I’ve mentioned before that I had three teachers in junior high and high school who each contributed to my success with their negativity rather than their encouragement. Instead of building me up, like teachers are supposed to, they really did the opposite, both to my face and behind my back.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about one of the “lessons” that one of those teachers tried to impart.
You see, during the first week of my freshman year of high school, I bombed a quiz. I’d already set my sights on graduating with a 4.0 GPA, and I was crushed. (That didn’t happen in high school, by the way, because I got distracted by boys about halfway through!)
I went to the teacher privately after class and asked if I could make it up with extra credit. I wasn’t looking for an easy assignment; I was willing to work hard to earn that A.
She basically laughed at me and then later used me as an example to tell parents that “some students” would need to accept that they just couldn’t get As all the time.
When I originally wrote about that experience, I wasn’t ready to discuss the pros and cons of extra credit.
But over the past year, it’s become increasingly obvious to me that extra credit IS real life:
- When you make a mistake, you can often start over, switch directions or work hard to overcome it. Is that always the case? No, of course not. But many times it is.
- Life is about possibility, and a failure can be a stepping stone to success rather than a permanent mark on your record.
- Those who are willing to work hard — putting in extra hours, extra energy, extra sweat and extra tears — usually do go further.
I understand that teachers may be unwilling to offer extra credit because it can invite kids to slack off the first time around, but no one is saying extra credit should be easy. I think it’s okay to make the kids work three or four times as hard to make up for the mistake or lack of effort and even to grade the assignments harder than a normal assignment.
But if we want to prepare kids for success, I think we should be teaching them that they can overcome failure, not that they only have one shot to get it right!
How do you feel about extra credit — in the classroom and in real life?