In Elementary School, my son was an A student. Now that he is in seventh grade, he is barely a C student. How can I help?
Teachers know this to be the most difficult and one of the most important stages in a young person’s life. It is a time of transition between childhood and young adulthood. Hormones, natural changes in cognitive reasoning, peer pressure and a biological/psychological need to assert independence, are among the multitude of influences pulling young people in many directions. Fields of specialized sciences have evolved to help adults better understand this phenomenon, so I cannot give you all of the answers in a short column. But I will try to help with a few tips directly related to school work.
First you need to begin by making a conference appointment with all his teachers (and perhaps a guidance counselor or other support personnel) to get a total picture of what’s going on. In addition to all of the factors set forth in the first paragraph, middle school usually involves a transition from a one classroom and one teacher scenario, to one in which a student has a number of teachers, who in turn have a large number of students and cannot give a student the same individualized attention he or she had in elementary school. You can help by assisting him to get better organized. Make sure that he has a calendar to record homework assignments and notebooks and pocket folders for each class. Ask teachers for regular updates on progress instead of waiting for the report card to come home. Set a time and a place at home for homework and make sure the task at hand during that time is homework, not texting, talking on the phone or watching TV. If he’s fallen behind, consider a tutor until he catches up. Let him know that you have high expectations for him and that you know that he is capable.
As I said, it is impossible to address all of the issues which would be necessary to fully answer your question. Read, listen and utilize the sources you have available to you to learn suggestions and tactics. Even if you have time to delve into coursework and studies on teen psychology, a simple suggestion is to try to remember your own youth and how you felt when you went through that stage, and how you wanted to be treated. Try to provide a supportive, loving and reasonably structured environment which emphasizes the importance of education while recognizing and accommodating your son’s pull for independence. Good luck!