A Word from Mr. Nunan
As we approach the end of the academic year, let’s do a little myth-busting. Yes, these remarks are mostly directed to our 9th, 10th, and 11th graders, for they still have the end of the quarter and final exams ahead of them. But our graduating seniors will also find these reflections relevant. Indeed, we all know that personal motivation, academic achievement, and scholarly pursuit are not things we can turn off and on like a light switch; they are habits that must be nurtured and developed, continually practiced. In short, our love of learning and our desire to excel must be trained, maintained, and sustained. This means, as so many studies have shown, that the way we finish high school has much to do with the way we start college.
But let’s get back to the task at hand. Here are three essential myths that I frequently hear this time of year. Trust me, they as pervasive as they are false. Scholars, please listen. Parents, guardians, grandparents, and friends, please share.
1. There is no time left to raise my grades. FALSE.
Actually, there is plenty of time. And in two ways.
First, there are still about a dozen days of class left. This means that around 25% of the Fourth Quarter remains. Given that there will be at least some major labs, tests, projects, and papers at the close of the quarter, there may even be more than 25% of a student’s grade still to be determined. Furthermore, there are often opportunities for make-ups, re-takes, and even in some cases, extra credit.
Second, the final exams have yet to be taken. Each exam counts for 20% of a student’s second semester grade. The potential to raise one’s average is significant! The final exams are built to demonstrate both content mastery and skill development, and to pull together the central themes and fundamental goals of each course. Scholars, these exams are also fantastic opportunities to showcase your talents and to boost your marks.
Now is not the time to “pack it in” or to “coast at the end.” Finish strong!
2. I’m not a good test-taker; I’m terrible with exams. FALSE.
The vast majority of the research today demonstrates otherwise; in fact, much of this research reveals that the attitude described above is actually a key part of the problem. Educational experts are continually describing the virtues of a “growth” mindset, where the student imagines that he/she has the capacity and the potential to succeed. The “growth” mindset, as opposed to the “fixed” mindset, puts no artificial limits on what can be learned; it puts no glass ceilings on what can be achieved. Scholars who adopt this mindset have proven to excel at a higher level than those who do not, in part because they are truly open to the possibility of doing well. We must help our young people to trust that they have what it takes to succeed, and that, as a result, their diligent efforts will make a difference.
Now is not the time to be pessimistic or fatalistic. You can do this!
3. Grades aren’t that big of a deal; besides, they don’t really matter to me. FALSE.
Actually… when it comes to college, they are a big deal. A student’s GPA, along with her/his strength of schedule, is one of the most critical factors in the entire process. Furthermore, this is one of the pieces of the challenging, cumbersome college process over which the student has the greatest control. Each scholar can influence—directly and effectively—his/her own level of academic achievement. Students, you have the power.
And, please… your grades do mean something to you. I have never met a student who does not take real pride in—and, quite often, experience outright joy with—improving her/his grades. I have never met a scholar who does not feel good—even great—about sharing high marks with family and friends. I have never met a young person who does not derive some level of satisfaction—usually a deep level of satisfaction—in achieving excellence. Teenagers may pretend that marks don’t matter, that grades don’t affect them,; they may appear blasé or even callous about academic performance. But we know better. And, in their heart of hearts, so do they.
Now is not the time for apathy or indifference. Be your best! You’ll be happier for it!