Overwhelmed Student Warning Signs

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Overwhelmed Student Warning Signs

{originally published in 2011}   I remember when my son started the fourth grade I just knew something was up. I couldn’t quite place my finger on it, but I could see that he wasn’t quite himself. Then a few grades started coming in that were not normal for him. I went and met with the teacher and asked her if she knew what was going on with him and she said, “Oh he’s fine, he is a wonderful student.” When I inquired about his slipping grades she gave me a blank stare and replied, “His grades are fine.” I slid a few papers across the table that were marred with red ink. Her face reflected confusion and I could she that she was genuinely shocked. As we continued our meeting she explained that her teaching assistant graded the papers, but because my son was such a good boy and had always been such a great student she just assumed he was doing well. You see my son is one of those quiet souls who does not want a lot of attention brought to himself in crowds of people. He could be totally lost as to what’s being taught in a classroom, but the last thing he would do is ask a question. Instead he would chose to sit quietly and attempt to figure it out on his own…or just fail. When his father and I asked him about it he said that he couldn’t keep learning and listening when the teacher would just stand up there and talk and talk. He explained that all the words just started sounding alike. Suddenly the Charlie Brown cartoon teacher started sounding right on to me, “Whah, whah, whah…whah, whah.” He surmised that he wasn’t as smart as the other kids and couldn’t keep up, so he decided he would just try and figure it out and if he couldn’t…oh well. That assumption that he wasn’t as smart as the other kids was affecting his countenance. We had to spend the next year working with him and teaching him how to ask for help and how to go deeper when something was hard for him. We had to encourage him and help him see just how smart he was. We assured him that we understood that just sitting and listening was hard for him. To this day if he has a boring teacher…he ends up with boring grades. We have agreed that is not a reflection of his intelligence, just a facet of his learning strengths and weaknesses. So he tries a bit harder to study and however the grades come out in the end…that’s ok. I substitute teach and I can assure you that a student will live up to the expectations he has of himself. As parents, we can embrace their strengths and celebrate them and we can also identify weaknesses and strive to work around them. All students will not be straight A students, but all students are valuable and capable of learning – when they are celebrated. Celebrate your children when and if they have a paper that has more red ink on it than you would like, work with them to understand why and fill them with confidence in spite of it. You will be amazed at how their self-belief will soar and you will once again see that skip in their step.

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