Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Worry Brain

Very disturbing dreams last night. Most of them involved my son, who had called home last night in full-tilt stress mode. He is worrying about his grades. He failed one test and did badly on another one. His scholarship is tied to his maintaining a particular GPA and he thinks he will fall below it. And you know what? He might. He is taking seven courses (with two labs), which I have told him is crazy, but he insists he has to take that course load for his major. He is doing fine to extremely well in four classes, middling in one, poorly in one, and failing in one.

I told him to drop the one he was failing and take it next semester. He said that would just put him in the same position next semester, that he had no choice but to stick it out. He complained that he was working his tail off in those two classes, and how frustrating it was to see no result for that. I said he had to work smarter, not harder, which meant he had to figure out what his teachers were looking for. That infuriated and depressed him. I could tell he felt defeated and helpless. 

I said some words to try and convince him that he would be fine, that he can do this, and even if it all goes to shit, he can still regroup and come at it again, that one can always regroup and apply what's been learned from a crash and burn. I don't think he was much comforted. 

The course he is failing is Biology, and 150 of the 200 kids in the class are failing along with him. Something's not right about that. But this is college, not grade school. I can't call up his professor and point out that if three-quarters of the class is failing, that says something about the teacher, not the class. The students have to do that. They have to get together and make a case. Or else they need to figure out some other solution. If it were me, I would drop that course and take it again in summer school. But my son has a job in the summer. And he has a ticket to travel to England to see his (not quite) girlfriend, who will be traveling back to New York with him, spending a week in our home, and then on to summer camp, where they will both be counselors again. Summer school would really put a dent in those plans.

But this is on him. He has to figure this out, and I know he can. What worries me is not the possibility of him failing. There are rich lessons to be gleaned from any failure. What worries me is how stressed to breaking he seemed on the phone last night, how not resilient, how he's spun this blip in his academic career into careening disaster. Where on earth did he learn such catastrophic thinking?

Rhetorical question.

You've got this, son. You really, truly do. Believe it. 

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