Is this the most wonderful time of the year? Or is it…the most dreadful time? I’m referring to the new school year, of course.
While I’m sure that most students are filled with excitement and anticipation, there may be a few who feel some apprehension. Perhaps there’s even a hint of annoyance, gloom, misery, despair…
Chrissie returns to school this year with mixed feelings. She is a diligent student, loves to read, study, and write. However, Chrissie is also shy; she doesn’t like to speak in class unless she is absolutely certain that she has the perfect answer.
Last year, for the first time, this behaviour became a problem for her. Her usually high grades fell, reflecting her teacher’s perception that Chrissie wasn’t willing to contribute to class discussions. Chrissie ended the year with a feeling that the teacher was “out to get her.” With the prospect of another year with the same teacher, she already feels at a disadvantage.
However, Chrissie is determined to regain her excellent marks and top-of-class standing. Even as she huffs and puffs about the unfairness of last year, she knows that she needs to do something differently. But what?
Here are some questions for Chrissie to consider:
- Whose behaviour can she control? Not her teacher’s, nor her classmates. Chrissie can only control her own behaviour. If she’s going to change anything, it’ll have to start there.
- What exactly was the behaviour that resulted in low grades? Chrissie’s perception is that when she did put up her hand, the teacher wouldn’t call on her. So, Chrissie showed her! She stopped putting up her hand, withdrew from discussion, and was then penalized. It seems so unfair!
- What could Chrissie do that would be more effective than choosing to withdraw? It’s easy to suggest, “Keep putting up your hand.” However, that might be unrealistic. Chrissie, like all of us, has a need for power and recognition. She perceives that her previous efforts to be recognized were ignored. It’s not easy to continue cheerfully, is it?
- Is there a more effective option? Chrissie could try speaking to her teacher outside of class. She could even make an appointment, sending a signal to the teacher that this is a serious matter. Chrissie could ask, “What can I do to improve my grade this year?” She might learn whether her teacher’s perception of the situation bears any resemblance to what Chrissie believes it to be. Chrissie might even find out that the teacher’s requirement for class participation is not specifically designed to torture her, but rather, intended to help her grow!
As Chrissie’s parent, you may be tempted to intervene. Sometimes that’s necessary, depending on the severity of the situation. Before you rush in, however, consider the possibility that, with your encouragement, she may be able to handle this herself.
Think of the confidence that Chrissie will develop if she does successfully deal with this situation. The ability to work out one’s own problems is a wonderful skill; however, it’s difficult to develop that if mom or dad always intervenes.
What suggestions would you offer to Chrissie?