How do you tell a parent of a child that their child is not performing at levels the parent and child have become accustomed to? In my case, the students come from Junior High School and were often the top (or one of the top) students. Some of these students have never encountered academic adversity with some students receiving perfect scores on their report cards.
One of the many skills a teacher must hone over the years is the ability to communicate without ridiculing, belittling, or removing hope for a better future. But, what I’m writing about here are students that are accustomed to grades in the mid to upper 90′s, that are now performing in the 70′s or 80′s. These latter grades are still considered passing grade levels in New York City (where I teach). In the stereotypical inner-city school I use to teach at 25 years ago, those “lower” grades were considered average and students/ parents were not driven into a panic over them. What I saw those parents and students do (of course some individuals would be more concerned than others) is seek guidance regarding tutoring, study sessions with other students, etc.
Nine years into my career I transfer to an “elite” school that requires interested students to take an exam. How they perform on that exam, relative to other applicants, determines whether they are accepted or not. Those that meet the criteria are often the ‘cream-of-the-crop’ of New York City teenage students. This should be a teacher’s dream assignment, but not all that shines is gold.
Many of these students now find themselves in an academic environment significantly different than their previous circumstance. They are no-longer the top student. They have new teachers and all their new classmates are their academic equals. At best, they are now ‘average’ and subject to a stringent evaluation criteria. Speaking from my experience as a parent and teacher (28 years and 26 years respectively), a 13-year old undergoing these many changes simultaneously, not to mention the biological changes, cannot be expected to transition from one condition to the other without missing a step. High school is still a formative period for the body and mind. Any drop of performance should be addressed with understanding and empathy. When necessary, student and parent should investigate the resources available to improve academic performance, but error and failure are the tools of experience and should not be relegated to signs of nonproductive and unsuccessful citizens.
I could write much more about this topic as it relates to my career, but I’ll leave that for a future book deal (ha, ha). The video below might be informative to teacher and student alike.