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"I Flunked School"

It may feel like the end of the world-but it isn't.
IMAGE Giphy/Tigerbeat

Nina clearly remembers the day it happened.

"It was a Friday. We were about to take our seats for the periodical exams when, in front of the whole class, the teacher told me I couldn't take the exam and that I had to go to the principal's office."

The principal told her that she wouldn't be able to graduate because she had exceeded the number of absences allowed. For the first five months of her senior year, she had missed 40 days of school. "I was passing my tests in spite of all my absences. I was still able to do the school work. I was asking the principal to consider this, but she didn't. She asked me to leave."

Darlene was a sophomore when she began skipping class. "I just felt so dumb and stupid in there," she says with a little edge in her voice. "The whole time I was going, kahit complete attendance, wala pa rin. I would study but I'd still have the lowest grades sa mga tests. I just got tired of it." She was dispirited and it showed. She flunked three subjects and her general average was at an all-time low. She had to repeat her second year.

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"The whole time I was going, kahit complete attendance, wala pa rin. I would study but I'd still have the lowest grades sa mga tests. I just got tired of it."

Jen, who was then in third year high school, found herself going on a lot of night outs. "I wasn't paying attention to school or homework anymore. My grades were slipping and I ended up flunking two subjects," she says. This meant flunking her entire junior year, as well.

Nina, Darlene, and Jen are what the rest of the school population call repeaters—students who fail to make the grade and do not graduate to the next level. They can be easily dismissed as stupid, bulakbol, or lazy even if many factors may effect their school performance. Whether flunking is due to genuine difficulty or learning disability, lack of motivation, a family crisis, or rebellion, the emotions teens experience are just as varied. 

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"It's difficult to generalize what teens go through when they flunk a subject or repeat a year level. It greatly depends on a lot of things," says family and child therapist, Bunny Ty. "For instance, teenagers who've always had a difficult time academically but are truly giving their best may feel very disappointed and frustrated. It also affirms their personal beliefs that they can never be good students."

Darlene expected to fail. "I didn't plead with my adviser or ask for some sort of consideration. Pero iyak lang ako ng iyak. I felt so terrible, like I let everybody down."

"It was embarrassing at the start," says Jen. "I was so bad trip because I couldn't imagine I was actually in the same batch I used to pick on and dislike."

Nina's, embarrassment came from the manner in which she was told to go see the principal. When she was told she could go back to school to finish the grading period, she chose not to. "I was so embarrassed, I didn't want to go back." 

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But since she desparately didn't want to repeat her senior year, she found a school that would take her in during the middle of the school year. "It was a school for kick-outs. We had school from 9AM to 3PM and had two-hour lunch breaks. They were so lax," she says. But she also felt out of place, coming from an exclusive school where the population was generally conservative. "I felt that the co-ed crowd in the new school was too advanced. Almost all the students were smoking. They were quite wild."

School or Consequence

A good student all her life, Nina was once on her grade school's honor roll. She gives no real reason for all her absences. "I just didn't feel like going to class," she shrugs. And since she could keep up with the school load, she opted to hang out with her friends—college kids who, unlike her, had the luxury of a flexible schedule. Eventually, she felt she could no longer keep up. "All the more I didn't want to go [to school]. It was sort of a chain reaction."

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When she was starting fourth year, she felt that time was crawling by. Only when the graduation month of March came did she think otherwise.

"That's when I realized, 'If only I had waited a little longer.' I could have graduated with my old classmates," Nina says a bit sadly.

"I regretted [flunking] so much," Jen sighs. She hardly knew anyone from her new batch and she missed her friends. "They were shocked when I flunked, but they didn't talk much about it so that I wouldn't feel bad. But generally, they didn't treat me any differently." Her parents were a different story.

She was grounded for an entire year—meaning an earlier curfew and less gimmicks. "They were the most frustrated people on this earth. They were very disappointed because it was such a waste of money. They cut down on all my privileges and punished me for the littlest things," Jen recalls.

