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Giving Up on School
Q: I have a fourth grade son who has completely given up on school. The first nine-week's grades have come home, and he has all F's. He won't do his classwork or his tests. On his tests, he might write an answer or two, but he is just not doing anything. Homework is a struggle, also. He does not want to do it and is up late most nights until it's done. Then he might or might not turn it in. We have had parent/teacher conferences concerning my son's situation. I am just about ready to give up on him, which I really don't want to. What can I do?
A: Your son is only in fourth grade -- you can't give up on him. He needs someone to help him turn things around. Children, his age, do not refuse to do all schoolwork without very good reasons. Is the work impossibly difficult for him? Is he very unhappy at school and/or home? How were his standardized test scores in previous grades? What was said at the parent/teacher conference last year about his performance in school? The answers to these questions may give you insight into his school problems.
Since his teacher did not offer suggestions at the conference, bring your son's very serious problems to the principal's attention. Request that your child be studied as soon as possible by a team of educators to determine why he is refusing to do any schoolwork and how he can be helped. Some testing as well as classroom observation will be necessary.
Beyond having the school start working on your son's problems, think about how things are going for him at home. Has something radically changed at home? Look hard and carefully to see if you can pinpoint any problems. Things that affect parents can seriously affect their children.
Have you tried talking to your son? Was he at the parent/teacher conference? Has anyone even asked him why he does not do classwork, answer questions on tests, or turn in homework? Is he a behavior problem in school? Does he get up every morning and go to school willingly? There are so many different questions that you need answered. A school counselor or psychologist may be able to help both you and your son get him on the right path.
Don't worry about grades, homework, and tests now. Concentrate on getting to the root of your son's problems, and the other things will come around.
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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.