Academic progress

Find out why learning is a year-round process and discover it is never too late to catch up

Teachers love to see improvement, which means that kids who’ve sunk as low as they can go, academically or behaviourally, have even more room to impress than their classmates. Having the know-how and a willingness to do better may be all your children need to turn themselves – and a struggling school year – around.

Naughty, naughty

Kids act up in class. It’s a fact of life. Some value the approval of their peers over that of their teachers; some are bored; some don’t get the topic and they’d rather their friends think they’re not trying than that they’re stupid. But fear not: here’s how you can help:

Communicate with the teacher. It may seem hard to believe, but teachers do want to forgive and forget bad behaviour. ‘Kids and parents should be able to approach the teacher and talk about the situation,’ says Kenneth Riggs, school counsellor and administrator at the Canadian International School (CIS) in Khalifa City. ‘Good teachers wipe the slate clean every day because they know kids change throughout their time in school.’

Identify the source of the behaviour. ‘We find that most of the time, when students are misbehaving, it’s because of a larger problem,’ explains CIS curriculum administrator Micheline Mazubert. ‘A student in need of English as a second language or speech therapy may act out because he needs help.’ Find out if your child has a problem with vision or hearing which may be manifesting itself in seemingly naughty classroom behaviour.

Lazy bones

There’s nothing more frustrating than watching an intelligent child waste their talents on mindless video games and speed texting. While some kids struggle with their school work no matter how hard they try, others allow their marks to slip out of simple laziness and lack of motivation.

Even if your kid’s grades have gone to pot, it’s never too late to pick up the mantle of change. ‘Students can do as much good in the second half of the year as they did damage in the first,’ says Felim Bolster, high school principal at the American International School of Abu Dhabi. ‘The effect of one bad semester is just a small percentage of the overall average of your four years of high school, so the sooner you pull those grades up, the better.’

Counting on the big blowout exam to make up for a multitude of sins? Think again. Though day-to-day assignments may not count for much in the grand scheme of things, teachers give those assignments for a reason. ‘If you can’t do the work now,’ says Bolster, ‘there’s no reason to think you’ll suddenly be able to do it in the exam three months from now.’

Parents can help their kids improve their study habits by creating an environment that is conducive to concentration. Consider establishing a set time and place for study in your house: around the kitchen table is a good spot, as you can monitor what they’re doing plus you’re available to help or answer questions. A small amount of background activity may be just enough for kids who might otherwise seek to break the deafening silence with music or TV.

Higgledy piggledy

While some students have an almost obsessive eye for organisation, others can barely get themselves out the door every morning. While the inability to organise notes, books, and uniforms can be both annoying and time consuming, it may also reflect a kid’s inability to organise ideas, a tendency that may manifest itself in poorly written essays or silly mistakes in calculations.

Though the ability to organise is in part an innate skill, kids (and adults) can learn certain techniques to help them get all their bits and pieces in order.

Categorise. Tell them to go through their school bag, desk and locker and put everything in one place, then separate school stuff into piles, one for each class. Bookstores and stationery shops are brimming with colour-coded paraphernalia to help keep papers separated.

Make a list. No one can remember everything, and organised people often don’t even try. Encourage your child to write down every assignment, practice and deadline they get, ideally in a homework diary, and check it with them every day.

Listen to the teacher. Many educators, especially those of younger grades, will have certain expectations as to how they’d like to see pupils organise notes and the assignments they set. Kids should try and sit down with their teachers and ask for help in getting organised. If the teacher sees they mean business, it’s likely they’ll jump at the chance to help.

Think ahead. It’s easy for homework assignments, PE kits, reading glasses and other essentials to get lost in the morning rush to get out the door. It’s a good idea for children to take half an hour before bed each night to get everything they’ll need the next day in order.

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