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Ty stresses that more often than not, "It takes a while for some teens to realize what consequences their actions may have in other areas of their lives." Nina had to adjust to a new school, Jen had to give up seeing her friends, and Darlene had to quit soccer.

"I can say that I'm quite good at soccer," Darlene shares a bit shyly. "It might be the only thing I was good at and it was being taken away from me. I felt so mad at school, my teachers, and myself. I gave up, e." She often found herself going to school only when she had soccer practice—the highlight of her day—as classes were getting too frustrating for her. In the soccer field, however, she bloomed.

"Teens tend to see the different roles they play in life as independent of each other. For example, they believe being a student has nothing to do with being a friend, or, 'the kind of daughter I am has nothing to do with the kind of daughter I am has nothing to do with the kind of friend I am,'" explains Ty. Because of this, there is a tendency to compensate.

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"They can think, 'not doing well in school can be acceptable since I have 10 million friends' or the fact that she's a great athlete compensates for her poor performance in school."

Second Chances

In her second try as a sophomore, Darlene's parents decided to hire a tutor. Her mom and dad, who were both working full-time, also tried to sit with her every other day after school just to see how things were doing. "It was so uncomfortable, at first. Parang every move I made was scrutinized, like if I understood the lesson correctly or not. I felt like I was in kindergarten or something."

Jen's parents also began monitoring her studies. "I felt that I had to prove myself again. I had to be more behaved. It wasn't that hard because I wasn't that close to my new classmates. This gave me more reason to study," she says.

Nina was a different story. She didn't feel she had to prove anything to anyone. "I guess, I felt that I proved [I was good in school] when I was younger," she ponders. She even dropped out of her new school a month before graduation. "I just couldn't adjust."

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However, all throughout this experience her mom was supportive of her decisions. "She was always there for me. Of course there were ups and downs but our relationship wasn't strained. She was my best friend," volunteers Nina.

Because of her mom's constant monitoring, Darlene grew close to her. "Studying and learning was still tedious for me but my parents, although they were very disappointed in the beginning, were still very patient."

According to Ty, when a teen flunks in school, "they should seek some support from their parents or talk to the school couselor. If couselors are not available in school, find one who has a private practice. They can also build a relationship with their teacher and see how she can be of help." Asking help from their peers through study groups can also keep them motivated.

Going back to the basics of studying is necessary. "Find out what your learning style is—if you're a visual learner or an auditory one. This may help you in studying," offers Ty. Being more receptive to hearing information means you're a visual learner; and being hands-on means you're a kinesthetic learner. Guidance tests can reveal one's learning style.

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"Find out what your learning style is—if you're a visual learner or an auditory one. This may help you in studying."

Ty also suggests taking time to identify the cause of the experience. "Do you need to be tested for learning disabilities? Time management tips or just betters study habits? Should you rethink your priorities? Must you set a goal and find out what it takes to reach it?

"Remember, that you are always capable of changing. If you look at it that way, then you know it is something you have control over. You can do something about it," shares Ty.

When Jen focused on school work, her grades improved. "It was also a lot easier because I had the same topics and it was just a matter of retrieving stored information. Eventually, I improved and learned a lot. Now, I've gained back my parent's respect and my privileges."

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Although Nina seemed to have easily accepted getting kicked out of school, she admits that she regrets it. "It was my responsibility and I messed up." Fortunately, her owning up, although delayed, still enabled her to succeed. When she left "the school for kick-outs," she took an equivalency test to see if she could still go to college and she passed.

Darlene is working harder than she expected. She had to give up a soccer again this year. "I felt like I owed it to my parents and to myself to at least do better. And I think I'm doing better, kahit konti. I still find it difficult but I'm managing. Hopefully, tuloy-tuloy na," she says smiling.

This article was originally published in Candy's October 2000 issue.

