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From Straight A's to Failing
Q: My 12-year-old daughter has gone from a straight A student in second grade to one who is failing several subjects in seventh grade. Her father and I have met with her teachers, counselor, and principal; and we keep tabs on her progress (or the lack thereof). Her consistent problem is not turning in homework; her grades on tests are usually A's or B's in all subjects. We have grounded her, offered her incentives for succeeding, given her chores when she doesn't, told her that she'll never get a good job if she doesn't shape up, etc. We have special homework folders. Her father and I have done everything that we can think of and that we've been told by the "experts" to do. She doesn't care. That's the bottom line. Now what?
A: Unfortunately, many previously successful students run into a roadblock in seventh grade for a variety of reasons. The school format has changed. Seventh graders usually have to deal with more than one teacher, and their teachers give them less individual attention. Plus, there is the social factor. Suddenly, students' social lives have become very important -- far more important than academics for many students.
Back off a bit from this situation. Obviously, lectures, threats, incentives, and all your help haven't worked and have made your home an unpleasant place for everyone. Focus now on trying to discover what is causing your child to simply not care about school.
If you believe that your child feels alienated from her teachers, talk with one or more of them or the school counselor about how closer relationships can be developed. Perhaps, a teacher could take the time to speak with her more in class or work with her before or after school once a week. Is there some small group of students your daughter could join in order to work with one of her teachers on class or extracurricular activities?
Social problems for seventh graders have two sides. Not having friends and feeling unpopular can lead children to be depressed and cause them to do poorly in school. On the other hand, being too socially inclined can cause students to neglect their studies. If your child is having problems adjusting socially, the school counselor will have good advice for her. If she is going overboard socially, try having her teachers sign a form each Friday indicating whether or not your daughter has handed in all her homework. Only when she hands in all her work does she get phone or some other privilege the next week.
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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.