Lessons From A Fail

The student came into my office raining tears.

She said she’s never failed a class before.

She failed mine in the spring semester.

We sat. I listened to her sob and told her it was okay to cry.

We started talking. She wanted to know why she didn’t make it.

I showed her the class rubric, course outcomes and the rubric for the last project. I let her read it again, to let it soak in.

I showed her where her thesis fell flat; I pointed out where her arguments didn’t reach a logical conclusion.

“You will be taking this class again.” I was level in my tone, speaking barely above a whisper. “And you will be one of my favorite students.”

She started crying again.

“I’m going to make you sit in the front of the class. You have a slight advantage; you have been through this once. This second time it will be more familiar to you. The newbies will be a little overwhelmed. This is one of the most challenging classes in the department. I will ask you to lead when we do collaborative class activities. You have demonstrated courage and humility by meeting with me and expressing your frustration and your wish to succeed. Not every student cares as much as you do. And because you care, I do too. Students like you get a little something extra when I know they want to be successful – they get me, watching your back.”

“Thank you.” She cracked a smile.

We hugged it out.

John Scott is a media studies instructor and the career services manager at the School of Multimedia Communications, Academy of Art University San Francisco. Check out John’s book, “Destination: Reinvention”, on sale in the Amazon bookstore. He finally got the audiobook finished – it’ll be out in a couple of weeks on Audible and iTunes. The hardcover edition is on sale now at Lulu.

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