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Ivah Ely 5 hours ago

Forget Me Not: A forgotten entry in Tokyo

Watching well-made films often fuel the desire for adventure and excitement in our own lives. Like many in their youth, I've felt that childlike feeling of seeing myself as the main character in my own movie. The genres often change with time and it goes from comedy to tragedy really quick. I used to think that if I closed my eyes for too long, I'd miss the best parts. That if I close my eyes then I'd be covering the lens to the camera in my mind. But I also believed that I could dream about what I see again when I lay my head to sleep at nights or that I can re-watch all my memories after I die. But now that I'm older reality has a tighter grasp on my throat as I trudge my rocky road to adulthood. My memory is failing me. I write this entry for that reason. Because I am scared to forget. I was emotionally and mentally worn. I didn't know it at the time but I desperately needed that feeling of childlikeness again.

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Senior high school came with so much unnecessary pain and pressure that I didn't realize I was gasping for air. I always sat by the window to stare out during class as the voice of my teacher became background noise that faded into my daydreams. Before I knew it, I was packing a small backpack in the middle of the semester on a cold November evening to go on a trip to Tokyo. This time it wasn't a dream and it felt as if time stood still.

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While my friends and classmates were back home in their classrooms going on with their lives and schoolwork, I on the other hand was two-thousand miles away in a foreign land with a foreign language where my basic knowledge was not enough for me to survive on my own. Like passing through the Torii gate which the Japanese believe brings humans into the land of the spirits, I was in a new world. The breeze felt like a cold nip at the tip of my nose as autumn was nearing winter but I've never breathed in air fresher. I was welcomed into a small and warm Japanese home with lovely little folded cranes on a humble dinner table.

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My aunt who was far lovelier and even more vibrant than the colors on the delicately folded cranes was there to welcome me as well. The paper cranes weren't the only things she prepared for my one-week stay. On a little pink card, she had my name along with my Tokyo address handwritten in Japanese for our rides on the bus & bullet train; and in case I get lost. She also prepared a small pink pouch with cute yellow elephants on it. The pouch was filled with coins of different amounts. The coins were for me to spend freely on drinks and snacks in vending machines. It was all more than enough since beforehand she already prepared us 2 weeks' worth of snacks for my 1-week stay. On top of all that she prepared winter clothes since I traveled light and she insisted that I wear the pink parka that she brought before I came over. I find it funny that she still thinks I like pink but it's still just like the good old days. She's still one of the most thoughtful people I know. My aunt is a missionary in Japan and has always been like a mother and a friend to me. I sobbed like a baby in front of a thousand-member congregation on the day my family and I sent her off. A few years later, with my father being our Church's missions pastor, I was given the opportunity to travel to Tokyo and see her. Seeing her again was bittersweet. It's sweet since she raised me and is a big part of who I am and my interests today. But bitter because it hits you like a ton of bricks when you notice someone you love is has gotten older or weaker. Don't we all feel that at some point with our parents and guardians? On my father's side of the family, we have issues of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Dementia. It's hard to pretend that it doesn't hurt that after years of being with my grandma, she doesn't know who I am. As for my dad, on top of having Parkinson's he is starting to show early signs of dementia too. It's scary how quickly one can forget decades worth of memories. I wonder if I may go through that as well one day.

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At the time these thoughts were overshadowed by the magical Disneyland rides and digital museums, sights like Mt. Fuji as well as traditional and Modern Japanese Architecture, pictures we took at the iconic Hachiko shrine, and Shibuya crosswalk, and even the small oddities of Harajuku fashion and merchandise. I took as many pictures every chance I could get. I wrote in my digital journal with plans to make a picture journal when I get back home. Japan was quite the story to tell that I believe rekindled my childlike spirit. Before we knew it, the week ended and I was packing once again. This time my luggage was more than twice as heavy and the destination this time was home. I dreaded leaving Japan but I dreaded leaving my aunt more. I didn't get to say a proper goodbye to her at the airport due to my not knowing that she was only allowed to see me off until a certain point. I cried on the flight back while holding a giant Donald duck stuffed toy as I just imagined her going to her small Tokyo home alone. I also cried since soon I'd have to face reality once again. After hours of travel I found myself back home in the all too familiar Baguio. But I was in distress. It wasn't because my lungs were starting to forget what clean air felt like or that I'm missing the life I've lived for the past week. But I was in distress because I couldn't find my phone. Why was that the biggest problem in the world to me at the time? It was because of the pictures and notes that were lost with it. All the pictures I took and the notes of the smallest details were a blurry mess amidst the panic in my brain. I never posted anything because I wanted to live in the time there and not worry about anything back home or anyone knowing what I've been up to. But what haunts me is that I don't remember a single one of the pictures I took. I was so sure that I'd be able to go over them when I get back home. I don't want to forget. It's been 550 days and it still bothers me. It's been 550 days and it's only now that I realize the lesson of this story as I write this.

