5 Ways to Encourage a ‘B’ or ‘C’ Student
If I could change one thing about our world, it would be to completely re-vamp our education system, how we teach children, what we teach children and how we measure success in school. Our education system focuses on academics: math, science, English and history. This is great for the 15% of kids who are academically gifted. But what about the other 85% of kids whose strengths are not academics – but athletics, art, music, choir, creative writing, social skills or foreign language?
Especially now that schools coast to coast are scrapping their music, art and foreign language programs, it is essential that each parent identify her child’s talents and provide them ample opportunities to thrive – because the schools aren’t going to do it for you. The end result? If your child is a talented athlete or gifted violinist but makes C’s or D’s in math or history, he is labeled a “dumb jock”, “stupid”, “lazy”, and “unmotivated”. On top of that, his SAT scores will not be strong and universities will throw your application in the trash. How do I know this? It happened to me!
All throughout junior high and high school I loved music, choir, drama and sports – those were my strengths. I struggled tremendously with academics. I never was a strong student and due to the “no pass no play” rules, I felt the pressure to cheat at times just to keep from failing a class. I scored an embarrassing 750 on my SATs and only got accepted to Baylor University because I had many family members who went there (they had to take me!). But what were my successes as an adult? Was I a chemist, accountant or contestant on Jeopardy? No. Coincidentally, I was a singer, songwriter, salesperson, author, speaker and entrepreneur. My strengths as an adult are a carbon copy of my strengths as a child. It is unacceptable that our schools only recognize the academically gifted and force the other children to feel stupid.
- Dr. Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard University proposes eight different intelligences to account for a broader range of human potential in children and adults. These intelligences are:
|Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”):|
|Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)|
|Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)|
|Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)|
|Musical intelligence (“music smart”)|
|Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)|
|Intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”)|
|Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)|
- Dr. Gardner says that our schools and culture focus most of their attention on linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence. We esteem the highly articulate or logical people of our culture. However, Dr. Gardner says that we should also place equal attention on individuals who show gifts in the other intelligences: the artists, architects, musicians, naturalists, designers, dancers, therapists, entrepreneurs, and others who enrich the world in which we live. Unfortunately, many children who have these gifts don’t receive much reinforcement for them in school. Many of these kids, in fact, end up being labeled “learning disabled,” “ADD (attention deficit disorder,” or simply underachievers, when their unique ways of thinking and learning aren’t addressed by a heavily linguistic or logical-mathematical classroom.
If your child works hard but ends up with B’s and C’s in his core subjects, here are 5 ways you can help him feel (and be) successful in the classroom:
1. Reward the B’s and C’s. Especially reward the small improvements. As parents we are pre-programmed that anything less than an A is not acceptable and our kids feel the pain when we show our frustrations. And if you are too harsh on your child for not being a star student, then their grades will likely fall further behind.
2. If your child has a talent for art, music or athletics, give her all of the support you possibly can to excel at this talent in school: Enroll your child in piano, tennis, voice, soccer, art lessons after school. Show up for their school performances. I made B’s and C’s in history and science, but A’s in Physical Education and Choir. Thankfully my A’s in the latter classes helped boost my grade point average.
3. Work with your teachers. Remember, the teacher is the one who marks the grade on the report card. If you have proven to be her ally throughout the school year and worked with the teacher on helping improve your child’s grade, then she is much more likely to give your child a passing grade vs. a failing grade if your child’s grade is on the fence. My mother taught school for 25 years and said she never even met more than about 10% of her student’s parents in any given year! Get involved!
4. Encourage your child to ask the teacher what he can do for extra credit. My freshman year of high school I was failing Physical Science. Due to the strict No Pass No Play rules, if I failed science then I would be eliminated from playing soccer, singing in choir and any other extracurricular activities. So I asked my teacher if I could do extra credit. She said if I would find 5 boys to help me carry the jumbo snake from the science lab and clean it’s cage she would add 10 points to my last test. Thanks to this extra credit, I made a 71 in Physical Science – just enough to pass the class.
5. Try to identify if your child has some more serious underlying issues: Dyslexia, reading comprehension problem, excess sugar in her diet, etc…I have heard from many parents, that once these issues were acknowledged and treated, their children began thriving in the classroom. Sometimes a high protein, low sugar diet is all it takes for a child to focus in the classroom!
What are some strengths your children have that are not supported or recognized by your local schools? What is your action plan to help develop these talents?