Because we are not an “every child needs to attend an Ivy League school” learning center, we try to avoid alarmist rhetoric. Still, we have seen too many students develop long-term issues because parents ignored early warning signs or lowered their expectations. Here are a few things that can happen when students fall behind and do not get the help they need.
Struggling Students & In-Class Difficulties
Struggling students may have unrecognized problems in their classrooms. It may be due to a learning style issue, a lack of fundamental knowledge, or a “bad teacher.”
For example, a kinesthetic learner may have trouble absorbing instruction in class because he or she doesn’t take notes. An auditory learner may be sitting too far from the teacher and has trouble hearing him or her. It might be easier than you think to turn these struggling students into high achievers! Do you know your child’s preferred learning style?
As soon as possible, you (with the help of the teacher) should try to identify if your son or daughter is missing some fundamental skills or knowledge that is having a significant impact on her or his current work. Both the schools and Lafayette Academy have assessments that will help you determine what skill gaps may be causing problems for your child.
As far as a “bad teacher,” I’m going to share something that I said to my children if they complained about a teacher (often after I had asked them about a poor grade on a test). “So I guess nobody got an A on that test, right?” Yes, I know I annoyed them, but I also made a point.
Beyond the academic issues, struggling students often face personal and emotional challenges. In fact, it may be personal issues that are actually causing the problems. Is he or she having friend issues that you might not be aware of? Does your son have “never say a word” syndrome? Most importantly, students lose self-esteem when they do poorly in school. Some of them shut down and fall further behind. It’s hugely important to look beyond the obvious and try to find underlying reasons for your son or daughter’s issues.
Future Educational Issues
Short-term academic problems become long-term issues when you don’t address them. We have tried to help way too many high school students with problems that can be traced back to poor performance in elementary or middle school. If your children are falling behind in their K-8 years, they must get help with their fundamental skills in math or reading. Just like athletes in sports, students need strong fundamentals to excel in school.
Students also get accustomed to a certain level of achievement: “once an A student, always an A student.” Why not get your child to his or her top level as early as possible so it becomes the norm? We have seen this pattern repeat itself thousands of times over the years, partly because the top students raise their own expectations and become more self-sufficient and responsible. It’s easy to forget the strong correlation between expectations and results.
Students with strong fundamentals go to quality universities and perform well. Often, they are destined for success because they learned to adjust to their learning challenges at a young age.
College & Career Options
Before you think we have lost our minds, we want to clarify that we don’t think 1st-grade parents should worry about their children’s college prospects! We have had a few 6th-grade parents inquire about SAT Prep and that was bad enough. What we DO want you to realize is that you CAN set the right tone from an early age so high performance and high achievement become the norm (mentioned above). Here is a loosely related anecdote to bring this point home:
When I grew up, it was assumed that my siblings and I would go to college. That was true for most of the children in my neighborhood and 95% of us went to college, including the struggling students. What would happen if this were the norm in every small town in America? Instead, in many parts of the country, families do not think beyond high school. Many children do not attend college, and some do not finish high school.
Although early academic problems do not have to be a college or career death knell, they can put a lower ceiling on a student’s chances for success.