Often when we hear someone talking about a certain student being ‘distracted’ at school or varsity, we might assume the learner may just be an easily distracted student or suffer from an attention deficit disorder. This is not a safe assumption and too many children are being labelled “ADD” for not being focused in class. Recently, one of our highest achieving students- Amy*- proved that even the most focused of students suffer from every day distractions at school and that even she needed to put in work outside of class to be able to stay on the ball academically.
Amy* attends a reputable private school in Johannesburg. We all know private schools are known to have smaller classes than public schools, parents pay these exceptionally high school fees in the hope that their children will have more effective lessons and achieve better results than they would if they were in a bigger class in a government school. Amy* averages 85%-95% for all her subjects in grade 6, until recently when her mathematics mark started dropping down to 75%. This would not usually concern parents too much. The family asked us for advice after finding out Amy’s Afrikaans 2nd language mark had dropped from 90% to 77% in a single term too. After a discussion with all parties involved, we recommended that Amy starts working with a tutor once a week for mathematics and once per week for Afrikaans 2nd language. Amy’s school also offers extra maths lessons every week in the morning and we advised her to start attending. The mistake most parents and students tend to make, is thinking the problem will disappear ‘later’. The fact that this young lady started extra lessons in term one, means that in term 3 or 4 when everyone starts panicking about exams and final results, Amy will be relaxed and focused on her exam preparation. Having a tutor now also means that her foundation in mathematics and Afrikaans as a 2nd language will be strong in high school. The early warning signs Amy showed outside of the academic results dropping included; delaying homework for Afrikaans and Mathematics, asking for ‘help’ before she even attempted the homework- which showed she was feeling defeated. Sighing or frowning when these subjects were mentioned. Declaring these subjects as her least favourite.
Many parents may think that a negative reaction from a student in regards to homework is expected, but in the case of Amy*, this was a rare occurrence. Amy* is usually enthusiastic about her homework for Social sciences, English, natural sciences etc. Within a few weeks, Amy’s parents had organised a tutor from Limitless Tutor and extra lessons at school once a week. Amy is back on track with a positive attitude towards all her subjects. She will be working with her tutor and attending extra mathematics for another term or two. The big shocker in this story was WHY Amy’s marks decreased in the first place. After a few weeks of putting things in place and seeing an improvement in a few tests, Amy in a burst of frustration finally admitted that she sits with three very chatty students in her mathematics class and did not want to be a tattletale by asking the teacher to move her. Although it is the teacher’s job to ensure a classroom is quiet, this is easier said than done. Having a good relationship with students may increase the odds of them listening in the teacher’s class, so being a little less strict on the chatting in class may in fact be an advantage to some teachers. Parents could help by assisting their children in understanding the importance of class time and the negative effects of being a distraction to other learners.
Another distraction Amy faced, was that he sat too far back in class and her glasses were not strong enough. Having a child’s eyes tested annually is recommended. A lot of schools have their students’ eyes tested every year but if this is not offered at your school, please ensure this is part of an annual routine. Students are also affected and distracted by social factors at school. They might be experiencing pressure from friends in class or at break time. Competition between peers in class has a very big effect on academic results. This could be positive in regards to students studying harder for tests and exams, but achieving a mark that is less than desired could leave the child feeling defeated. A positive approach to a bad test score could make the world of difference. Assisting the student in understanding that it is not the end of the world and preparing better for the next test or exam will go a long way. If there is a test coming up, sit with the student and plan a study timetable for the next test. Leave more time for the more difficult sections. Let the student tick-off their covered sections every time they study. This will leave them feeling prepared and less distracted or anxious in the actual test. Praise them for ANY improvement and use positive affirmations.
Students face many obvious distractions that we did not discuss here, technology, tension at home etc. Having a tutor assist during the difficult times allows the student to express their individual problem areas and receive assistance before the problem gets out of hand.