Jada's parent-teacher conference was yesterday. Right there, smack dab in the middle of her report card for the second marking period, was a big fat "C," in math, along with B's in reading and writing, and A's elsewhere. Her bad quizzes were in three-digit addition, which I'd been giving Jada for almost a year, so I chalked up her low score to a combination of carelessness, confusion over the school's way of doing carrying, and lack of motivation. Amy and I decided her "C" warranted neither rewards to motivate better work next time nor punishments or threats if she didn't improve. Rather, we resolved to spend more time with her on math, both during the week for her homework and during the weekend when we give her extra problems.
When I picked the kids up later that day, I quietly and privately told Jada about her grades. She reacted to the "C" as if I'd stabbed her in the heart, first with shock and then denial and then tears. "I've never gotten a 'C' before," was her answer when I asked her why she was sad. We agreed that she wasn't so bad at math, and we also agreed that she could use some extra help from me, so it was nice we were on the same page on that.
When we got home, she was still feeling raw, so I hugged her some more and told her how proud I was that she cared enough that a bad grade hurt. I also told her that it wasn't all bad to do bad, because it reminds us that there are things we're not good at so that we know where we need to work harder to get better. I told her I didn't get any C's in elementary school, junior high, or high school, but then I got 4 at Penn, and each was a rude but necessary awakening for me. And I told her I shared her interest in seeing her math grade improve by next marking period, and was glad we would have something to work on together.
All of this, plus a long hug and talk with Amy (who is far better at hugging and long talks than I) seemed to put Jada back right. The sting of a bad grade hurts, but if we respond right, it's a good hurt.