Avoiding School Problems

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August 30, 2011 by middleearthnj

It’s back to school time! Although this time of year can bring joyful reunions with friends and exciting new opportunities for learning, most students encounter one or two problems along the way. Whether it’s adjusting to the new schedule or getting along with the new teacher, your teen may need your help to navigate some of the common pitfalls. If school problems are not resolved, adolescents can become unproductive and frustrated, which could lead to troubled behavior. Here are some tips to avoid many common school problems.

Falling Asleep in Class

Research shows that teens need 8½ to 9 hours of sleep a night. At the same time, most high school begin classes early enough that teens need to wake up at 6 a.m. So, how many teenagers do you know that are going to bed at 9 p.m.?  This sleep deficit impacts a teen’s ability to play well in athletics, drive safely, maintain a positive mood, and pay attention in class. If they do not get their rest the night before, they will be too tired to learn anything at school and may even fall asleep in class. Either way, the teen is not going to have the respect of their teacher or perform their best.

Talk to your teen about the benefits of getting a good night’s rest and then teach them proven methods for improving their ability to get quality sleep. Set a time for ‘lights out’ on school nights. This should not be any later than 10 p.m. The ‘lights out’ period means the computer, television, lights and cell phone should be off. Encourage your teen to develop a nighttime routine that relaxes them at the end of the day. Screens (tv, computer, etc.) actually disrupt humans’ natural circadian rhythm and make it more difficult to fall
asleep. Taking a bath, soft music and reading are all things that promote relaxation.

Not Getting Along with Teacher

Not everyone gets along. Different personalities clash. But when a child isn’t getting along with a teacher, it becomes an emotional roller coaster. Although it can be heartbreaking to watch a child deal with these hard issues, think of them as life lessons. One of the great life lessons that any adult can learn is this: You cannot control anyone else; you can only control yourself. So the message to a teen in this situation is that you cannot change the teacher (whether the teacher is in the right or the wrong). You can only change how YOU deal with the teacher. Brainstorm a list of things that your teen could do to improve the relationship with their teacher. Keep them focused on the goal – a good grade – instead of other issues such as who is liked best by the teacher.

Life can be unfair. A teacher may be harder on one student than another. They may decide to grade a homework paper that was just supposed to be for practice. Teens should have a caring adult with whom they can express their frustration over the perceived injustice. Ideally, this adult can listen closely and even sympathize with them, but then that adult should teach them resilience by encouraging them to let the frustration go and find something
more positive to talk about or do. Your teen should always be respectful when dealing with a teacher, but encourage your teen to not take the teacher’s attitude toward them to heart.  Occasionally, a teacher may cross the line, and then it is a parent’s responsibility to schedule a conference to discuss these problems.

Not Able to Do Homework

Gone are the days when you could help your child memorize multiplication tables or listen to them read you a story. Homework in high school is very different from elementary school, and parents may find the topics to be
something they have never studied, don’t remember, or more advanced than they ever learned. Parents may need different ways to “help” with homework.

  • Know where to find usable resources. Look up and bookmark websites in the subject areas your teen is taking classes. Often, teachers will even provide a list of suggested sites. For example, www.quizlet.com  allows students to print flash cards and other study aids for a variety of subjects including foreign language, standardized tests, vocabulary, math, sciences, history, geography, and more.  For teens in Advanced Placement classes, local college libraries are the perfect resource, and most offer library cards for local residents.
  • Write down the times the teacher is available for extra help and encourage your teen attend when it is needed.
  • Encourage  organizational skills. Getting organized reduces stress levels and improves the chance for success. Devise a color-coding system to keep assignments organized by selecting a single color for each class (like science or history). Use that color for that subject’s folder, highlighters, sticky notes, etc. The colors will not only keep your teen organized but will also enhance his or her recall of the subject. Teach
    them to break down big projects into small goals and mark them on the calendar to plan out a project’s completion.
  • Hire a tutor. If your child is struggling and it’s not a topic that you are familiar with, there is no shame in hiring professional help.

Not Involved

Extracurricular activities, such as classes, sports and clubs, can offer children a variety of benefits.  Besides keeping teens busy (which keeps boredom at bay and reduces their opportunity to get in trouble), these types of activities teach teens to handle responsibilities, use teamwork, hone leadership skills, build confidence, develop problem-solving skills and enhance their creativity. Additionally, these activities introduce teens to other peers who have the same interests which builds positive friendships. There are a variety of different activities offered by the high school as well as the local community. Sit down with your teen to brainstorm their interests. Then call the school’s guidance office to see what resources they offer.

Too Involved

There are so many exciting and fun things available for teens nowadays that it’s incredibly easy to become overscheduled. If your teen is juggling a part-time job, homework, clubs, sports and a social life, you may need to help them “un-book” themselves. Have an open conversation with your teen to take a realistic look at their schedule. Encourage them to prioritize their activities. Suggest they drop the bottom one or two activities. Teach them how to respectfully drop an activity. If they feel they will be pressured to continue, come up with a plan on how your teen can handle that situation. Allow your teen to make the choice on what to drop and whether they need your intervention to combat any pressure they receive.  Additionally, you may need to develop rules
and strategies for handling their sporting events on weeknights, which can also impact their study habits.

Difficulty Taking Tests

Lots of people have anxiety over taking tests.  Some people are so anxious, they can still flunk a test even if they know all the information. If your teen is having difficulty taking tests, there are ways you can help.

One reason they might be performing poorly could be due to poor study habits.  High school is much different
than middle or elementary school, and your child may not have adjusted their learning methods. Inform teens of proper studying basics, such as: taking notes as he’s reading a chapter; summarizing what he has read in his own words; making his own flashcards for quick review of dates, formulas, etc.; and reviewing for a test the week prior (cramming the night before is ineffective).

Another reason could simply be the stress. Encourage your teen to reduce their anxiety by getting a good night’s sleep, exercising, and eating well. Finally give them these test-taking tips:

  • Read the directions carefully when the teacher hands out the test. If you don’t understand them, ask the teacher to explain.
  • Look quickly at the entire examination to see what types of questions are included (multiple choice, matching, true/ false, essay) and, if possible, the number of points for  each. This will help you pace yourself.
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, skip it and go on. Don’t waste time worrying about it. Mark it so you can identify it as unanswered. If you have time at the end of the exam, return to the unanswered questions.

Final Thoughts…

If your teen is facing a school problem and you’ve done what you can at home and nothing has worked, talk to the school. Meet with the teachers and get ideas. Talk with the guidance office, they can help.

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