What I Learned When I Failed 9th Grade


At the beginning of 9th grade, I attended Western hills High School; I surrounded myself with a bad crowd that influenced me day in and day out. Too young to understand the choices I was making would ultimately cause me to fail the 9th grade, I used to skip school, sleep in class, and did not do homework assignments.

The following school year on the first day I remember gazing for my name on this paper that had a list of names and home room teachers. When I arrived to my homeroom class, I was taken by surprise when I was greeted by a 9th grade teacher. By far this was the most embarrassing day of my life.

Immediately, right after school, I went home to talk to my mom about a switch to a new high school. I told her that if I stayed in the same environment, then I would get the same results and that I need a fresh start in order to succeed. She glanced at me as if what I am saying she’s heard all before. Then said “If you’re a serious about changing your behavior and grades, then yes.”

Next semester, I started my new high school at Gilbert A. Dater High School. Before I went off to school I asked my mom, “Do you think I’m going to graduate on time?” She stared at me from across the kitchen counter and uttered “No. I’m just being realistic.” Leaving home frustrated and upset that my mom didn’t even believe in me only taught me to believe in myself when no one else does.

The next day, I went to the main office to ask my academic counselor “What all do I need to complete in order to graduate on time?” Ms. Baxter told me I needed “12 credit hours.” Under those circumstances, I asked her if I’m able to attend my regular sophomore classes along with 12 credit hours of Apex, which is credit recovery classes online. She looked at me as if I had 6 heads, yet she gave me the opportunity to prove myself. I left the office feeling uneasy; what did I just get myself into? Could I really manage to complete all this work in a short amount of time?

Photos from Steven Toys’ personal collection, 10th grade year

Later that day, walking home from school I told myself I couldn’t fail again or let Ms. Baxter down. For the rest of the semester I stayed up late nights working on homework, studying for tests, writing papers, and completing my Apex.

Nevertheless, I managed to get back in my right grade, graduate on time, and get accepted into college.

This experience has taught me to develop grit. Freshman year of college I failed college algebra the first time around, but that didn’t discourage me from trying again. With grit the second time around I passed college algebra with an A and received a letter of recommendation from my professor for an internship.

If I didn’t fail 9th grade I would’ve always believed my mom was right and never built the confidence to believe in myself when no else does. I would’ve always relied on my mom for the answers to my problems. I’ve learned to never doubt anyone, and what they are capable of once they put their mind to it.

About Steven Toy

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