Reacting to results: What are you doing wrong?

By Zayd Julius

The first term of the 2019 academic year has come and gone, bringing with it the end of term reports that many parents and students alike dread. For some students, the results are the reward of countless hours slaving away in during class time and between the pages of books after hours. Senior students have it the worst as the results build up the basis for their university and college applications. An extremely daunting and stressful time for all senior learners.

For many parents, the results depicted with the report are the determining factor in their child’s future. As such, there is always an ever-present tension at reviewing the result, with the belief that one failure could mean the end of your child’s future prospect.

Many parents, when faced with a poor report card, want to lose their temper. More often than not, they do, with the end result usually culminating in the removal of their privileges, a scolding and the demand more from them. Scolding of all they do for their children and how they expect better results, etc. Sometimes calling their children stupid, lazy and unappreciative!

Here is the question I pose today, however, against this approach. Is it effective, or is it just doing more harm than good?

The best option is to speak to your child’s teacher

If your child’s report doesn’t provide any detail about why they received the marks that they did, ask the teacher.

There are a variety of reasons and factors that can contribute to these low results. Could it be because your child did not understand the concepts covered? Or are they not handing in their homework or assignments? Did they perhaps just barely miss the cut-off for a higher mark? Or is it an aspect of their behaviour? Is it a deeper underlying issue at school that is preventing you from achieving better results?

As a parent, it can be difficult to hear that your child is achieving what you consider to be acceptable/good results, despite the fact that they are working as hard as they possibly can. This does not, however, mean your child is a bad student or dumber than the rest.

The schooling system is, unfortunately, has many challenges for both learners and educators. Discipline is a continuous challenge for all. Some children find the number of learners in a class very unsettling and disruptive and therefore cannot cope with the work being taught. Some children have strong personalities and express themselves very well, whilst others find themselves lost amongst strong personality learners. Sometimes the teaching methods do not work for some students. Maybe there was a change of teachers, etc. That is why some students always seem to flourish while others fall behind.

Speaking to your child’s teacher is a good place to start. Don’t just ask about their understanding of the work, but their behaviour and their interactions. This can help pinpoint the exact cause of their lower grades with greater accuracy than just, “Do you need more time with him/her?”. Do not approach the discussion with a name and blame approach, but rather as a concerned parent that want to assist as best you can to help your child.

Talk to your child

When you talk with your child about their report, be calm and try to ascertain if they have a realistic view of their situation/results. Ask your child about their challenges and how you can assist and address their concerns. Speak in a positive approach and assure your child that you only want the best for him/her and therefore need to find out why he/she is achieving such low results.

Your child might also be under the impression that, because they have always done well in Maths before, they don’t need to worry too much about applying themselves in that subject. However, as Maths becomes increasingly abstract, some kids struggle and may need to put in an extra effort and might even need additional support, such as extra tutoring.  Their teacher can point you and your child in the right direction, and help provide remediation if necessary.

Buuttttttt, it is also important to remember that no two students are the same. Some students are naturally more aligned to some subjects and interests than others and forcing it can often times do more harm than good. As a student, I was brilliant at language and biology but fell flat at maths and chemistry. If you really want to help your child succeed, ask them why they are struggling instead of demanding better results.

It is very important to start the conversation with your child by praising the positive first. Congratulate them, not only on high results but also on getting better grades in subjects they previously had difficulty with. Ask them which grade they are proudest of and why. Involve them in discussions about their successes and challenge them to explain how they got such a good result. It is far more useful to ask, “What went right?” for a good result to see how that achievement can translate to other more difficult areas.

When talking with your child about problem areas, focus on discussing the class itself. Ask if the work was too difficult, too much or if the class went too fast. For example, if Maths is “useless” and “boring,” find ways in the future to show them how Maths is used in subjects they love, from shopping to computer games. Try to create the interest, not force it.

Reflect on Your Own Expectations

Before over-analysing your child’s results, consider whether these results truly reflect your child’s strengths. If your child gets 80% and 70% in most subjects and 60% in one subject, it might not be something to worry too much about, as long as your child is making progress.

Many teachers are starting to express their concern that their learners are increasingly worried that they must get 80% or more in every subject to please their parents and the school’s expectation! For a small number of gifted learners, a perfect A-report is attainable. But for most students, the idea of being a ‘straight-A’ student is unrealistic.

Keep perspective and temper your expectations to what they should be, not what they can be or, worse, what you want them to be. The most important thing is that your child is learning. If they are progressing, that’s good. If they are falling behind, help and support them to get back on track.

I wish all learners a successful year!

Thank you for engaging with this article. As an 18-year-old, 2018 matriculant, I found it necessary to give parents a different perspective when looking at your child’s reports. As children will always need the love, support and respect of our parents!

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