a while, but the healing process will be stunted unless we deal with pain and sadness in a real and tangible way.
For students, the death of a family member teaches them people eventually die, but the death of someone who sat in the next row or two seats over suggests to teens they might be next. The natural fear this produces needs to be addressed. Schools are quick to provide counselors to help students process their emotions, but just talking with your child about how they knew the deceased can go a long way as well.
Memorial services also are very important in the healing process. What typically begins as an appropriately somber event often includes moments of laughter as silly and sometimes moderately embarrassing stories are shared. Students need to know it’s OK to laugh as well as cry and this is an ideal environment to begin that practice.
Finally, social media is becoming an excellent way to express positive emotions. We are quick to criticize the entire medium as a venue for bullying and belittling, but sharing pictures and thoughts on a memorial webpage or donating money to a group or organization can be a great way to turn a tragedy into a legacy of hope.
Whether a student dies from a car accident, cancer or unknown causes, the ultimate goal is to convince his or her classmates they must go on living even though their friend will not. Asking those who remain to live their lives differently, often with greater intentionality, can be the greatest lesson to come out of such pain.
But unlike other important lessons we teach, it is one that doesn’t get easier with repetition.
Originally posted on November 24, 2014
In this season where Americans are asked to number the things for which they are thankful, encouraging this practice in the students you send off to our classroom each day is a healthy activity not only for their present but their future.
Often when it comes to school, students seem most thankful for the times they can escape its hallowed halls. They desire to extend vacation as long as possible and moan and complain when work is assigned near major breaks. But, if we can help them look at education from a different perspective, perhaps that attitude might change.
The first thing students should give thanks for is the fact they get to be students at all. In many places, both past and present, near and far, education was and is not highly valued. In some places today your gender still determines whether or not you are educated, while in others it is your income level. Now, we clearly see education disparity in America, but to actually be denied an education is another matter. When I look out across my classroom, I sometimes wonder what it would be like if only boys filled its seats or only a certain race were privileged enough to receive the tools they need to have a chance to succeed in life. If that were the case, my room would be empty both physically and spiritually.
Students should also be thankful for the teachers and staff who work hard to provide that education. While I am the last to complain about the hours and pay involved in my job, as I knew many of the pitfalls when entering this industry, I do not deny that much of what I choose to do to provide the best education possible for my students is neither required nor well compensated. For all those who think our vacation days are carefree, please note that I am “on vacation” right now, have worked much of the weekend and still have a very large stack of work that will occupy my week. Some weeks are better than others, but they should remember we willingly sacrifice a good deal of our “off hours” to help them succeed.
The last, but certainly not the least, of those who deserve recognition are many of you: the parents and guardians who do your best to raise your children and prepare them for what lies ahead. You are the ones challenging them to apply themselves in traditional or accelerated courses. You are sitting down each night and trying to help them understand the complexities of their assignments and figure out how they can finish their work on time. You are driving them to practices and competitions for the extracurricular activities that enrich their education and lives. You are explaining to them that learning from occasional failure can often be more important than achieving constant success. What you do is not required either, but is given freely out of love and a desire to see them do as well as, or perhaps much better than, you have done in the game of life.
To show students how much I care, and to give them a bit of perspective, I will from time to time “pull back the curtain” and explain the amount of work that goes into creating or grading their work. This helps them realize I am as committed, and sometimes more committed, to this process as they are. Helping them understand how dedicated you and so many others are to the proposition that their education is vitally important is a great way to motivate them to achieve success at this level and beyond. If such thankfulness prompts them to work harder in their present studies and future jobs, it likely will reap a bountiful harvest down the road, giving them much to rejoice in as they mature.
Now that’s something that deserves to be celebrated on more than just the fourth Thursday of November.
Originally posted on June 25, 2014
So often parents and guardians can get caught up making sure the big things are taken care of they forget how much focusing on the little things matter. Getting good grades and staying out of trouble are vitally important, but when you focus on the smaller lessons, like patience and politeness, they can have a much larger impact than you think.
