One morning during passing period before my third period German class, a student asked me if it was possible to keep taking German if he was sent to Continuation School. I was surprised since that’s where they send students who are behavior problems or who have terrible grades. I told him I didn’t think so, but also asked him why he wanted to know. He explained he was doing terribly in his other classes, mostly D’s and F’s.
I asked why he was having problems. He said he didn’t know, maybe he was just dumb. I knew this couldn’t be true, since he was doing very well in my class. So I asked him what he was doing right in German that was resulting in his having a B+. He didn’t know. Then I asked him five questions:
1. Do you come to class every day, unless you’re sick?
2. Do you pay attention in class?
3. Do you ask questions if you're confused or don’t understand something?
4. Do you complete all class and homework assignments?
5. Do you study for the quizzes and tests?
He answered yes to all of them. I asked him to think about his first period class. Did he do all five of these things there too? His answer was no. We went through all of his class periods; he answered no to several questions for each class in which his grade was terrible. I asked him if he had control over these five actions. Could he do each of them, if he wanted to? He thought a minute and said yes.
I told him this was great news. He had control over his grades. It wasn’t a matter of being smart. It was what he was doing, or not doing that resulted in his good and bad grades. I suggested he do each of the five behaviors in every class starting that day, to see what happened. He agreed.
About three weeks later he came to me with his short term results. All of his other teachers had complimented him on the turnaround in his grade in that class. He was no longer failing any class, and the D’s were turning into C’s. His counselor was no longer considering sending him to Continuation School.
The end of the school year is the perfect time to reflect upon a student’s GPA. Why is it as high or low as it is? Which classes have the lowest grades? Is the student doing all five of the positive behaviors listed above in those classes? The answer is probably no. The good news is that improving grades and a student’s GPA is almost entirely in the hands of the student.
Most often it isn’t what a child is doing, but what he or she is failing to do which results in a low grade. Rarely is it the difficulty level of the subject. When that happens, finding a tutor is the answer. Otherwise, just follow through focusing on the five questions on this list, and watch grades and GPA improve.
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