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Worried About Grades

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: My first-grader is very worried about tests and grades. He gets very upset when he doesn't know the answer and states he's a loser and a failure. He had to put an "X" on his conduct card last week and fears he will make an F rather than an A for conduct this week. I'd like to help him feel confident and know that he doesn't have to make A's all of the time. I've reassured him that I will love him no matter what grade he makes and told him that we will practice his spelling words so that he will feel more confident. Any tips?

A: Talk to your son's teacher so she knows how worried your son is about tests, grades, and the "X" on his conduct card. There are so many things that the teacher can do to help your son feel more comfortable and less stressed in the classroom. The teacher can explain to your child that mistakes are acceptable and just part of the learning process. Giving him more assignments that aren't graded can also reduce pressure. Just making the teacher aware of the problem could go a long way towards helping your son learn to relax and enjoy school.

It's important to consider whether your son's worries at school come from a tendency to be a perfectionist. In this case, both you and the teacher should be setting reasonable standards for him. Also, a chat with the school psychologist, if there is one, could give you additional ideas about how to help your child.

You should be demonstrating a relaxed attitude towards the work your child does at school because it will help him be more relaxed. Stop mentioning grades, and start talking about the things that he does at school that are fun. When your son brings work home, show your pride in what he has learned -- not in the grade he has received. Tell him frequently that everyone, including you and his teacher, makes mistakes and that they are just part of the learning process. As far as spelling goes, make helping him with his spelling words a routine activity rather than calling it a confidence-building one.

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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.


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