When a child’s grades take the plunge, parents can try to be as measured and as balanced as they can until they have time to analyse the reasons why the student’s grades may have taken a plunge- although it can be difficult not to over-react. Most parents want the very best for their children and know that academic achievement usually has a direct bearing on their future success in life.
There may be issues a child is grappling with, perhaps successfully, on his or her own, that are temporarily diverting energy away from study. Given time and respect, a child may surprise parents by resolving these on his own, getting back on an even keel independently. On the other hand there may be some de-incentivisation going on. This may be linked to motivation and a child may need to re-find the drive to succeed.
Before contacting the school, or even having a talk with teens, it beneficial just to take time out to observe their lifestyle, leisure time, homework commitment and general attitude to school and academic work. Has this changed? For a while, parents can step up their own input. They can try to be around one evening extra per week if possible, so that they are present when the child comes home from school. They can then ask the child about their day, teachers, friends,the set homework etc. – and gauge responses.
Parents can knock, and pop a head round the door to ask if a teen needs anything, or any help, during the time they are supposed to be doing their homework. They can show an interest in it and, if the atmosphere is positive, even ask to take a look at the set piece. It may even be possible to check back through past pieces to gain an insight into progress or lack of it.
Teen socialising can go under the spotlight too. Parents may be able to detect a new, perhaps negative, pattern emerging. Taking an interest in a child’s friends and where they are hanging out sometimes reveals changes a parent may not even have been aware of. Teens social lives move forward quickly!
After a period of warm, supportive observation, it is time to “have that chat.” Sometimes it is better to start in general terms, including school life, peer group relationships, romantic relationships and perception of family relationships. Chats can take place incidentally – while making snacks in the kitchen, driving to school and so on. Parents can sometimes glean useful insights that can be followed up at school meetings.
When parents have done as much information-gathering as they can themselves, they can request a Teacher Consultation. Here, they can establish whether the grading system has changed, whether a child’s self-esteem in class has slipped, whether they seem to be under any new form of pressure such as bullying and whether motivation has slumped.
It is also important to bear in mind that the school and the teacher may bear some of the responsibility. Parents need to ask the right questions in order to establish how much of the grade plunge is down to the system. They can ask whether there has been a sudden change in teacher turnover. This may signify that teachers are not happy there either. Also, if there is a new teacher in a particular subject – discipline may be lax. Assessment and monitoring procedures may be second-rate.
Some of these enquiries can be answered most quickly by having a chat with peer group parents too! Have they noticed standards slipping either with their teen, or with the school? How does a teens progress compare against others who started at the same time? A few moms in the schoolyard will amass the results almost or even more quickly than a government inspection!
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