Teen Thursday: Epic Fail

When I was in high school, the first class I ever took my freshman year was Health. It was my first period of the day, a required credit to graduate, and the easiest one semester course you could possibly take during your high school tenure.

And I failed the class.

I'm not proud of it. I don't even have any excuse for why I did. I guess part of the problem was that our teacher didn't collect all the homework to grade until the very end of each quarter-- which meant that I, a Level 5 Procrastinator, inevitably put off doing any of the work until the night before it was all due, only to realize I'd misplaced a majority of the handouts and only completed a third of them at most. My only-slightly-above-test-scores couldn't salvage my grade.

The failing grade sucked, but I mostly forgot about it until just before my senior year, when my guidance counselor informed me I'd have to retake the class in order to graduate. This meant another round of health class. It was scheduled during first period, once again, meaning I got to start my mornings off enduring anti-drug tirades and abstinence lectures I'd already sat through almost four years ago, only this time surrounded by annoying freshmen instead of any of my friends. It was not fun times.

I was almost in danger of not getting the credit once again when my teacher told me I'd had so many tardies that technically I should be dropped from the class, but the administration was so desperate to get me out of there that they waived a few, and in turn I dragged myself to class on time, sat through the speeches, and this time, did the homework and aced the tests and passed with flying colors. (Second time's the charm!)

Some teens can't fathom the idea of failing a class, whether it's due to the goals they've set for themselves to succeed or the fear of angering their parents should they not do well, or both. Some teens don't have academic pressure from home and don't put that pressure on themselves for whatever reason (that was my case). Some genuinely struggle with the material, either due to a lack of support (from teachers or home), or even despite having that support in place.

Failing a class is never fun. But sometimes it happens, and despite the voices coming from all sides hammering into you that not doing well academically in every single aspect all of the time will ruin your entire life, it is not, in fact, the end of the world-- even if it feels like it. It seems these days there are such high expectations to succeed, and it's almost like you're set on a fast track from the time you're twelve all the way until you're filling out college applications. It's a mindset that builds this intense pressure leading you to believe one failure can derail you from being Ivy League bound to working the drive through at McDonald's. Not that doing well in school isn't important-- believe me, if I had to go back and do it all over again, I would not have slacked off nearly as much as I did-- but your entire future post-high school will not ride on a single letter grade.

So here's what I want to know: Have you ever failed in school? A class? An important test? A quiz? Anything?


Lydia Sharp said...

I think my epic fail might just be the worst. I failed one of the only two required courses for senior year, and so I almost didn't get to graduate.

It was stupid, really. I was a good student, never failed any course in my life, but the way this teacher had his grading system set up, everything hinged on oral reports. Being extremely shy back then, I refused to do them, and so I failed, despite passing all my written tests with flying colors.

The teacher realized my graduation was dependent on passing his course, so he gave me a D- when I really should have had an F.

13 years of school, mostly in advanced classes, and it almost all went down the toilet because of those stupid oral reports in ONE class my FINAL year of school.

Thinking about that now still makes me agitated. But at least the teacher did have a change of heart at the last minute.

Sarah Darer Littman said...

I almost failed calculus, which was a required course I had to take pass/fail in business school. I would have failed it if it weren't for the patient tutoring of my cousin Rob, who was doing his MBA at night at NYU at the same time. For someone who had always done well in school, it was scary as hell to be in a class where no matter what I did, I just DIDN'T get it. Nothing made sense, and it doesn't to this day.

For almost a decade after I got my MBA (in Finance - WHY?!!!) I would wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, dreaming that I didn't graduate because I'd failed calculus. I'd literally have to get out of bed, go down to the study and make sure my diploma was still hanging on the wall to reassure myself before I could go back to sleep.

Maybe it was my subconscious telling me I should have done an MFA in writing instead ;-) Oh well, maybe someday when I win the lottery...

Cristin Terrill said...

I was a very intense child, much to my parents' bemusement. When I made my first B - math class, third grade, remember it like it was yesterday - my mother cheered. I couldn't believe her flippancy over my academic ruination and grounded MYSELF for the rest of the week.

I pretty much continued in that vein for the rest of my schooling, went to an Ivy, got a master's. Now I work for minimum wage and can't get an interview to be a secretary, so hell yeah, kids, fail a little! Being perfect in school just makes the shock of your totally NOT PERFECT real life all the worse. So have some fun, lighten up, and never ever ground yourself, because life is graded on a curve.

Micol Ostow said...

My math and science grades were always terrible. I'm not sure if I ever got an actual F on a report card, but I DEFINITELY saw more than a few tests and quizzes with that letter.

Here's the thing - I never did end up needing any of that in later life! (Shh...don't tell!)

wordsrmylife said...

My epic fail came later than high school, when I dropped out of grad school to become the ABD I am today.
However there was an almost fail in high school. We had to have two years of phys ed to graduate. I did it my freshman year, loathed every moment (it was all team sports), and managed to book a full schedule of other classes the next two years. Senior year no high school PE class fit in my schedule. The result was I became a "teacher's assistant" for PE with a class of kindergartners (it was a K-12 school). You might say I worked the system, but really, it's a reflection of my complete lack of athletic ability. It wasn't until I discovered yoga and figure skating in colleg that I found physical activities I enjoyed.

Claire Dawn said...

Failed tons of stuff in school. I was that kid that if something didn't interest me, I didn't do it.

And I still managed to graduate the highest academic school on the island. And get into the hardest college to get into in the US.

The way our system is set up, there are lots of universal tests. (think OWLs and NEWTs from Harry Potter.) Thing is when the NEWTs roll around noone cares about what you got on OWLs anymore, and you get this sense that it's all a little irrelevant.

Sometimes good grades will set you for life and bad grades will ruin you. And other times, you'll have the best grades and not live the dream life, or the worse grades and pull in 6 figures.

Try your best, but if you don't get through, don't have an aneurism.

Sarah Darer Littman said...

Claire - I'm so with you on the testing! My Hearst column today is about exactly that:


Sara said...

I've never failed a class in real life, but I constantly have dreams about failing classes or being about to fail classes, or having a bunch of work due that I never knew about. Clearly I never grew out of my fear-of-failing, super-good-student days. In some ways, I wish I'd lightened up on myself a bit more!

Kare said...

I am a good student really I am, I just have to completly understand something to be able to do well. Math is my worst enemy. I failed at least two math classes it was horrible. I ended up retaking both of them and getting a 96 in one and 80 in the other. Needless to say math and I aren't on speaking terms at this moment!

Susan Adrian said...

I was (who am I kidding, I AM) a type-A person, so grades were IMPORTANT to me. I still remember every instance of not doing well:

D in handwriting, 3rd grade (she did have a point)

D in swimming, high school

C in English, freshman year (I am still BITTER about this--I became an English major for gosh sakes! And a writer and an editor! The teacher and I didn't get along.)

But yeah, none of them ruined my life. It's all get-over-able.

April Henry said...

It wasn't failure, but it felt like failure. I totally sucked in PE. I bruised my knee on the pommel horse, froze on the uneven parallel bars, sank when I was supposed to float, and was beaten by everyone during round-robin tennis, including a developmentally disabled girl and a girl who had juvenile arthritis and could only use one hand.

And I learned it was a lie when they said they would grade you by considering whether you had improved from the beginning of the year. No. They would grade you by comparing you to the real athletes.

Because of PE, I always saw myself as clumsy.

Now years later I run five miles four times a week, take Body Pump, and am in a belt class in Kajukenbo. So take that Miss Fronk! You tried to make me hate PE, but I grew up and past it.

Adeeva Afsheen said...

Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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