The story is familiar one. A student who did well in school seems to suddenly hit a wall. Their grades drop even though they seemed to work harder and longer than ever. This most often ocurs at the 5th, 7th, or 9th grade levels. It also has been known to appear in the freshman year of college. This is an intelligent, bright, tuned-in kids who was doing well just months ago. What's happened?
It’s quite easy to explain. These were kids that primarily operated on natural ability. Much the way a talented young athlete does well one season but suddenly struggles. It's a matter of the student having progressed to a level where talent alone can’t carry the day, these kids struggle because raw ability is no longer enough.
The problem is often compounded because when these students don’t have the close reading, study, time management, organizational and other skills needed for success. Why don't they have them? Because they weren’t needed. It’s not a rarity, and they’re not alone. In fact, when 160,000 undergraduates in the University of California college system were asked what the number one thing standing in the way of their achieving higher grades, 33% said not knowing how to study was the biggest issue.
The Downward Spiral
Students accustomed to success in the classroom can become easily frustrated when they see their grades go down while they’re effort level is the same, or higher. They begin to “study” harder and longer but don’t see improvement. What is happening? As previously stated, they’re lacking skills. They’re working hard, but they’re not working efficiently, and let’s not confuse expending energy with actual work. To put it another way, it takes the same effort to thrash in the water and go nowhere as it does to swim. The need here, in an an academic sense, is teach these students to stop thrashing and start swimming by giving them basic study skills.
It sounds easy, but it’s not always so simple. It can be difficult for many students to go from everything being easy to having to admit they need help. It can be an even greater challenge if their friends are still finding school work a breeze.
For some students, and parents, there is the sense that they should be able to figure it out on their own, and they look for help only after grades have plummeted dramatically. At that point, the student is thoroughly discouraged; the parents are frustrated, and everyone is on the verge of just giving up.
A tutor can be the answer to this situation, but it needs to be a tutor who can quickly assess the situation and identify problems such as poor note taking, a lack of a basic schedule, an inability to properly prepare to tests and quizzes or how to effectively study and retain information.