We talk a lot about what is happening in his life. Not planned talks, but those lovely, unexpected, casual things that happen when you are in close proximity - but not making eye contact. He does not feel pressured to say anything so he says a lot of deep, important stuff. Thoughts and feelings that need to be stated and heard. Not necessarily things to be solved. Rather they are concerns to be acknowledged and discussed.
We sat next to one another on the sofa, he had a game system in his hand, I was looking at pictures on my phone with his younger sister. He began to share that he was nervous about going back to school. This surprised me. He is a strong student, states he loves school and has not missed a day since starting kindergarten.
Open House was successful. He got the teacher he wanted and was able to spend time with his teacher from last year. He has 7 boys in his class that are buddies of his. Best of all, George the guinea pig, will be his first classroom pet! A pet that can go home with you! So why the nerves?
When I asked why he was nervous, he told me that he was afraid that what he would have to learn this year would be hard. I told him that he was probably correct. Learning is usually difficult, at first. However, that is what learning is. It is work. Hopefully, manageable and doable work, but work nonetheless. If you already know it, it is not learning. I told him that learning takes effort.
We talked about all the things he has learned already not just the school stuff, like reading and math, but some other hard things. Everything from brushing his teeth to riding his bike, learning to swim and play soccer to eating with a fork and waiting for his turn.
As we sat there we watched his younger siblings actively learning. His 6 month old brother is learning to crawl. He moved forward, fell on his face and got up again, and again and again. Sometimes he smiled, sometimes he cried yet he kept going.
Outside, his 5 year old brother was climbing on the monkey bars, rubbing his behind after he fell off, as he too, tried and tried again. Right next to us his 3 year old sister was practicing her communicating abilities so she would be able to express more complex needs and wants. It is a struggle but she keeps trying.
None of the grown-ups in their young lives have told them to stop trying. We might want to when the task seems daunting yet we haven’t. He needed to be reminded, as all kids do, of all that they have already accomplished. How effort can make the difference.
My grandson is one of the ‘lucky’ kids who right now easily grasps academics. That is not to say the school day is easy. I am sure he wants to kick the soccer ball across the gym, because he can. He would love to show his classmates that he can scale the doorway in his classroom. He much rather run in the hallway than walk and he’d rather do it himself, then wait for someone in his group to get it done. His extra effort into controlling his energy in the school setting.
I focused on effort because effort is the only thing within his or any student’s control.
What I did not tell him is that school moves at a different pace than real life. While effort is the secret sauce of learning anything. Learning in school is often a ‘time bound’ process. He and his siblings can practice, practice and practice until they master a skill. They are not required to move on before mastery is achieved. Unfortunately, it is not how school works.
School may be the most challenging environment our children will ever be in. It is regimented, full of new stuff they do not know and are expected to learn at a predetermined place, pace and time. They are in close proximity with people all day long. Some they like and some they do not. They eat, play, work, sing, read, write, add, subtract and go to the bathroom when schedules say they should. The day is long with little relief from routine demands.
While schools can flex instruction, pace and modify learning within their framework it may not be enough to support your child’s learning even with their best efforts.
So, what is the take-away from all this? School success is based on your child’s individual efforts and their ability to do the work independently. It is vital that the school sees what your child does, independent of your efforts. Helping with homework is one thing, reteaching at home on a nightly basis is another. Endless tutoring, trainings and study sessions often mask what is really happening, or not happening for your child.
If your child is not learning as expected you must let the school see the struggle. Schools only address what they see. Worry less about grades and more about learning. Let them know what goes on outside of class in support of the school day.
In my experience as an educator and advocate, many of our most struggling children are putting in the greatest efforts to learn. Their school day is often endless, with countless hours of homework and unfinished classwork to complete. Weekends are consumed with projects that take extra time. Do not let this type of pattern become routine. It is much easier to break this pattern in 2nd grade than in 8th.
Teachers know what is happening in the classroom. You need to let them know what is happening at home. Together, you will be better able to create a learning environment that successfully supports your child.
Not sure if your efforts are too much? Reach out today for your 15 minute free call. Put your fears to rest - take action now.