I was on Facebook this morning, and stumbled upon a discussion about children's grades. The status was summarizing a conversation heard on the local radio this morning, one of the host's children is an intelligent young man but brought home a mediocre report card. The parents were crediting his grades to laziness and were asking listeners to help determine an appropriate punishment.
Many peers commented on the status with their own recommendations and how they might handle the poor report card; however, one woman's reply stood out to me. Beyond that, it resonated with me.
While I don't have her exact quote (the conversation has mysteriously disappeared from my feed), she posed the idea that perhaps the student is somehow struggling, perhaps he has a learning disorder that isn't outwardly obvious and that perhaps someone should take a moment to help him.
Now, I'm not saying we should disregard poor grades and make them OK with a label. I'm saying that it's such an important point and it frustrates me that more people aren't looking at a struggling child and seeing this as part of the solution.
When I was in the sixth grade, I slacked... big time. I'd always struggled with my confidence as a kid, and when I got to the middle school (a melting pot of multiple elementary schools from the area), I had even more people to compare myself to. Surrounded by kids that made me feel inadequate, I started to stop doing my schoolwork because I felt that it didn't matter... I wouldn't be able to provide answers as intelligent as theirs, or my poster project wouldn't be as pretty, etc. Juvenile thoughts, yes, but I was 10 or 11 years old.
As my grades quickly took a turn for the worse, my teachers contacted my parents. Forced to sit down in a meeting with everyone, the group came up with a solution to help me both at home and in school. At the end of each class, I was required to go up to the teacher and have them sign my assignment book where I'd written the homework for the day. This meant that I couldn't go home and pretend there wasn't work to be done, it made me accountable. I was successfully able to prove to everyone, including myself, that I wasn't a slacker. I just needed a little organization!
By the time I got to high school, I'd become a much better student, but I developed major test anxiety. Despite that, I maintained high grades. In the 10th grade, I asked my English teacher if she could recommend me to the Honors class for the next year. She told me no, that I wouldn't be able to keep up.
I was furious. I was upset. And the second week of my Junior year I woke up, went to school and told all of my friends that I wasn't coming back. None of them understood how I could give up the glory (gag) that is high school, the social life, etc. for ..... homeschooling.
Thank you to the most selfless mother in the world, who didn't bat an eyelash when I'd told her my decision. To the selfless parents that let me choose (after many a conversation where I had to convince my parents that I wasn't being bullied and that yes, it really was just because of academics).
Opting to homeschool was the best decision I could have made. I was able to take higher-level courses, select courses that catered to my own interests (this is how I got into archaeology) and graduated from a diploma program. When college rolled around I was like a seasoned pro because I'd already learned to work independently while many of my peers struggled without the guidance of a teacher.
So, my answer to that radio show? Talk to your child, whether they are 10 or 16. If you know that your child is bright, don't assume that their poor grades reflect laziness. Maybe the lazy behavior you see is actually the response to something else that's going on. Explore different learning styles, new study techniques, ways to prevent anxiety. If your child isn't interested in the topic that they are studying, work with them to find ways to make it a little more exciting. I'm not saying that everyone should homeschool, and I understand that in many households it simply isn't a reality; however, my point is that there are solutions. For me, it was finding a way to get the education that I wanted, and I knew I wouldn't find that where I was. It was proving to myself that I could do something, even when I was told that I couldn't. Homeschooling is what worked for me, but I know it's not for everyone.
There are solutions to these sorts of problems, and I wish that more people would take a moment to explore them before assuming it's laziness, lack of motivation, etc.
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