honors classes

How Should Parents Handle a Bad Report Card?

Bad report cards are warning signs that something in your child’s world is not right. Did they take on too heavy of a course load? Are classes are too advanced for them? Is something socially upsetting them? Whatever the reason, it’s time to take stock. 

I learned early on that what my kids feared most was disappointing me and their dad with bad grades. As soon as I figured this out, I made it very clear to them that their grades good or bad were not important to us, but they should be important to them. I suggested my job is to support them and help them to get the best grades they can and when they are slipping in a subject to let me know early on and I’d try to help them to figure out why. I found when the fear factor was removed, my kids took more responsibility for their grades and did not want to disappoint themselves. 

But what can we do as parents when a bad report card comes home? The first thing is to evaluate whether that class is just too hard. Perhaps meeting with the teacher and figuring out if they might have been placed in the wrong level. It’s okay to do a math level they can succeed in instead of an advanced math course they might fail in. This is also a good time to test if your child is putting in the work they need to for this class. 

A meeting with our child’s Advanced Chemistry teacher after a bad grade made all of us aware of his study poor habits. When he was in Chemistry the previous year, he studied the night before each test and got A’s. This year in Advanced Chemistry the tests are cumulative, so his teacher pointed out he needs to study every night even if he doesn’t have a test the next day to secure the ideas they review in class. She also went over some test-taking skills and found that he panics with short-answer questions. She suggested he start the test in the middle, warm up with the sections he is comfortable with and then go back to the short answers. These helpful hints have really worked and his grade is back up to an A and he feels a lot more confident and less scared of both his parents and his teacher. 

During a meeting with his English teacher she emphasized that going to her for help with essays before turning them in is crucial. Once he did that, his English grade improved. Teachers want their students to do well and if the student shows an interest in their grades and improving them, the teacher is thrilled and might even offer extra credit. 

Evaluating your child’s extracurriculars and how they spend their time after school and on weekends is important. Perhaps being on two sports teams and three clubs is just too much. It’s true that colleges like to see well rounded students, but that GPA can really make or break whether they get into the school of their choice. So when in doubt, get those grades up before anything else. 

It’s always best to look at your child’s grades before their report card comes out. So the more involved you are with their assignments and tests early in the semester the better. But what to do if a child fails a class. Check in with their advisor. Sometimes it might be best to take that class again in summer school, the following year, or at a community college. 

And finally, if your student’s grades are slipping, make sure things are okay socially. Are they being bullied? Hanging out with the wrong crowd? Or depressed? Falling grades can be a warning sign so rule all the outside factors out and seek help if need be.

High school is a tough time academically and socially, so the more your child knows you and their teachers are on their side and want to see them succeed, the happier they will be. These are the last years we have at home with our kids, so please don’t make it all about punishment for a bad grade. Enjoy this time and work through the struggles with them. And they will succeed.

Should You Take Easier Classes to Earn Better Grades?

This time of year, as the clock on summer runs down, you might have the opportunity to review and adjust your class schedule for the upcoming school year. If yours has been a relaxing summer, it’s easy to see words like ‘honors’ and ‘AP’ on your schedule and feel a tinge of nervous anticipation. Man, that’ll be a ton of work. Wouldn’t it be easier if I made my AP courses honors courses and my honors courses regular courses? That way I can make straight As next year. Yeah…

If you have one or more APs on your schedule, you probably already know where this article is going: you should take the more difficult classes. But unlike other articles that offer this advice, I’m going to avoid the ‘You must apply a Puritanical work ethic in high school so you can crush your enemies, also known as your peers, when it comes time to apply to college’ manta other articles espouse. So why should you take more difficult classes? The answer’s easy:

As long as you pass, you have nothing to lose.

Let me explain.

Let’s Break Down the Numbers and Letters

So you’re taking a course load full of honors and APs. That’s great. But oh no! You’ve made a B in an honors class and a C in an AP class one quarter. What will the colleges you apply to think?

They probably won’t care.

Follow my reasoning. First of all, if you get a B or C one quarter, you still have time to fix it in the next quarter and improve your overall semester grade. More importantly, not all letters are created equal. Earning a B in an honors class might as well be an A in a regular class. You can say the same thing about a C in an AP class. The fact that you’re 16/17 years old and passing a college-level class says a ton of positive things about you as a prospective college student.

Let’s take this reasoning one step further. If you make As in honors classes and Bs in AP classes, you’re ahead of the game in more ways than one. In the eyes of college admission counselors, you are a more attractive candidate than every student who made straight As in regular courses.

To put it another way, by taking honors/APs, you get to make some mistakes and get ahead; if you take regular classes and make straight As, others will still surpass you no matter what. Students who take regular level classes to make straight As always lose the college admission game….unless their school doesn’t offer honors or AP courses, which believe it or not, is still the case in some parts of the country.

Gotta Love Grit

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: college admission counselors love grit. Grit says more about a college applicant than GPA, AP scores, or extracurricular activities.

If you take a look at the link in the previous paragraph, you’ll see that teachers around the nation are trying to teach their students grit. As a former teacher, I’m not too sure if you can teach grit like you can teach an academic subject. But it is possible to encourage someone to improve their grit, which is what I’m going to do right now. If you want to up your grit game, do so with something that has nothing to do with school. My suggestion: buy a moderately hard puzzle toy and stick with it until you solve it. Oh, it’ll frustrate and confuse you, but that’s the point. You have to strengthen your grit muscles if you want to excel in your classes next year.

Being Bored Stinks

Just think about it: being stuck in 6-7 courses that are way too easy, the clock ticking away at an agonizingly slow rate…

I think I’ve made my point.

Final Thoughts

Instead of the standard wrap up, I want to end this article by discussing a BIG EXCEPTION to the advice I’ve given in this article. Over the last decade, more and more high schools have started to offer 1-2 APs to incoming freshmen. This situation doesn’t sit right with me. Except in the very rarest of circumstances, high-achieving students still need a year to adjust to high school before they can tackle APs. By all means, take as many honors courses as you want to your freshman year. Strengthen those grit muscles and grow up a bit before jumping into APs as a sophomore.

Good luck in the coming year!

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