Most students are quite confident as they log in to view their final grades. They stayed on track, consistently attended their classes and kept up with their coursework. Unfortunately some students lose their academic focus somewhere along the way during the semester and seeing those final grades is a cold splash of reality. Facing the end of a less than positive semester can cause regrets, self-doubt, and discouragement.
We hope to celebrate success and offer well-deserved praise when grades are posted...but that is not always the case.
Despite your disappointment, this can be an opportunity to forge a strong bond between the two of you; recognizing your student as an adult who takes full responsibility for the choices made during the semester and creates a solid plan for moving forward.
ere are some thoughts to consider:
1. Before the two of you discuss the semester, take a deep breath and try to calm your emotions. Your conversation will be more fruitful if you can approach it with thoughtfulness and purpose.
2. Your student likely feels worse than you do. It's hard to deal with the consequences of poor academic performance and there is also the added stress of having disappointed you. These are powerful feelings and even more challenging than the sense of personal failure from a bombed out semester.
3. If you approach the situation as a tough but valuable learning experience, your student may become stronger, both academically and personally. We learn much from our failures and even more from having the chance to rise above them. Everyone occasionally needs a "do over" and this may be your opportunity to encourage that option.
4. Talk about what went wrong during the semester (preferably with a calm approach). Too much socializing? Attend class regularly? Need help with study skills? Did other issues overshadow the focus on academics? A conversation from the heart can be most helpful at this point - especially if you can find ways to approach your student as a young adult taking responsibility for personal actions - and not just as your child who may have let you down.
5. Talk about next year and next steps. This may be a fresh start; an opportunity to begin again with a stronger sense of purpose and focus. Encourage taking advantage of campus resources that will prove beneficial in improving academic performance. Ask how you can help prepare for the return to college and provide helpful support during the summer. What does your student need from you and also need from us?
6. And please remind your student how much you love 'em! Your love doesn't go away because of a bad semester. Your trust and support are essential in moving towards positive change.