A story from last week:
G and I are sitting at Carl's Jr. (worst restaurant ever for two vegetarians, by the way), eating dinner and killing time while waiting to pick up a package at the FedEx office.
"Only four weeks left to go till second grade is over," I say, "and then you'll be a third-grader."
"What if I fail second grade?" she asks.
What the heck? I wonder. Aloud, I say, "That's not going to happen."
"How do you know?"
"I know because you've done all your work and learned everything you need to know for third grade, plus you've gotten almost straight As on all your report cards."
"Even in math?"
"Yes, even in math."
"But I hate math!"
"Yes, I know, but you are aware that you're good at it, right? Just because you don't like something doesn't mean you can't do it."
"Oh," says G, looking surprised. "I guess I will be going to third grade after all, then."
I'm totally befuddled by this. Pretty much every paper she brings home has a 100 on it, so how could she think there was even a remote chance that she might flunk second grade? How does she even know you can get held back, for that matter? She didn't seem all that worried about it, but she'd clearly considered it as a possibility.
Now I'm starting to wonder whether I haven't done enough to let her know that she's a good student. I point out often that she's smart or has done an excellent job of figuring something out, but I've never made a big deal out of grades because a.) I don't want her to get hung up on them, and b.) I really don't think grades matter all that much in early elementary school. After a conference, I just tell her that she's doing well and her teacher likes having her in class, which is true.
I know she thinks of herself as intelligent (which is also true) because she describes herself that way. Maybe she's just not aware of the connection between doing well on assignments and tests and doing well in general, or maybe she's heard someone talk about failing a grade and assumed it could happen to her too. There's not a snowball's chance of this -- in fact, at the beginning of this year, her teacher consulted with last year's teacher about skipping her a grade -- but she doesn't seem to realize it. Apparently I need to rethink my strategy.