I recently made this comment, which I’ve edited slightly for this post, in a Facebook discussion:
I was due for severe consequences in my 12th grade English Literature class. I should have been given a failing grade, and I probably would have had to retake 12th grade — not completely sure, but it’s likely. However, the teacher showed leniency and allowed me to pass and graduate.
Giving me the full consequences of my negligence (even though it wasn’t completely malicious, but partly deer-in-the-headlights-stuckness) WOULD HAVE BEEN THE BEST THING FOR ME, even though I would have mostly died inside and would have hated it at the time. I learned early in my schooling that if I was a sweet slacker I would most likely be allowed to slide on by, which was THE WORST THING for me.
In a different class that same 12th grade year, I found out mid-way that I was failing. I went to the teacher and asked,
“I got my progress report and it says I’m failing?”
Teacher (female, very matter of fact): “Yes, you are.”
Boy, oh boy, did I ever get to work in that class!
I should have failed 12th grade English Literature. At university, I was a Mathematics major for a time and switched to Literature. And now I’m being published by Christ and Pop Culture and BreakPoint! HOWEVER, I didn’t begin to pursue a writing career until my late 40’s. I carried my slacker-ness into adulthood and it has not served me well. Give students the consequences they’ve earned, either good or bad. It’s the best thing you can do for them.