Work with the Teacher to Motivate an Underachiever
Q: Our second-grader is a bright child with a great vocabulary. We thought that he’d do well in school. However, he does very little work and is being described by his teacher as an underachiever. How can we help him go back to the enthusiastic learner that he was in kindergarten?
A: Now is definitely the time to get your young son back on the right track. He will not be able to change his behavior by himself. You and his teacher will need to work together.
Try to determine with the teacher why your son is not living up to his potential. Are his basic skills in reading and math strong? If so, he may need a greater challenge. If not, a tutor may be needed to correct any significant deficiencies.
Your son was an enthusiastic learner. What has changed? Is it the classroom environment? Are the days too regimented and curriculum too dull? Are you and the teacher focusing too much on grades and his intelligence rather than on his efforts to learn? Does he enjoy learning new things at home? Have you asked him why he is doing very little work at school?
You and the teacher need to help your son recapture his enthusiasm for learning. Try to tie the schoolwork to his interests. Be aware that so much of being an underachiever is tied to children’s perceptions of themselves.
To be successful they need to receive support for their efforts and feel valued as a person by parents and teachers. They also have to have the underlying mindset that their efforts can make a difference in everything that they do.
Changing an underachiever into an enthusiastic learner is not an easy task. Two books that may help you in this undertaking are Bright Minds, Poor Grades by Michael D. Whitley and The Unmotivated Child by Natalie Rathvon.
Q: The teachers at our school are debating whether or not cursive writing should still be taught. What are the advantages of teaching cursive when students with poor handwriting can just use a computer?
A: This debate about whether or not to teach cursive writing is going on in many schools. Many teachers now say that cursive is a waste of time, and they want to spend this time working on other skills.
They point out that we live in a print world. What children see in books and on signs is printing. Furthermore, students are taught to keyboard as early as first grade, reducing the need for handwriting.
However, there are still advantages to teaching cursive writing. Many educators believe that it is easier to learn than manuscript. Cursive can help children learn to read since confusing print letters such as b and d; p, g and q; and f and t do not look similar like they do in print.
Cursive also makes the blending of sounds more obvious to beginning readers. Furthermore, cursive may improve spelling because the hand learns the pattern of words through writing them many times.
There also are occasions when cursive writing is more likely to be used than manuscript, such as writing essays on standardized tests such as the SAT. Cursive also remains the preferred way to write letters of condolence and thank-you notes. Plus, cursive is generally used for signatures. Finally, cursive handwriting is a personal expression of each individual’s personality.