The “GPA Killer”

I brought my work with me as I find time here and there to work on my presentation, The Student Journey, A Modern Toolbox for Success™. I carefully chose the order of the slides as I prepare for The International Coalition for Girls’ Schools Annual Conference this June as a presenter for INSPIRE! Session 1 provides two 25-minute professional development learning opportunities for girls’ school leaders and teachers. I will present to share my insights with focusing tools for deep engagement and learning about the student journey for neurodiverse learners.

While waiting for a colleague to meet me for lunch, I could not help but hear a distressed parent. She was upset as her voice rose aggressively, sharing with her friend, “…that teacher is known to be a GPA killer! And Mr. Gardener is on paternity leave again; can you believe that?” Her friend agreed and, in a panic, further questioned, “What is Jack going to do?” as if the student had the authority or choice. This conversation lasted more than an hour as they texted their 10th-grade sons about the new school gossip as it was May, looking ahead to junior year.

My heart sank as a parent, educator, and life coach, yet this reminds me why I am a purpose-driven educator. This says more about our culture in education than anything else, highlighting why students continue to experience new levels of anxiety, doubt, worry, and even fear. At an earlier age, research suggests that students as early as middle school (6th/7th grade) are facing a track field size loop of consistent anxiety with signs of depression surrounding school life and the “c” word, college.

The student journey is about learning who you are. To have the freedom to explore and express your abilities, talents, and passions through the trials of life while following your authentic path. The Modern Toolbox for Success™ is a conversation starter, a framework I created while working as a school learning specialist in the greater Los Angeles area for a decade. The support and mentorship for learning services in school and creating goals while making meaningful contributions allowed me to see the student’s journey differently. Students who are successful are “willing.” They are willing to learn and build tools with new skills to manage life’s events and experiences – even despite the unknown, inconveniences, and tragedies that we experience.

The MTS supports the act of observation to shift focus to what is most important without losing sight of the goal. Observing to see requires practice with inner focusing tools. This approach gives us breathing room. Goals are personal as learners and leaders, with focusing tools, we can manage our path forward with more ease.

Everyday life events and experiences make a student’s journey dynamic and unique. Students who believe that a “GPA Killer” exists are experiencing a threat, which will naturally lead to more struggle. A negative perspective, misplacing, and leaking energy does not allow you to focus on what is important to completing your goal.

One tool to support the power of a growth mindset is to practice internal focusing tools. To support goals, we need tools and the right skills to reach results. The key to success is learning to manage our energy with purpose toward what is most important. Is it more important to take a class you love, develop your academic skills to the next level, to go past your point of mastery is building resiliency for successful outcomes in life.

The leaking of energy is listening to the worry and doubt about the GPA status impacted if one takes this class or if the teacher is on family leave, as it is your control. Students who thrive have healthy tools to manage life’s uncertainties and outcomes–even in the most annoying situations like grading scales and teacher placement for next year. A teacher, coach, or future boss encourages you to be a learner and leader working towards your growth potential. They support you in pushing past your limiting beliefs, as caring mentors do.

As students head into another AP season this May, this conversation is common for families across the country, as this can lead to additional anxiety, fear, and frustration. Students are mapping out strategies for the best school plan despite the limitations of physical reality (e.g., an advanced class has more work and required academic skills, a teacher who has a baby is taking time off to care for their family, these are reasonable and common life obstacles that can get in the way of our “goals”). This reflects modern day parenting, as I shared with the mom’s at lunch slide 11, The Power of Being Willing, an internal focusing tool.

The power “to be willing” is one of the few most potent words we can use here and now. We can shift our brain’s attention with language to progress forward. Dr. Maria Nemeth, shares with us in Mastering Life’s Energies (2007), “People who are willing to be successful, are willing to do what they are afraid of doing.” This is the power of “I am willing” as it says “yes” to your life – despite true life hardships, and the “GPA Killer” or a teacher on paternity leave.

The power of “I am willing” shifts the energy to refocusing on your goals, despite what has occurred in the real world of student life. What am I here to learn right now? How is this an opportunity for my growth toward success as a student and lifelong learner? A student who can reframe this as an opportunity to say, “I am willing,” will experience more ease in life with less struggle. The focusing tool “I am willing” is powerful in supporting a competent, confident and compassionate student who is successful in preparing for college readiness and beyond.

A student willing to meet the new substitute teacher and build a relationship will have greater successful life outcomes as a collaborator. A student who does not believe that the GPA point system is a “killer” toward success will take risks worth taking. Each school in the U.S., from all educational institutions, has differences in academic grading, philosophy, and course selection each school year. Additionally, higher education reviews academic transcripts, as no two students are alike or read the same as they share a story—the student journey.

Modern life skills should support one with focusing tools to be resilient and independent. One step at a time as they learn to be successful into adulthood, focusing on their goals and dreams despite the circumstances and challenges that they may experience along the way.

As caring adults, parents, and educators alike, we are here to guide children as they navigate their journey, building strength-based strategies around ‘real life’—or, known as physical reality—to manage our goals with meaning and purpose greater than the GPA.

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