Lessons From Missing An Exam

So…. my 15-year-old son forgot he had a mid-term exam at the university this morning. Yep. FORGOT he had an EXAM to sit for.

I only realised it 30 minutes after the exam had started. Thankfully, I was aware that freaking out would serve no purpose. Instead, we hustled to the car and I drove him to the exam hall.

Before you think I am condoning his mistake, or that my rushing to his “rescue” will do him more harm than good, please hear me out. What has been done cannot be undone. Getting mad would do no good. Instead, I see it as an excellent opportunity to help him learn important lessons from missing the exam.

What could the lessons be?  How would he learn them?  Instead of lecturing him, I chose to ask him questions to help him reflect and derive the lessons himself.  So what did he learn?

1) Apologies Are Important
Before we got into the car, I had warned him that heading to the exam hall now did not mean he would get to sit for the exam. In fact, it would not be reasonable to expect his lecturer to stay on for him. So R was prepared that he would score a big fat ZERO for the paper because he had missed it.

Why then did we rush down?  Through Q&A and some guidance, R learned that we made the effort of going to the university so he could apologise to his lecturer in person. His lecturer had been very kind to accept him as a student. But he had stood his lecturer up by forgetting to go for the exam. He had made a mistake and therefore, he needed to sincerely apologise for it.  And he could not be more sincere than giving the apology in person as soon as possible.

2) Reflection On What Went Wrong Is Important
More importantly, he learned that he needed to know how this mistake happened. Yes, he made a big mistake. However, it would be a bigger mistake if he did not learn what went wrong and ended up making the same mistake again. Again through Q&A, he reflected on where the failure occurred and what his hidden assumptions were (e.g.: mom will remind him or he will somehow just remember).

3) Making Corrective Actions Is CRITICAL
But learning what went wrong without taking corrective actions to prevent the same mistake from occurring is pointless.  Hence, he needed to identify what systems and checks he needed to have so he will always be able to remember his appointments, especially those that are not in his regular routine.

4) Mistakes Are Learning Opportunities
Another important lesson he learned is every failure and mistake is an opportunity to learn and grow. The failures and mistakes do not define him. They are stepping stones to helping him discover his blind spots and areas of weakness so he can become better. It is important he does not beat himself up but recognise he has work to do to improve. He learned he could transmute failure into success as long as he learned from them.

5) We Are There To Support His Learning
I guess the most important lesson he learned was that his dad and I will always be there to support his learning. We will not throw stones at him when he falters. Neither will we solve his problems for him. Instead, we will always be there to help him stand up, learn and become better so he can fight his own battles.

I am very disappointed he had missed his exam.  However, I am very heartened and grateful that his lecturer has allowed him to work on the exam paper. Not only that, Prof had agreed to mark his paper. Regardless of whether the grades will be recognised, I am thankful R will have the chance to see how much he has learned or identify the gaps that he still has in the course. Whatever the outcome of this course is, this incident has not been in vain. R has learned some precious lessons, and for that, I am extremely grateful.

Happy parenting!

~ Vivian Kwek ~

3 Replies to “Lessons From Missing An Exam”

  1. I’m glad that you and your husband turned this into a teachable moment. I counsel many youths myself, and you really see the greatest progress when you *guide* them through reflection and correction.

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