Question: My eighth-grader is totally unmotivated in school, and his report card grades definitely reflect his lack of effort. He is very bright and articulate; however, his grades are all C or lower. Nothing works! Do you have any suggestions on how to help us teach him how to raise his grades? -- Concerned
Answer: Parents, along with teachers, definitely do play an extremely important role in motivating children to learn. The teacher is in charge of the classroom climate, and when it is a caring, supportive environment where all the students are valued and assignments are challenging -- but achievable -- students will flourish. You need to talk with all of your son's teachers. Be sure to take your son with you to the meeting so that he can hear directly what the teachers think are his strengths and weaknesses and reasons for not achieving.
Not doing well in school is not always a case of a child being unmotivated. With the teachers and your son, dig deeply into how he approaches studying for each class. Could poor and ineffective study skills play a role in his lack of effort? Many students can rely on their natural brightness to do well in school until the material becomes more challenging and requires concentrated effort for success. Is it possible that your son now feels stupid because content mastery is no longer easy for him? Ask him directly how much time he is putting into his schoolwork. Find out how he thinks he might be able to do better in school. Also, put on the table the possibility of a learning disability.
At the conclusion of the meeting, make sure that there is a plan that can turn things around for your son. Also, be sure to schedule another meeting within a month to six weeks to check on whether progress is being made. One thing that could help is using a homework contract, which ensures that he will do one hour of schoolwork each day in your presence. You will find one on our website, www.dearteacher.com. Another possibility is considering the need for a tutor.