My Son's Grades Fell in Middle School
By Kathy Glass, Consulting Educator
My son received good grades all through elementary school. When he went into seventh grade, the first year of middle school for him, there was a huge downward shift. I spoke with the principal, teachers and counselor. They said that they have seen a lot of seventh-graders slip at this age. Why should seventh grade make such a difference?
Seventh grade does makes a difference because adolescents are growing in so many ways—intellectually, physically and emotionally. Their brains are still developing while their bodies continue to grow and change. They tend to be emotional instead of rational as they navigate through a world that seems uncomfortable. Now throw a new school and its many challenges into the mix.
For instance, consider locker assignments, which carry a host of anxiety-provoking questions: Will my locker be near someone I know? Do I have time to go to my locker during passing period, or will I suffer humiliation if I'm late for class? Will I be able to use the combination? If I can't, who do I ask?
And then there are the other issues that arise around going to a new school. Who do I sit with at lunch? Will I know anyone in my classes? Are the teachers nice? Will I be able to finish my homework for each class? Will I be able to get good grades? Do I have to change into sweats during PE in front of others? What if I can't find the way to all of my classes? Are the new kids going to like me? Are the older kids at this school mean? These lurking questions constantly plague a young person's mind and compete with his focusing on academics. There is much to worry about that leaves adolescents fraught with self-doubt.
So what can you do to alleviate this anxiety? Here are some suggestions:
Request a Parent Meeting.
If your son has different teachers for each of his subjects, ask to meet with all or most of them. Ask how your son is performing and behaving in each class so together you can come to some conclusions and decisions about how to proceed. It could be that he is performing well in one class and connects with that teacher, but in other classes he is slipping and shows disinterest. Middle-schoolers long for connections with teachers, so capitalize on any positive relationship he might have with one particular teacher. It is this personal bond that could lift his spirits and set him on the right track.
Hire a tutor.
A tutor can potentially support your son both academically and emotionally. Academically, he can boost skills and confidence, which can give your son the necessary tools for academic success. Your son might also forge a valuable connection with a tutor who could then serve as a mentor. To find a tutor, ask a school counselor or teacher for a recommendation of an older student at the school or someone outside campus. If there is a local college nearby, post a request on a job board. Also, check your local newspaper which might list tutoring opportunities.
Encourage participation in an extra-curricular activity.
If there is a sport or after-school club of interest, encourage him to get involved. By participating, your son can meet new friends, bond with those with similar interests, and develop skills which can elevate his self-esteem.
You can support your child by understanding what he is going through at this important and change-filled time of his life, by being an advocate for him, guiding him and making opportunities available that will help him feel successful.
Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.