School is coming to a close: How did your teen do?
I’m always amazed how many parents drag their teens in to see me near the end of the school year. Their concerns are always the same—“Joey is getting D’s and F’s. What should we do?” I see a ton of 9th graders. They had a bad first term and an even worse second term. I have to give them the bad news—it’s too late to salvage the semester.
I think that there are many factors that contribute to this problem. Children are the original optimists. After a spotty first semester, they promise to work harder next term! They are sure that they will be able to get their homework done on time. They promise to turn off their phones, spend less time in front of the Xbox, and study longer for math tests. They’re convincing.
They start off strong but sadly have trouble maintaining the effort. There are the usual reasons—lots of distractions, raging hormones, girlfriend problems, and the list goes on. Let's face it—talk is cheap. It’s far harder to change your habits.
Often, these are the kids that did well in elementary school but starting declining in Middle School. Ninth grade is a big jump up in demand and complexity. If you apply the same amount of elbow grease in 9th grade that you applied in 8th grade, you’re in trouble. It’s a big shock for most freshmen. They had no idea. The bar goes up even higher in 11th grade.
There are lots of good reasons why some kids struggle. They may lack organization, planning and study skills, time management, or competence in reading and writing. Math can be a big mountain for many youngsters too.
I do see many kids who have ADHD, who muscled through earlier grades but start to crash and burn in High School. There is just so much busy work that is dull and unsatisfying, which exacerbates their problems with attention and concentration. For these kids, paying attention in class and doing homework is like swimming through molasses. Furthermore, unlike elementary school, it’s sink or swim in High School. Teachers and administrators just don’t have the resources to really help these children.
Many of these kids are going to be miserable in High School. I recommend that they check out their school district’s alternative high schools. The best and most motivated teachers work in those programs. The classes are smaller and there is more ability to fit the teaching style to the student.
Lots of parents and kids are reluctant to even make a visit. “Those kids are the losers. They have purple hair. The place is filled with drugs!” Don’t fool yourself—drugs are in regular high schools too. Check out some classes—you will be surprised and pleased.
Kids don’t want to go because they don’t want to leave their buddies. What they lack is the long-term perspective that parents have. In the long run, they will make new friends. But more importantly, they will do better in high school, which will set them up for a better future.
I wish they had an alternative to regular high school when I was a teenager. I wasn’t interested in school and was a chronic school truant. I was bored. I only get decent grades because I wanted to fly under my parent’s radar. Kids today aren’t so inclined. I have a lot of empathy for youngsters that don’t fit into the standard high school curriculum.
If your kid is struggling in High School, here are some suggestions:
- Figure out why. Sometimes it’s obvious—lack of structure. But other times in can be more difficult to figure out. Drill down on how they approach specific tasks, and ask them to tell you what comes easy and what’s hard. If you listen carefully, you will see some trends.
- Establish countermeasures EARLY. Don’t wait too long to increase study time, decrease computer time, and check to see if homework is done. Parental involvement, in everything adolescent, is huge.