School Distress Signals

images 8 School Distress SignalsWhat distress signal might your teen be sending?

You child’s school is a different world: relationships, victories, disappointments, troubles, tests, clubs, sports, bullies, and teachers. Sometimes it’s hard for adults to remember that the day-to-day world our kids face is a complex one.

How can we know that all is OK in their world? Our kids depend on us to support and protect them, even when we can’t be with them. Here are some school distress signals our kids might be sending to alert us when things are not alright:

  1. Evasion: Is your child evasive when asked about homework, grades or relationships? They could be hiding problems. Breaking eye contact, changing the subject and defensiveness are all evasive tactics kids can use to pull the spotlight off of trouble areas. Our job as parents is to compassionately press in during these times and seek to help. Lock in empathy, ask a lot of questions, and plan for follow up (letting them know you’ll be following up with teachers, etc.).
  1. Change in daily homework rhythms: Does it seem like your student is spending less time on homework? Does he give a consistent “no” when asked if he has any studying to do? This could be an indication that he is behind in a class. A quick check of online grade books, and/or an email to teachers can be easy ways to get to the bottom of things.
  1. Frequent “sick” days, or late to school: This could be an indication of social/peer issues. Navigating the complex social structure of school is difficult enough for students when there aren’t problems, but if a child is faced with bullying or hurtful gossip, it can overwhelm them. Don’t accept frequent sick days at face value. School attendance is important, and missing school will cause issues to compound (such as missing assignments, tests, coursework). Once again, engage in conversation, speak with teachers, and communicate with school counselors.
  1. Poor attitude at home: Kids tend to bring their problems home with them. If your child seems to have developed a terrible attitude, there might be something behind it. Conflicts at school often manifest themselves through talking back, using language that isn’t normal for your household, or sarcasm. This problem can be tough, as parents will many times address the symptom instead of the problem. Next time your child displays a poor attitude, try to respond by asking questions. “Is everything alright?” can open the door to a great conversation with your child. It may take work to get through the initial behavior, but keep at it!

Open and frequent communication is the common ingredient to not only picking up on school distress, but also to help your child in his or her time of need.

Chad Smith
ELA Teacher/Academic Dean

Self-Advocating

One of THE Most Important Ingredients for Academic Success

student computer 300x205 Self AdvocatingOne of the most significant foundations for academic success, and becoming a successful adult, is self-advocating.

What does it mean for a student to advocate for himself in the classroom? Simply put, advocating is sticking up for something or someone. When a student advocates for himself, he is simply speaking up for his interests in the classroom or in any other setting.

Practically speaking, self-advocating looks like this:

  1. A student doesn’t understand the course material, and takes action as a result. He can ask questions, speak with the teacher outside of class, do extra work, and/or seek peer assistance, all of which would help him understand the content better.
  1. A student misses an assignment, and desires to make it up. This student can speak directly with the teacher, find out her options, and then do the work without missing a beat.
  1. A student struggles with peers in class. A self-advocating student will seek to repair relationships on her own, but if issues continue (bullying, gossip, etc), she will speak with the teacher, a school counselor or principal.
  1. A student has a learning difficulty or disability. This student can speak up for academic accommodation or adaptations in their educational program. When a student himself drives his academic services, he will receive more help.

No matter if a child is outgoing or shy, everyone can learn to speak up for themselves more effectively at school.

But what might happen if the students in the four examples above don’t advocate for themselves?

  1. A student who doesn’t advocate for himself will stay quiet when he doesn’t understand material. The problem compounds when he fails to master key building concepts and subsequent material becomes progressively more difficult. This may lead to a student believing he is “stupid” or incapable of learning.
  1. A student who is uncomfortable with speaking to teachers might let missing assignments go undone, simply so he doesn’t have to speak with the instructor. This may lend to failing grades and deeper level of anxiety in this student.
  1. Teenagers are notorious for remaining silent when they are experiencing peer trouble. The ones that don’t seek help may begin to skip school, do poorly academically, or (even worse) experience physical harm. They may fear being labeled as a “tattletale,” but they need to know that there are caring people who would love to help them if they would simply ask.
  1. Growth for a student with learning a learning disability begins with her becoming comfortable speaking with staff about her issues. If this student understands and utilizes the help that is offered, she stands a much better chance of success. If she can be actively involved in her accommodations, this will lead to improved confidence. She can then ask for help more readily and remind staff of the adaptations that are in place (such as extra time for homework or tests).

If your student is experiencing difficulties in school, encourage him or her to stick up for him/herself! It is a crucial first step on the road to success in school and in life.

Chad Smith
ELA Teacher/Academic Dean