Getting An “F” Senior Year. Does It Matter?

My college bound son received an “F” in Physics on his final report card.  We received this information two days after he “walked” and received his high school diploma.  His father and I were both shocked that he had allowed this to happen.  He was a smart boy.  He knew how much energy and effort it would take to get an A or a B.  And if he was unwilling to put in that much effort, he at least knew how much time it would take to get a C, to pass the class.  It never occurred to me, or his father, that he would just blow off the class completely.  Not with college on the line, not with the amount of effort and expense he had invested into getting into a good school, the school of his choice.

But we were wrong.  And in a way, he was right.  He could ignore the requests from his teacher to turn in his homework, to complete his class assignments.  His teacher called his bluff and failed him.  But what happened? NOTHING!  He was still able to graduate with his class!  He was still going to his chosen University!  How could this be?!

His father and I discussed this phenomenon and although we were relieved that he had graduated, and would be going to college, we agreed that the wrong lesson was being taught.  We agreed that we had one last summer to impose consequences on our son, who still seemed to think his actions or inaction was “no big deal.”

The bigger issue for us was the manner in which he chose to deal with the challenge.  He wasn’t doing well in the class, then he got sick, got really behind, and then, at that point, decided to do nothing.  To ignore.  To deny.  He told both of us repeatedly that he was on top of his school work, that he had everything handled.  But clearly he did not.  Our concern was his reaction, or lack thereof to the problem, because there would always be another.

It is funny because his school has a parent portal.  A way to check on your student’s progress every day.  Every missing assignment, every grade, every paper that is due.  I looked at this portal regularly Freshman year, sporadically Sophomore year and stopped entirely Junior and Senior year.  He needed to manage his own school work.  I needed to allow him to develop the necessary skills to go off to college, to own his own decisions.  But then, the “F”.  No, he wasn’t ready.  Yes, we needed to step in and require consequences.

These were the conditions that we set for the last summer:

  1.  No car.  No friends.  No socializing.
  2. Write a letter to his teacher apologizing for his complete disregard for his class.
  3. Take a summer physics course to be completed before school starts in the fall.
  4. Research all resources available at his University and send us a letter with this information.
  5. Write a paper on the benefits of failing.

He is sitting beside me now, taking his on-line physics course.  I am hopeful that next time he chooses to ask for help.  I am hopeful that he recognizes the gravity of his decision to ignore.  I am grateful for the opportunity to teach him one more lesson before he goes.