I was in the store the other day behind a mother with two children. The infant was snuggled into a baby carrier while the preschool-age daughter with the cutest smile and dishwater blond hair was sitting in the top basket behind the handle. As the checker was about to ring up Mom’s purchases, the girl made a sound and grabbed for Mom, who asked if the girl wanted to play a game on her smartphone. Initially I was thinking this was just a parent handing a child a phone in order to keep her quiet. When I stopped to really observe what was happening, I witnessed so much more.
Before handing the phone over, she asked her daughter to make eye contact with her and politely ask for the phone. The daughter buried her face in her hands, prompting Mom to ask her again to say “Mommy, can I please have the phone?” When she didn’t follow the simple request, Mom said, “Since you didn’t ask nicely, I’m not going to give you the phone right now.” There was no yelling, sighing, or frustrated tone. Mom wasn’t issuing an ultimatum, she simply was stating a fact. When the girl looked her mom in the eye and asked correctly, Mom let her use the phone, but not before reminding her: “What do we say?” “Thank you” the girl replied. A few seconds later, the child asked to be tickled, which the mom did, as she was talking to the checker and paying her bill. At no time did the cherubic toddler’s giggles rise above the general sounds surrounding us. As the mom left, she noted that her infant was squirming around and fussing a bit, but neither mom nor children made a scene of any kind.
Perhaps my amazement by this display is unwarranted, but I so often am used to the opposite from young children, who seem to run around and squeal without correction or comment. A few days back I was waiting to pick up some food from a restaurant when a child who had been wrestling with his younger brother or cousin ran into me, paused for a moment and then hit me with his cap for some inexplicable reason before walking walk. Mom and grandma, who both were nearby, didn’t even notice what was happening. I admit having 35 kids at once who typically are compelled by law to listen to me for 55 minutes is not the same as having 3-5 kids every night, all weekend and summer who may have a penchant for yelling and screaming when you are just trying to run some errands. And, while many parents tell me they would not have the patience or self-control to do my job, I would have the same challenges switching roles. In all things, I try my best to be understanding.
In neither of the two situations did I offer a comment. While pointing out the latter’s behavior might have had little effect, I would like to think my comment to the mother of two would have been appreciated. Since I cannot speak to her individually, I will share my comments collectively. You are to be commended when you politely but firmly require your children to display common courtesy and respect. By the time they get to my classroom, I usually can tell which ones were raised with such diligence and which ones were not. Those who were raised thusly are appreciated and assisted more often and achieve higher grades. Those who were not tend to be sullen, smarmy and struggle to succeed. You may not think the little things like “please” and “thank you” really matter, but they do.
So, if you want your student to do well in school and life, please continue to teach them these small, but valuable, lessons.
Originally posted on June 20, 2014
As a society, we are quick to praise products, places and people. Whenever we buy something, read a book, go to a movie or restaurant, people ask us to rate our experience. More often than not, while we are willing to issue a poor rating, we are loath to give an average one. If we see a five-star rating system, we will give an average product or experience an above-average rating. If something is above average, we will mark it as outstanding. If it is outstanding, we think extra exclamation points will make our case.
This practice of doling out excessive praise has been in education for years. In our field, we call it grade inflation and teachers have bemoaned the trend ever since it arrived on the scene. Once upon a time, we noticed that children felt better when they received a gold star or a higher grade so we started to dispense them more liberally. This boosted their general happiness and, of course, pleased parents as well. Those who criticize the trend said we never stopped and thought out whether the sometimes-unmerited praise established a false sense of excellence when the student in question would not, by objective standards, be considered superb or better than most of his classmates.
The foundation for such concerns rests upon two underlying assumptions. First, a teacher should never issue grades students do not earn. I often give praise when I am impressed by a student’s work. I also will offer advice and encouragement to students, sometimes in response to a request and at other times when they appear to need it but are unwilling to ask. But a student begging to be given a grade that is unearned is like when she petitions a parent for a gift, opportunity or privilege she has not merited. You know it is easier in the short run to give in, but you will be paying for it down the road when she expects more and more. The same is true with grades.
