What Struggling Students want you to Know
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What struggling students want you to know - Episode 028
Five Things a Struggling Student Wants Parents and Teachers to Know
Do you know a struggling student? A struggling student might be a student who is failing classes or it might be the teenager who struggles with perfectionism but receives all A’s. It isn’t fair to define the experience of a struggling student with a GPA.
As an academic coach, I work with amazing students. Their interests, passions and the way they think make them really cool kids. I like to get to know them where they’re at in the moment. Not worrying about jobs or where they’re going to college. They are fascinating human beings.
What I wanted to do today is to share what struggling students want their parents and teachers to really understand. Sometimes we’re so focused on having everything line up just right that we don’t get a chance to sit back and appreciate people for who they are, not what they’re doing – or not doing.
The definitions you’ll need to know:
Struggling student and failing student might be the same, but they might not.
A failing student typically has lower grades. A struggling student might be failing a subject. They might also be a straight A student who is struggling with perfectionism or anxiety. They might be exceptional. They might have a learning difference. Don’t assume that because a student has straight A’s that they’re any different from the student who has straight F’s. There are many students who fall somewhere in between.
I might be Failing but I am not a Failure
Just because a child is not good at something does not mean that they are a failure.
I don’t like the term failure. I prefer flailing. If you think about it, when you start to fall you flail around like a fish out of water, but you can recover. It might not be graceful, but you can always bounce back from flailing.
Just because your child is struggling in a class doesn’t mean they are any less of a human. They deserve to be treated with respect. In my opinion, the child who is struggling or flailing should have that moment appreciated. How else are they going to get out of an F, a D or a C, or for a really high achieving student, an 89.9? That is a tough situation. Let’s appreciate the fact that they’re in a pickle and acknowledge it.
Appreciate the process it takes them to get out of the situation – whether it’s test anxiety, perfectionism or something else. That journey is far more impressive than a 5.3 GPA and the degree from Harvard. You child is not the grade.
I’m Really Good at Pretending I don’t Care
Imagine being in a room or building for eight hours a day around people who seemingly have things come easy to them. You have two options. You can get really depressed and think “how worthless am I that I’m not achieving like my peers?” or you can say “I don’t care.” If you only have those two options, which do you think would feel better?
I for one, don’t like feeling miserable and bad about myself. So, I would probably adopt the attitude of “I don’t care.” That’s actually what I did for most of my high school career. That attitude was actually masking that I felt pretty miserable about myself. Just because I pretend I don’t care doesn’t mean maybe I don’t want something to be different. It’s going to be a challenge. It’s going to take time to find a way for me to understand it and get me invested in my education, especially when I’ve had so many years of struggle. But, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to experience something different.
I get Salty when we Talk about Grades because you’re my Safe Place
Think about it like you’re a student: You’re at school all day. You’re watching your peers be successful and praised in ways maybe you’re not experiencing. You come home and home is supposed to be safe. Your family is supposed to have your back. When you get home, all you get to talk about is the grades. Is there any wonder kids get snappish about it?
I know my role as a parent is to help my children become the best they can. I don’t say this to shame you, but to get the wheels turning. Maybe think about what we can do differently as parents to give students that safe space. Is there a moment or two after school where you can just chill together and appreciate them for where they’re at? I don’t remember to do that all the time. Try to create those moments to give them that safe space and maybe smooth the transition into the grades talk instead of pouncing when they get home from school. Enjoy your kids. Give them the
They don’t want to be Compared
Chances are, they’re comparing themselves to other people, more harshly than you would ever, and they don’t need to be compared anymore to other people or their siblings. They’re going to have their own path.
I’m sure as parents, in a moment of snappishness, we’ve thrown out comparisons to siblings. With a little tough love here, that statement means “you are lesser than.” I don’t think we ever intend to give that message, but things slip out in the heat of the moment. So when you start to compare your child to someone else, ask yourself – “What am I actually saying here? What do I want from making this statement? Is it that I wish homework time were easier? Is it that I wish I wouldn’t get frustrated with you because I enjoy the good times we have?” Is what you’re saying that you’re afraid? Those are emotions you can work with. I challenge you to think about what your underlying want or need is. Then maybe the conversation is “why can’t you be more like your brother or your sister? But I don’t know if this concern I have is right or not. When I look at your grades, I’m worried you’re not caring. I’m worried we’re not working on skills you might need as an adult. I’m worried I’m failing as a parent. How can I support you or help you as a parent?”
Chances are, our kids are doing a billion amazing things a day, and that is not an exaggeration, I promise. It’s really easy to hone in on that C or that F, or that missing work. It doesn’t mean those things shouldn’t go without consequences, but don’t for get to celebrate the amazing thing that your kiddos do. Every day celebrate one thing that is not tied to school. You’ll start to see them everywhere. Those things might not be things you’re interested in. You’ll have to appreciate rap, or Youtube, or eyeliner skills, but there are amazing things that your kiddo is good at that don’t involve a grade. Appreciate them. I hope that as you start to appreciate those things and vocalize them, the school and grade conversations will get easier. Whether you’re an adult or child who is struggling, you just want to be appreciated for who you are and not in definition other people, or the job you do, or the position you play. If you stripped all of that away, could you just be appreciated for being an amazing human being?
Whether we are nine or 90, having that recognition and appreciation can go a really long way in making someone’s day. Go celebrate your kiddos. Whether they like to admit it or not, the relationship they have with you is important!
Did any of these items hit a nerve? Listen to the full episode of School Counselor Gone Rogue to go a bit deeper in these items. I encourage you to listen with your child and see what they think! You can subscribe to School Counselor Gone Rogue on iTunes so you get your weekly episode by clicking here.
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Marni Pasch| Host of School Counselor Gone Rogue| Academic Coach | Team Pasch Academic Coaching
I work with students in grades 6th and higher, who struggle with academic confidence and motivation. I help them survive school with less stress by helping them create concrete goals, tackle procrastination and learn creative study techniques. I empower students to take charge of their education and reach their goals. I do this through individual or group coaching so students achieve success in life, school, career readiness and their social endeavors.