Finals and the stress of finals tends to get students stirred up. That’s pretty normal. Add to that a lack of sleep, iffy food choices, and/or a lack of exercise, and you can have the perfect storm for anxiety, worry, melodrama, etc.
You know that students worry about their grades. And they worry about them on a number of fronts:
What will my parents’ (or family members) reactions be to this bad grade/a bad overall semester?
What if I don’t pass the class?
What if this one grade tanks my GPA?
What if this means I can’t get into the business school/med school/law school etc.?
And – by extension – what if this means my whole life is going to be messed up?
As adults, you and I both know that there are very few things in the world that have irrevocable consequences. You can get a bad grade, have a bad semester, fail out even – and still go on to recover and turn things around. Your students might not realize that because they haven’t been through it.
If you think your student might be tipping over into this Worry Territory, you may want to help bring some perspective into the situation. Which is not to suggest that you downplay their worries or tell them “you don’t know what worrying is! Wait till you have to worry about [insert dreaded thing here, layoffs or cancer or money woes, etc.]” Instead, it may be that you acknowledge their stress but help put it into perspective in any of the following ways.
I know you are worried about this grade, but I want to be sure you know we love you unconditionally.
I have been in a similar situation where it seemed like things were really bad. Here’s how I turned it around…[or, I failed at X, and it was hard. Here is what I learned…]
I can see that you seem really worried about X. I want to assure you that one grade/one semester will not determine your future.
You get the idea. You can also encourage your student to celebrate his or her successes – and surely there have been many this semester. Your students tackled large textbooks, learned languages, read great works of literature or studied art or dance, got involved in extracurriculars, etc. They probably had moments where they struggled, but grew from that. They probably had to wrestle with decisions – or ethics – and made choices that felt right to them. They hopefully learned more about themselves as well as other people.
Your students are are evolving into Who They Will Be When They Grow Up. That’s something that is hard to measure or quantify, but is very important nonetheless. Help them see that while the grades are important certainly, the rest of their experience is as well. And they ought to give themselves a pat on the back.
Again, hearing your unconditional love for them – especially when they are stressed – might be the best possible answer. And have their favorite foods at the ready when they get home 🙂
— by Betsy Chapman