Which leads to my second point – letter grades have an agreed-upon meaning forgotten by some in today’s world. A-level work declares your student’s effort and the quality of his final product is outstanding, meaning that it stands out as being superior to that of the others in the room. When your student earns a B, her work is above the average quality of work in the room. Receiving a C, therefore suggests the work your student completed for the class was not significantly better or worse than the majority of students in the room. Following this trend, D and F grades tell us your student performed below the average or failed the course requirements outright.
Perhaps it is helpful to borrow an example from the world of politics to best understand the approach many teachers have to grading. Political scientists make the distinction between equal opportunity and equal outcome. For example, everybody has the chance to get a job, but not everyone is guaranteed they will be given employment. In a similar fashion, teachers give every student the opportunity to earn an A, but are well aware not all in the room will merit such a high mark. If they see a disproportionate number of students earning As, they likely will consider reevaluating the expectations they have, as the A grade no longer means the work of a particular student stands out from his classmates.
While it feels better to give a gold star or high grade for average work, doing so on a regular basis, gives students a false sense of confidence and does not prepare them for a world that may not judge them so generously. I would be doing a disservice to your student if I let her think she is better, or worse for that matter, than everyone else when that is not the case. Having support and understanding from parents that honesty is the best policy in this regard is crucial.
Failing your student by telling him he is outstanding when he is only above average or average sends him straight to outer space when he should only be in low-earth orbit. And when he comes crashing back to Earth in the next class or the next year, the fault will belong to all of us.
Originally posted on August 18, 2014
With the first day of school fast approaching, this is the perfect time to ensure your student is prepared to be successful right out of the gate. In the educational world, the letter F has a very negative connotation, but I hope to redeem the sixth letter of the English alphabet as we discuss how Food, Folders and Faith can be key to starting off the school year well.
It seems elementary to suggest eating a good meal is vital to being a good student, but I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t see this principle flouted every day. Students regularly stroll into my classroom with a large, sugar-laced, blended coffee concoction and perhaps a doughnut or fast-food breakfast sandwich. They may not be allowed to eat or drink them in my classroom, but I know these items will not magically turn into a glass of water and piece of fruit when they carry them out the door. For the students who don’t wake up in time to eat, setting an alarm 15-30 minutes earlier than normal can address this issue. Even those who have lower incomes can qualify for our free and reduced-lunch programs, which some students do not take advantage of this because they are embarrassed about how they will be perceived by their classmates. No matter what excuse they give us, we need to be united in the proposition that a healthy diet will result in a fit physique and robust academic performance.
The next most important element in student success is organization. For every three or four reasonably well-organized backpacks I see students lug from class to class, there is one teen who is just carrying a poorly organized folder or a pack so messy he or she could hide a small land mammal inside and no one would be the wiser. While students often will balk at the nod to conformity, if they don’t have an exact place for their papers, I can pretty much guarantee their work will mysteriously disappear mere seconds before it’s due. Time and again I have observed a direct correlation between a messy folder and lower grade in my class. Again, for those who cannot afford backpacks, PTA groups or individual teachers or staff members have been known to purchase them for those in need. Even I, who spent my high school years arguing that a clean desk was a sure sign of a sick mind, know the more organized I am the better I can do my job.
The final part of this puzzle is for students to have faith in themselves and their future. Whether beginning their high school careers or just coming back from a summer away from the hustle and bustle of projects, exams, homework and dating drama, it is always good to have a fresh start. I always tell my students I care about their future much more than their past. We all have high expectations for these young people, but if we can encourage them to do well and remind them they can, and should, learn from their failure then they will have the internal faith needed to handle the challenges they will face in and out of the classroom.
So, while it may not be applicable on their report cards, getting down these three F's might be a surefire way to earn the As and Bs you and they both desire.
I have been a public high school teacher in Southern California since 2005 and writing since junior high. I have an affinity for chocolate, photography, sarcasm and well-written TV shows that refuse to talk down to their audiences.