When your child leaves high school you’ll want them to be fully equipped with the skills they need to navigate the world on their own.
Unfortunately, many students fail to reach their full potential at school and if you don’t identify the reasons early, it’s difficult to offer assistance.
So, here are our main three issues students face at school, and what you can do to help your child overcome them.
1. They have gaps in their knowledge
One of the main problems with conventional education is that it’s taught consecutively: each year level progresses on knowledge learned in the year prior.
With the teacher strikes over the past year, you’ll be very aware of the lack of time and resources teachers have to ensure all students are on track with the curriculum. Often, they just have to assume this is the case.
But this assumption can leave students falling behind and feeling out of control of their learning.
The truth is, every student enters the classroom from a different vantage point. Some may have forgotten content from the year before, some might have never been taught it in the first place.
This means that when teachers start the year at the next stage in the curriculum, students with gaps in their knowledge can’t keep up. They’re left feeling inadequate, which quickly turns to feelings of resentment towards school – when really it’s not their fault that they’ve started the year “behind” and all they need is to revise the basics.
This is where one-on-one tuition can prove really helpful. Tutors at Inspiration Education take a personalised approach to academic assistance.
The initial strategy session will help you and your child gain an honest picture of where they’re at in their current learning status. From there they’ll assess gaps in your child’s knowledge, and make sure they’re confident in the basics before moving onto complex material. What’s more – they’ll do all this with compassion, which is crucial to making students feel like they can ask questions and find the answers without judgement.
As a parent, there are a few things you can do at home to help address these gaps in your child’s knowledge.
- Explain things in their own words.
Your child might say they understand a concept but when you get them to explain it to you in their own words, they can’t describe it comprehensively. Emphasize that it’s not the end of the world if they don’t quite understand something and it’s more important to be honest with themselves and properly prepare themselves for the internal or exam.
- Self-test regularly. A great way to keep track of your child’s learning status, is to create fun quizzes. Quiz them on your commute home from soccer, challenge them to a game of subject-trivia, and ask questions about their studies often. This will help them uncover what they’ve got a good grasp on and what they need to keep revising.
- Use learning resources. StudyTime’s NCEA walkthrough guides are extremely popular amongst high school students and they’ll allow your child to assess their own learning, with “stop and check” sections that highlight where the gaps in their knowledge are.
“The studytime walkthrough guides helped me a lot, with the guides I could easily understand what I’ve missed and actually feel I did my best.” – Lisa Verma
2. They’re going through social, mental or emotional struggles
Poor mental health is one of the biggest barriers to a child success.
But teenagers are notoriously moody, and it’s often hard to differentiate “normal teenage behaviour” from symptoms of depression and anxiety.
With hormonal and physical changes, heightened self-awareness, and social media – school can be a battlefield for many young people.
If you’re worried about your teenager’s mental health, trust your instincts. Try to have a calm conversation, identify specific concerns, and then, if necessary, seek appropriate services to help them navigate these difficulties. It is so important to address mental health issues now: ignoring them will only make things harder down the line.
If you’re concerned about your teen’s social life, getting involved directly can be a bad idea. As much as you might want to help your child mend their relationships with their friends, having a parent intervene can be embarrassing, and furthermore, it takes away your child’s power and ownership of the issue.
That’s why simply having someone else can talk to can make a world of difference for young people who feel lost at school.
At Inspiration Education, we do this through mentorship. Our young tutors are trained to make students feel comfortable opening up about their vulnerabilities, sharing their concerns and admitting any struggles they might be facing – social, intellectual, mental or emotional. This helps to identify the root-cause of school related stress, meaning we can address it in a way that is both healthy and controlled.
One of the best ways to help your child’s mental and social health is to build their confidence. The same goes for studies too. That’s why we assign our students incremental goals, tasks and challenges to meet each week – this helps to build a genuine belief in their own abilities.
This logic works from home too: the more teenagers witness their own potential in action, the more confident they will become. This is the essence of holistic education: the idea that one’s learning success is fundamentally connected to their physical, personal, social, emotional and intellectual wellbeing.
From home, you can boost your teen’s social and mental wellbeing by:
- Understanding their strengths and weaknesses.
