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This week I met with a mom who was concerned that her son was failing freshman English because he didn’t complete a required book report. The book was too difficult, but when her son tried to change books, he was told there were no other choices. Then he went to several of his teachers seeking help. They couldn’t help, her son explained, because the book was too difficult, even for them. So he didn’t turn in a report and now is failing the class. Is anyone feeling the breeze from the waving red flags?

Let’s start with the difficulty and availability of the book. Our library is excellent, with many books of all different levels. I helped several other students select books that were not on the list, but were appropriate for the assignment. Several of these students read below grade level; all were able to find books that were approved for the assignment.

What about teachers who wouldn’t or couldn’t help? I am the “go to” person for high school students in our district. If they need help, they come to me. They all know me and they all know that my main job is to help them succeed. This young man never came to me. So I checked with all the high school and middle school teachers, and he hadn’t gone to any of them either. He did go to the librarian who “translated” a paragraph for him.

You’ve heard me say it before and I apologize again for the apparent harshness of my advice, but….you cannot believe your students when it comes to grades. How realistic is it that a high school library would have books too difficult to understand by anyone including the teachers? How credible is it that teachers would dig in their heels and not allow a change if it made it easier for the student?

And here’s the rest of the story. The book report assignment was given to the students in September – at the beginning of the school year. That means the students had 15 weeks to select, read, and report. There were several students who changed their books a couple of times, but still managed to complete the assignment.

This particular student had a low or failing grade all quarter. The grades are available on line for students and their parents. Once again, I recommend you check the grades with your students at least once a week – I suggest Monday—and address missing assignments, low test grades, and upcoming projects weekly. If you are hearing that no one will help or no flexibility is allowed, contact the teacher immediately.

Finally, even if he had turned it in and scored 100%, his grade was still an F because he had not turned in a number of assignments.

Please, please, please…..check grades weekly, contact the teacher if what you’re hearing doesn’t make sense, talk to your kids every day about what they are doing in school, what assignments they have, and what projects are coming up. Do not accept excuses, especially when they are blaming someone else. And when in doubt, ask!

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