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As scary as it is to forget memories, we have to understand when we have to hold on to something and when it's okay to forget. I tried for weeks to somehow recover the pictures on iCloud but to no avail. We may not be able to fix the mistakes of the past or avoid misfortune that is out of our hands but what we can do is to move forward and make more memories that are worth remembering. Treasure the beautiful moments and the lessons from the terrible times. Cherish them and fight to keep these memories on the surface. If you find that difficult to do then strive to tell your stories to others. Because in the times that we forget, then we have others will remember our legacy. We can't be sure about what happens next though we can plan all we want. Often life doesn't have spoilers and may have a plot twist around the corner. As for me, I may never find those photos again but I made it a goal to one day come back to Tokyo and make more memories. That is a promise that I won't forget.

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The Art of Doing Nothing

We have been confined with the worldview about the idea of success; thus, the word “productivity” has been diverted into a different meaning. We labeled the level of our success by identifying the weight of the works we’ve done – believing that the busier you are, the more productive you’ll be. But little did we know that this kind of mindset is a pitfall, ending up in a trap and restricting us to do more of what we can.

Every person has their own way of planning on how to get productive. One of the tips mentioned by Prosalendis was the “2 Hour Hermit Mode” where you just need to stay quiet for two hours to learn and reflect. Within the 2-Hour Hermit Mode, you need to completely shut down outside distractions and try to do nothing, this will help you to have a peace of mind and a quiet time. Focus. This word may be cliché, having a shallow meaning, but the reality is, focusing on one thing is one of the hardest things to do. Some people may have mistakenly understood “doing nothing” as unproductive, but this is actually a form of taking a break. I usually do this 2-Hour Hermit every time I am loaded with tons of deadlines. Just try to sit in the corner of a coffee shop and try to discover new things or just go to a place where you find yourself comfort and peace.

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The art of doing nothing makes you appreciate the beauty of the mundane things - you get to witness how the leaves sway on their own branches, you get to see the unappreciated smiles of the people, you get to hear the sound of the birds giving you lullabies. You will never have the time to focus if you are too disturbed with a lot of things. Give yourself a rest from thinking about all the work you need to do. Don’t get distracted and give yourself the freedom of unfolding new things. The power of focusing and art of doing nothing will help you to do things you don’t normally do, and maybe start to love the things you once hated. Trace your progress. We don’t know how productive we are unless we trace our activities. I have a journal where I can write the things I have done, and the things I wasn’t able to accomplish. This helps me to track and jot down the things I failed to do within the day.

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You are able to take a break and have a rest by doing outside the boundary of the tons of work you have. You will also be surprised that you have done so many things when you’re listing the things you’ve accomplished. This will not just give you the satisfaction but you will also be grateful for what you have done for the past twenty-four hours. You just need a minute to reminisce what you have done while enjoying the silence in the process. Small daily acts can be a solution to achieve our long-term goals. We’re always bombarded with distractions and piled up work, but nothing can beat the idea of staying on track and not feeling lost. By doing this, we will always be reminded why we started to commit on the things that we want to do. After all, what makes us love what we do is knowing why we started it in the first place. The problem with us is that we are too busy achieving, losing the time to see the colors of the ordinary. We are blinded with the idea that success comes with great productivity. We always think that we are defined by how much work we exerted, and not appreciating the effort we’ve given. The fact is you are already successful in acknowledging that you have done something, and nothing.

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