As a teacher, one of the most difficult discussions you can have with a student and parent is over the subject of grades, particularly low grades. School can be stressful for both students and parents, and each grade can seem to have a momentous weight. However, there are some strategies you can use as an educator to explain the poor marks and help your student to be more successful on future exams and projects.
Be Upfront and Honest
Sometimes it may feel easier to sugarcoat an issue with a student or parents, but in the case of a bad grade, it is best to be as honest as possible. Explain what was expected of the student and why the student fell short. You should bring a copy of the student’s test or a rubric to the meeting so the parent can see the requirements. If there are other reasons for the student’s poor grades, such as not paying attention in class, address that as well. Both the parent and student need to know exactly what went wrong and what the causes were.
Examine Effects on the Student’s Overall Grade
The student and parent will likely want to know how the bad grade or grades will affect his or her overall grade. You may want to have information ready to show what the student’s projected grade will be and how it weighs against other grades for your class. If your class has a rubric, you will want to bring that to the meeting in order to have something to refer to. You can also show the parent and student that they can calculate their GPA on their own as well to predict their term or semester grades, and thus know how low or how high they need their grades to be for a particular requirement.
Discuss with the student and parent the anticipated outcomes for the class. Discuss what final grades are possible and what will be expected of the student to achieve those grades. Be clear with the student on what he or she will need to do to be successful in your class. If you offer any extra credit work, you will want to mention it during the meeting. Perhaps have the student start a blog where they can post about topics relevant to the class in order to gain some extra credit points. You may also suggest a tutor or outside resources that the student can check out to help in your class. Also suggest some ways the parent can help their child be more responsible for their grades such as overseeing daily assignments that they bring home for homework or provide a specific kind of motivation and encouragement for the student to do better.
Meetings with students and parents over low grades can seem stressful for a teacher, but with the right preparation, you can turn the discussion into a positive one for both you and them. Remember to be clear and honest about grades and what will be expected of the student in the future.
Another commonly under-discussed part of schooling and education is bullying. Unfortunately, bullying occurs in every school and it seems like no one is immune from its effects. It can be hard to start that conversation as a teacher or a parent, but it is a conversation that needs to happen.