A drop in school performance can be worrying for any parent!
It is important to find out the reason for the decrease in marks and rule out any serious underlying cause. Sometimes the cause for a drop in performance is obvious: starting a new school (especially going to high school), having problems with friends, inadequate sleep, spending too much time participating in after-school activities, a busy social life, or being preoccupied with the internet.
Often improvements to the effectiveness of study may be achieved through changes to things unrelated to the study material itself, such as assessing time-management; boosting motivation; avoiding procrastination; and improvements to sleep and diet.
NOTICING A DROP IN SCHOOL PERFORMANCE
At this age, teens are sometimes unable to see the big picture or the relevance in working hard, and their drop in grades could be caused by laziness, distraction, or a lack of motivation. A slight drop in grades every now and again is rarely a reason to worry. However, if the drop is sudden and dramatic, or steadily decreases occur over a continued period of time, then there could be more serious underlying reasons.
The school environment could be the cause for the drop in performance. Ensure that your child attends a school which has an innovative approach to education: one which makes use of various teaching strategies, such as gamification; technology aids (virtual reality headsets, iPads, etc.); educational apps and a motivational environment which helps to ensure that students connect with the learning context.
SPEAK TO THE SCHOOL
A teen’s grades may fluctuate a little, however, if the drop in grades is sustained, then you will need to speak to the teacher. Teachers can often provide valuable insight into what is happening at school. If you feel that your teen’s school environment is the problem, liaise closely with school staff to try to get things resolved. Knowing who to speak to at the school can be daunting so a recommendation is to start with the subject teacher. If you feel that this was not helpful then you should approach the head of department and then the principal.
Ensure that your child attends a school
which has an open door policy. This will
allow you to work together with the
school in order to provide your child with
the best education and make decisions
that will best fit him or her as an
THE HIDDEN PROBLEM
Many children rely heavily on visual memory in order to memorise information. Some children view learning information in Mathematics and Science as a process of memorisation of patterns, which they learn in a visual way by copying the procedures used in the examples in their textbooks. Unfortunately this is a very inefficient way to learn because even simple procedures are hard to memorise. Long-term learning is particularly critical in Mathematics and Science because the work done
in Grade 11 and 12 relies heavily on all of the skills and information learned in the previous 5 years. Accurate addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of fractions, algebraic fractions, decimals and percentages is required right through high school. For the learning subjects such as History, Natural Sciences, etc. there are many learning strategies which can be used to assist children in memorising large volumes of information, such as mind maps; summaries; acronyms and mnemonics; etc. Once again, a holistic approach to learning is essential. Contact your child’s school to find out what teaching strategies are used, inside and outside the classroom.
LACK OF MOTIVATION
It can be incredibly frustrating for a parent to see their child’s lack of concern for their future, but shouting will invariably fall on deaf ears. If motivation does seem to be the issue, give your child tangible goals to aim for: talk about their future career plans or college choices and calmly explain why working hard is important. In a learning environment which is interactive and where learning is fun, this lack of motivation will often not exist.
WHEN THERE IS AN UNDERLYING ISSUE
When teens are experiencing emotional upset, such as bullying or are dealing with a mental health issue like depression, it is hard to open up to a parent and it is not always apparent to a teacher. If the school is unable to provide any insight, and you are not getting a great deal from your teen, it is important to visit your doctor to rule out any underlying medical cause. If there is an underlying cause, do whatever it takes to support your child. Try not to put too much emphasis on grades: you know how important grades are, but your teen may feel overwhelmed, worried, inadequate or guilty for letting you down.