Many teenagers have low self-confidence, remind them of their abilities and gifts and celebrate mini victories throughout the year. When they face challenges remind them to treat every failure as a lesson for the future.
- Giving them more responsibilities.
Showing belief in their ability to achieve tasks will help enormously in establishing a sense of self-worth, pride and accomplishment. Let your teenager take on a household responsibility, or trust them to complete a risky project on their own. Ensure you’re not adding to their stress by giving them ‘chores’ that you know they won’t enjoy, instead think of things that you’d like them to try. Having you believe in them will help them to believe in themselves, and this attitude will trickle into their studies and social life.
- Letting them open up. Make sure you foster an environment in which your teen feels comfortable opening up about their struggles with you – whether emotional, social, mental or study-related. Teens have a bad habit of unhealthy perfectionism, which can prevent them from getting the support they need to overcome personal difficulties. Let them know vulnerability is human, and it’s okay – even important – to be honest about it.
In 2017, we surveyed over 5,000 Kiwi students about the main problems they face in their studies. The most common by a landslide? Procrastination.
Procrastination is a leading cause of students not meeting their potential at school.
Contrary to popular belief, procrastination is not just a case of laziness. Usually, it’s tied up in both psychological factors (stress) and practical ones (self-management skills). At Inspiration Education, we call it “anxiety, applied.”
Psychology Today magazine writes:
“Procrastination in large part reflects our perennial struggle with self-control as well as our inability to accurately predict how we’ll feel tomorrow, or the next day. “I don’t feel like it” takes precedence over goals; however, it then begets a downward spiral of negative emotions that deter future effort.”
Unlike laziness, procrastination doesn’t necessarily involve an unwillingness to do the work. Capable students usually know the importance of completing their homework or study on time, but simply can’t get themselves to do it.
This can make them feel guilty or ashamed, increase the stress surrounding that particular task, leading to even less productivity and ultimately resulting in demotivation, apathy and disillusion towards school.
Everyone procrastinates for different reasons. However, procrastination is particularly widespread at highschool for two reasons:
- It’s often the first time teenagers have to deal with high-stakes scenarios, such as NCEA exams or University Entrance. This means a heightened sense of pressure and anxiety, and a keen awareness of their individual responsibility to do well.
- Students are not equipped with the right executive skills to navigate this pressure, often resulting in procrastination. No one teaches teenagers how to make a study schedule or methods for prioritising tasks, – they simply assign the workload and leave them to it.
At Inspiration Education, we value planning, organisation and time-management skills just as much as we do intellectual knowledge.
A good tutor will help the student learn content. A great one will help them to develop the tools to take control of their learning. This means creating realistic study plans, schedules, and methods of self-accountability – while also advising students how to recognise their own patterns of procrastination, manage their anxiety and productively deal with stress.
This equips them with the mental tools to adapt to unpredictable circumstances, the emotional strategies to deal with the inevitable stress of school, and the self-management skills to make sure study gets done effectively and efficiently.
Things you can do from home:
- First things first, acknowledge that that procrastination is usually a psychological issue more than one of laziness or apathy.
Studies have proven that people procrastinate as a way of managing other issues in their life. Perfectionists might procrastinate because they have doubts in their abilities, and so they prioritise the things they know they can succeed in. Struggling students might procrastinate because studying brings about feelings of inadequacy and confusion, and they’d rather do things that make them feel capable. Explain this to your child so they better understand why they put off their work. By finding the route of the issue they can work towards changing it
- Be compassionate towards your teenager’s struggles.
Teens are much more likely to achieve tasks when they approach it from a place of confidence than a place of uncertainty. Talking honestly about whatever might be triggering your child’s procrastination is crucial to helping them overcome it. Whether its a toxic fear of failure, an unhealthy idea of success, an aversion to being controlled or a fear of facing reality – identify the root cause, and overcome it from a place of empathy.
- Finally, help them start small.
Mustering the motivation to begin a project can be the most stressful part. Our society places so much focus on constant productivity that it can have a paralysing effect on students. Looking at all they have to achieve is daunting, so help them break the task down to seem more achievable and remind them that chipping away at something is better than leaving it to the last minute or trying to knock it out in one go.
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