The “F” List

We have to learn to allow for mistakes. During this time of the COVID 19 pandemic, we’ve seen teachers quickly change gears from one learning platform to another. Students had to follow suit, just as quickly, as classes went from in-person to screens over the course of a weekend.  But, are we allowing for mistakes?  I am not so sure.

This morning I woke up to a text from our National Honor Society (NHS) Advisor.  She was asking our NHS students to reach out to fellow students to check and see if they needed help.  Apparently, over 400 students in our HS (we have a student body of about 1200) were on the “F List” for a grand total of over 850 F’s!  Yikes! Further down in the text, I received a personal note that my son’s name was on the list and she wanted to know if he needed help. To preface the outcome, he had an “F” for the brief period of time that the list was constructed and resolved it immediately. I was grateful for her concern and question. But, I wondered how many other students had made one mistake in a class or two that led to a grade of F. Surely, there must be a few others, like my son, that ARE doing their work but missed the submit button or some such other innocent mistake that would not have happened in an in-person classroom and ended them up on the F list.

Here is our story:

This year, my youngest son’s senior year in HS, I vowed to myself that I would not be checking his grades constantly.  We’ve had a digital grade book for several years and for at least a few of those years I was checking the grade book several times a week and then “badgering” my sons as needed.  Most of the time, I was pleased with what I saw and provided praise. But, there were several times, that I questioned them about a poor grade. I have high expectations for my children and sometimes they are out of line with their motivation but never with their capacities.  I also need to interject that my youngest has had the grading system changed every year of his high school tenure, except for this one. This year, the summative and formative grade percentages, as well as a percentage for final exams stayed as it was last year.

But, I digress. Last Monday morning, a week ago, I went on the digital grade book and saw that the grade in one of my son’s classes had gone from an A (95%) to an F over the weekend! When I looked further for the reason, I saw that he had missed his first summative assessment (70%) for this class. Off to his bedroom, I trotted, incensed that he had let this happen. He had been doing so well with digital learning; I was disappointed.  Well, long story short, he had already taken care of it. He had emailed the teacher and let him know that he had missed seeing the assessment on google classroom, apologized, took the assessment, and handed it in (clicking submit). A simple mistake!  (But, one that I did not excuse.)

Shortly thereafter, the teacher entered his grade and he now had a C.  But, unbeknownst to us, at the time, an F list was being compiled at the HS. As we found out this morning, he was on the list!

In response to the text I got from the NHS advisor, I was happy to let her know that our son had already resolved his own situation. He no longer had an F. Whew!

In the grand scheme of things, none of this is a huge deal.  But, it strikes me that we (myself, included) are quick to judge and fail to take in the circumstances. This has been a very odd time in education and unfortunately,  I think it is just the beginning of things being odd. Obviously, with so many students on the F list, the system has not worked well for them.  Fortunately, the term is almost over.

But, then the real work begins…..How will next year be managed in high schools and universities across America? My experience tells me it will be a time of flux. We will ALL have to learn to accept mistakes that are made by both parties in a classroom. It will be acknowledging and learning from those mistakes that will make our new normal in educational systems be stronger than it was before.


What do you think? How can we filter out the students who really need academic help in passing their classes digitally from those who make a simple mistake with the “new” system?


Today is Slice of Life: Tuesday. It is a blog forum hosted by Thank you to them for offering such a supportive environment in which we can share our writing and thoughts.


8 thoughts

  1. I think this is an important reflection. Electronic platforms can seem abrupt, rude and unforgiving. They certainly are changing often, and it is so easy to miss a submit button because you didn’t scroll down far enough, or a multitude of other innocent mistakes. We know in a classroom the teacher misses who needs help, who misunderstood, and I am sure those errors are multiplied by hundreds in distance learning. We do are best, but your post should remind us to give lots of chances, assume the best, and try not to overwhelm our students! The F list- come on. Not very nice.


  2. Maybe the key is to trust the kids, the teachers and the parents working together to battle the glitches. I mean, I learned from your story that things like that will happen. I love the way that you use the word “flux.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, trust is a big part of it. I think that those involved also have to be able to address the glitches without fear of negative consequences. I think that is why there was a good outcome to our story. My son admitted his mistake, the teacher updated his grade, and I let both know I was aware of what had happened. Thanks for your comments.


  3. I have been thinking about the future inside the classroom, too. When you ask about how to spot the ones like your son who make simple mistakes from ones who are generally struggling—perhaps now even more so—I want to make sure that the powers-that-be find funding as an imperative to monitor with a better ratio. As great as it is that NHS students are on board with check-in, and I’m sure it will help, more needs to me done. This article reinforced your thinking for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate your comments and the article. Yes, I think better ratios would help. I would also suggest some kind of “orientation” to online learning – the do’s and don’ts – so to speak. It won’t catch everyone, and I realize not everyone will pay attention to it, but as a former online learner (my 2nd Master’s degree was totally online), I know it might help some. I think my son ended up handling this fine and the teacher addressed it immediately, so I am thankful for that. But, it is an issue that will need to be sorted out if any degree of online learning continues (and, we know it will).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Your post is what every team in every school in every state should be discussing right now. There are no easy nor are there one size fits all answers. The reality is that while our students are usually more savvy than their teachers, our students have been thrust into a world where the expectations have not always been consistently clear (online) and where the complexities of learning require tremendous personal time and focus. I too, appreciated everyone’s patience and extra chances; thus, I offer support and extra chances to my students. But, going forward, we all need to clarify who, what, where, when and how school will look so we can empower rather than punish our students.

    Liked by 1 person

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