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Resilience & Failed Finals:

What will it be like at your house when final report cards arrive?

Joy, celebration, and rewards?

Or shock, tears, and disappointment?

If there’s disappointment and failure, don’t dismay. Some of the best opportunities for a student’s growth come from academic failure and setbacks.

Failures at school present kids the opportunity to learn from them, to set goals, and to move forward. They can perform better next time. They can build resilience.

A couple of years ago, a Grade 10 boy’s mother contacted me in a panic, seeking help for her son who was amid final exams. He was struggling and stress-ridden, clueless as to how he could prepare for his last difficult exam. It was the eleventh hour. She wanted me to swoop in to help him turn things around.

In our discussion, I learned her son’s efforts were barely satisfactory in the course thus far. He hadn’t put enough work into the class, and therefore wasn’t set up well for his final exam.

I suggested to the Mom that she step back and let her son figure it out; perhaps the best outcome was for him to do his best under circumstances, and face the consequences afterwards.

It sounds harsh, but sometimes a reality check is the best way to get a student to wake up! After a failure like this, one can build resilience: a crucial life skill.

Resilience is a muscle we can build, and the earlier we start, the better. Students need to get used to it! Elementary and middle school is best, so that responding to setbacks in high school (and beyond) with resilience is old hat! Resilience helps students “get up” and try again after failing a test.

What if this happens at your house?

Here’s what students can do to build their vital resilience “muscle” if they don’t achieve the grades they wanted:

Reflect. Take time to think about what went wrong on the exam or throughout the school year. What study habits did you practice? Was your time management effective, or did you cram your work into a few hours the night before the final exam? Did you try your best, or were you lazy from time to time? Own up to the truth about your year’s performance and attitude.

Analyze your work. Look at your specific assignments and exam answers. What did you do well? What did you get wrong? What are your weaknesses? Did you ask for help regularly? Were your notes organized? Were they complete and well done? Be brutally honest with yourself.

Plan for next time. Try to fill in the gaps so you complete next year’s courses to the best of your ability. Plan to use time management and organization strategies so you can do your best work without rushing. Set specific goals.

Take action. Hit the ground running in September, with goals in mind and intent to use your best learning and study strategies. Take initiative and self-advocate, asking your teachers for what you need and want. Get support when you need it. Do the work. Make it happen.

If your child is upset about undesirable grades this June, this is an opportunity to encourage the growth of resilience. See the lemonade (not just the lemons) in this situation!

Developing resilience will serve your child well in school, the workplace, and life.

Wishing you the best news (or “teachable moments”) when you open report card envelopes this month!

If your child needs a boost to turn things around after academic disappointment or failure, Right Track can help. We can work with your child or teen on the steps to make positive changes, and develop effective learning skills - not to mention resilience.

For more information, pick up the phone to book a free educational consult call to discuss your student’s unique strengths and needs. Or, check out our Services on the site, and send us a note.

* What happened with the grade 10 student I described in this article? Not surprisingly, he bombed his last exam. It was a a wake up call for him! The following September, we worked with him on setting goals for Grade 11, and on implementing effective learning & study strategies.

This blog post was adapted from a piece I wrote for Resilient People: Stories to Inspire, a site founded by Janet Fanaki. This blog shares the stories of "regular" people who have done extraordinary things in their lives. Thank you Janet for the opportunity to write for your amazing community!


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