How to help stressed and underperforming students
Many of us are feeling the strain of this lockdown, more than we have previously. In particular, children are being greatly impacted by the lack of time with their friends and the opportunity to socialise and just be kids. In addition, many children are also being impacted academically and are falling behind. On the other hand, some children are thriving and have in fact improved academically.
So how can you tell if your child is struggling and what can you do about it?
Start by talking to them
Ask your children how they are feeling about school.
Try to be specific here as many children (especially adolescents!) will give you a simple answer that does not promote further conversation. Your child might be afraid of getting into trouble if your find out they are falling behind and not submitting work.
Think about where and when you can have this conversation. A great time is when you are going for a walk or drive. The key is to be out of the house and doing something together, even if it is as simple as grocery shopping. Keep your antennae up for an opportunity to have this conversation occur naturally.
In particular, ask them if they are finding the work easy or not.
Are they able to ask questions when online with their teacher?
Are they getting the help they need as they might get in the physical classroom?
Understand that teachers simply have limited time to individually assist children in the online environment.
Have a look at the work your child is submitting
Are they keeping up or is the list of non-submitted tasks growing?
Are the submitted tasks brief and without detail?
A child who is struggling may not fully understand what is required and simply needs some 1/1 support to ask questions and successfully complete work.
Have you noticed changes in behaviour?
Children can become quite stressed when they know they are not keeping up with classwork, or the standard of their work is not what they would like.
Stress and anxiety may result in many behaviour changes such as being quieter than normal, angrier, more disruptive, appear to have given up or you simply think your child has just grown lazy.
Any change in behaviour needs to be attended to. What might look like a lazy child, may in fact be a symptom of a child who is feeling completely overwhelmed.
Talk to your child’s teacher
Don’t wait for parent/teacher interviews if you have any concerns.
Teachers want to know now.
Is the teacher noticing the same things as you?
Are they doing anything specific to help your child?
If your child has an Independent Learning Plan (ILP), has this been adapted for the current situation?
What does the teacher think you could do to help, that is reasonable and easy?
What do you think the teacher could do to help, that is reasonable and easy?
Remember that the teacher is also likely to be highly stressed and working exceptionally long hours.
Be kind to yourself
Not only are you worried about your children, but you have your own stresses to deal with.
Take time out to do something you enjoy. This can be as simple as going for a walk with your children or playing board games.
Most importantly, whatever you do it must be FUN!
Laughter is the greatest de-stressor. Play hide-and-seek inside and tiggy outside! Build a couch cubby. Get your children to teach you their games and then play with them!!
Get additional support through one-on-one online tutoring
Neither you nor the teachers can do it all.
Providing your children with an opportunity to finally ask their questions, without being interrupted by their classmates, could be all they need to get back on track academically.
We do not have group classes, nor do we provide a curriculum that we slot children into. Instead, we provide an environment for children to be in charge and to direct what they want to cover with their tutor. The tutoring is targeted and specific and the tutor can also provide further instruction on what they believe to be areas of weakness.
This article was written by Jenny Pownall, an education professional with over 35 years of experience and owner and founder of The Tutoring Company.