Wednesday, 21 March 2012
How to prepare a child for repeating a grade
Usually the parents will get the bad news with the Easter report card. It may not come as much of a shock because they've probably been dealing with an unhappy, frustrated child since school started in September. They have been hearing complaints such as: "The teacher is mean, she doesn't like me," or "The work is too hard" and "I hate Math., (or Reading, or Science)". There may also have been physical complaints, such as a sore stomach, or head-ache, which magically disappear as soon as it's too late to go to school that day.
At the March report card interview, the teacher confirms that the child has found this year's curriculum very difficult. She may suggest that he repeat the year, so as to get a firm grasp of the present year's work before proceeding. Otherwise, he will be setting himself up for failure in the higher grades. It's impossible to build a strong structure on a weak foundation. You agree with her decision, but wonder how on earth you can prepare your child to repeat a grade without damaging his self-confidence.
First of all, tell the teacher that you agree that your child will repeat the grade next year. If there are two classes of that grade level in the school, ask that he be assigned to a different class with a new teacher. Since he will be repeating, ask her if she could relieve some of the pressure he has been under to perform at grade level for the remainder of this term. This will assure that the rest of the school year will be less stressful. As the better weather approaches, encourage your child to be active in sports or other outdoor activities with his friends.
In June, when final reports are distributed, keep the child home. This is the time to have that heart-to-heart talk. Remind him of the hard year he has put in. Ask him why he thinks that happened. When he suggests the work was too hard, agree immediately. Tell him that you, and the teacher thought so too, and that he just wasn't ready to do work that was so challenging. Remind him of much he has matured during the year. Now he can ride a bike, help Dad wash the car, and perhaps he even gets an allowance.
Suggest that if he tried that work, now that he is so much more grown-up, he'd probably find that it was a cinch, and be able to whiz right through it. Tell him that you and his teacher have had a talk and agreed that's just what he should have a chance to do. Explain that, in the Fall, he'll be in a different classroom with a different teacher, (if this is possible), but that he'll have another chance to do better at the same work he had this year.
If there were reasons for his poor performance, mention them, but put them in a positive perspective. "Next year, you'll feel like working harder, because you'll find the subjects so much easier," or "Next year, you won't be sick as much, so you won't miss all that time," or "Now that Dad and I have our divorce all settled, you'll be able to concentrate more on your school work."
He'll probably mention that his friends will be ahead of him, and you'll have to acknowledge the truth in his observation, but remind him that he'll see them at recesses, lunch hour, and before and after school. If he's joined any sports teams this Spring, he'll see them at practices and games. He can invite them to his birthday party and have sleep-overs on weekends. Also, there will be new friends to meet in his class in September.
Once the discussion is over, don't mention school again all summer unless the child brings up the subject. Treat the topic casually, it is a part of his life, not the only, and not even the most important part. It's something everybody has to do, so we do the best we can and move on.
Try to give your child an active, fun-filled holiday. Encourage him to grow in responsibility and independence as much as possible. Can he safely run errands for you, go to the corner store, or take a parcel to his grand-parents? Perhaps a camping experience can be arranged, or he and a friend could take a bus to a movie or to visit a classmate in another neighborhood. Every time he performs a new, independent activity, his self-confidence will grow and his self-image will improve.
In September, the first few days may be difficult, but they are for every student. At least the assignments should be easy, and he'll make new friends quickly. Children are very adaptable. He'll probably emerge as a leader, because he's older, more experienced, and more self-assured.
Someday in the future, he'll thank you for making the difficult decision to have him repeat. You have ensured that he has the firm foundation needed on which to build the knowledge and skills of the higher grades and secondary school.
You can be proud of yourself. Being a parent is not easy, and children don't come with instruction booklets. When you manage, by the grace of God and good common sense to do a fine job of it, you'll realize it is the most rewarding occupation in the world.