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Nancy Coolidge | How to avoid the end-of-semester drama

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It’s two weeks before the end of the semester. This is it. Credits are at stake. Graduation is at stake.

Students are scrambling and teachers are upset that the kids are scrambling now — not 6 weeks ago, not at the quarter. There is a lot of stress and anxiety from parents, teachers, and students. And guess what? It didn’t need to happen this way.

Parents should check their students’ grades online at least once every two weeks. I recommend every Monday. And as you are checking these grades, tune out the following: “I turned in that assignment; he just hasn’t recorded it yet.” “I turned in that assignment; she must have lost it. She loses everyone’s papers.” “That was when I was absent; the teacher said I don’t have to make it up.” Instead of responding, simply say: “We will be checking grades again on Monday. I’d better not see any missing assignments at that time.”

Set some ground rules at home. No social activities until the homework is done. No trips with friends, no using the car, computer, phone for personal things. Complete homework where you can see the student working. I had a student tell me he’s put 7,000 miles on his car since he got his license this year. I’m pretty sure I know how to hold him accountable for his grades.

I had another student tell me she didn’t want to lose credits. Hmmm. The way not to lose credits, I told her, is to pass your classes. That F in science has been there since the first progress report. She had done nothing to change it for the entire semester. Now, two weeks before the end of the semester, it’s the teacher’s fault because she won’t let her make up certain assignments. Really?

I’ve said it before. Kids have no sense of urgency. Projects they’ve known about since September become real the night before they are due. Grades become important now when it’s all about to come crashing down. So, as parents, we have to help our kids develop that sense of urgency.

Teachers in this area are amazing. They let kids make up work for weeks after it’s due. They allow students to retake tests. They stay after school if there is even one student in their room seeking help. They often give up lunch, show up early, bend over backwards to help these kids. But two weeks before the end of the semester is too late.

So when students tell me they don’t want to lose credits, I praise their resolution, and I ask them what they are going to do differently next semester. These are my suggestions: Complete classwork and homework on time. Get missing assignments if they are absent. Check their grades each week. Get help from the teacher the moment they start to struggle. If these aren’t part of their answer, I tell them to go away, think about it, and talk to me the next day.

When all is said and done, they are the ones — the only ones — who can fix the problem.

Wenatchee resident Nancy Coolidge is a classroom teacher, radio personality and director of several Sylvan Learning Centers. You can ask her a question by posting a comment on her Good Habits, Great Grades blog at or by emailing