Stay Calm and Do Your Best

Failed test

Tad* was upset. A quiet kid, he uttered no sound and bit his lip to maintain his composure. He had failed a test. The second one in as many weeks. Not used to that, it caught him off guard. He sat there, stunned.

I was heartbroken. Here is a kid who is as pure as the new-fallen snow, always gives his best, and looks dumb-founded when someone has the gall to be disrespectful or unkind. (He just doesn’t get why someone would act that way.) He is a well-rounded kid from a good home.

It was only a couple of minutes before the bell. I told the class to clean up. I didn’t want him to dwell on it. He quietly put his books away and adjusted his backpack.

When I dismissed the class, I motioned for him to stop by my desk and talk to me. Not really knowing what to say, I tried to encourage him by telling him that these tests were difficult. (Also, he tends to over-analyze questions and sometimes the answer is the obvious. He second-guesses himself and sometimes chooses the wrong answer.)

I assured him he would do better, and I would do all I could to help him achieve his goals. He smiled and thanked me. (What a great kid!) He asked me about the impact the test scores had had on his grade. I looked and told him he had a B in my class. His lip trembled again. He forced a smile, thanked me again and went to lunch.

The following Friday was mid-term progress report day. The grades had all been entered into the computer and reports printed. The last grade entered was the at-home reading grade for books they read at home and tested on at school. This grade was totally their responsibility.

As I handed out the progress reports to Tad’s class, I couldn’t wait to give him his. The reading grade had bumped him back up to an A. When I put the report on his desk, he looked at the grade, then at me. His face lit up like a Christmas tree. Made my day.

I said to him, “You did it. All that reading you did paid off! Well done!”

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Then he just smiled. A satisfied smile.

After the class left, it dawned on me. Tad never complained, never cast blame, spouted off, or any of the things I do when I fail. He did his best in the face of failure. He continued to do right, to give his all, even when he thought it wouldn’t matter.

On that day, he was the teacher and I, the student.

*not his real name

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