Some parents have felt that heart wrenching, punched-in-the-stomach feeling that comes along with thinking their child is doing great in school, only to eventually find out that they are struggling, sometimes even failing, in one or more subject area. This can come as a shock to any parent, especially if their child is usually an average or above average student. A sudden drop in grades could be a result of something minor such as failure to turn in a big project on time, or something worth diving into, such as bullying issues at school, health problems, or family related problems. When grades drop out of nowhere, it is usually a sign of something bigger happening behind the scenes.
It is always important to address these changes with your child directly. They may reveal that they find it hard to see the board or hear the lecture, or that since their seat was changed they can’t focus on the lesson because of other environmental factors. If it is a physical problem (vision or hearing) it may be a good idea to seek medical attention to see if glasses or hearing aids can help. It could also be something as easy as encouraging your child to request that the teacher moves him/her closer to the front of the class. It could also be that your child has a problem focusing due to an internal struggle, such as a difficulty focusing for long periods of time or sitting still during class. A meeting with your child’s teacher could help you get a better insight for how your child is focusing in class, and their professional opinion could help you determine what steps need to be taken.
If it’s not a mental or medical roadblock that is keeping your student from preforming their best, it may be something more personal. Teenagers are constantly going through waves of emotions guided by ranging hormones, and these emotional rollercoasters could be taking a toll on their grades. Perhaps a struggle with their identity, difficulty fitting in with their peers, dealing with rejection or loss or heartbreak is the cause of their academic decline. It cold be that his/her learning styles don’t match up with the teacher’s teaching style, or they don’t agree with certain curriculum being taught. Listen out for “the teacher doesn’t like me” and have your child explain what that means. It could be that he/she is acting out in class and causing a disturbance, or the teacher may show favoritism towards other students. If “my teacher doesn’t like me” is your child’s answer for why his/her grades are slipping, it is time to schedule a conference with the teacher.
Remember that teachers are people too, and addressing them with respect and kindness is always the best way to go. Make sure you listen enough to get the teacher’s side of the story, and make it clear from the forefront that you want to work together as a team to help your child succeed. If you get the feeling that you’re your child and his/her teacher have conflicting personality issues, and that the declining grades are not a fair representation of the work he/she has completed, it is a good idea to take your concerns to someone higher up.
Maintaining an open line of communication between you and your child, as well as between you and your child’s teacher, is key in figuring out why your child is struggling and will enable you to get to the deeper issue. A drastic change in grades could be a call for help in another area of your child’s life, and should be talked about, investigated and rectified in a timely manner.