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Four Ways to Help Students Deal with Exam Failure

June 11, 2016



Jun 11, 2016

Since the beginning of No Child Left Behind, high-stakes testing has reaked emotional havoc on teachers, parents, and students across America.


Teachers dread teaching to the test, parents have great disdain for the household anxiety that these tests create and students are left with the most pressure of all indviduals involved.


Students don’t want to let their parents or teachers down. And naturally, they do not want to disappoint themselves.  On top of that fear of failure among American children today is at epic proportions.  As a parent how do you cope with an emotional child who failed a high-stakes test?

  1.  Allow them to express their emotions.- Allow your child to express how he or she feels. In part, emotions are what makes us human.  But set a limit as to how long they can stay in an highly emotional state.  Don Shula is the all-time winningest coach in the NFL. Shula had a “24 hour rule”. He allowed himself, his coaching staff, and his players only 24 hours to celebrate a victory or wallow over a defeat during that time. Shula encouraged them to feel their emotions of success or failure as deeply as they could. The next day, it was time to put their focus and energy into preparing for their next challenge.  

  2. Focus on growth. – Growth is a fundamental aspect of human development. Take a look at school reports that identify academic growth. When a student can see measured progress, this is usually a quick pick me up and a self-esteem and confidence boost.

  3. Try not to make comparisons. – Comparing your child to a sibling, family member, friend, or classmate is playing a losing game. Often our fear of failure is rooted in our fear of being judged and losing others’ respect. This is also true for students. Help them to release the need for approval of others by focusing on their life and all of their positive characteristics and accomplishments.

  4. Bounce back. – Discuss and analyze the cause of failing the test. What happened to throw their goal off track? Could it have been prevented? Set new realistic goals and develop a plan. Try again.

Michael Jordan said it best: “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”


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