About my third year of teaching Junior High, I spent a lot of my free time doing research on the incredible 12 and 13 year old mind.
One of the things many teachers learn throughout their careers is how to watch their classroom behavior.
I always recognized, quickly, those who were leaders, those who were followers, and those who were their victims.
Students who regularly had a difficult time with assignments very rarely raised their hands, nor would they come to me to clarify that they understood the concept being taught.
The fear of being teased for not knowing how to do something is one of the greatest silent killers of a child's education, and is a worthy investigation for any parent if your child's grades are struggling.
In an age where parents are blasted by doctors and specialists who diagnose the numerous learning and behavioral disorders, along with the myriad of pills and diets prescribed to maintain these problems, we unknowingly overlook some of the simplest of problems.
Hormone Changes- At different cycles in the lives of our children, their bodies are always preparing for the next stage of life. When the body releases the hormones needed to bring these changes, it does not do it graciously by releasing one drop at a time. The body releases the whole dose needed for that future stage at once. This is an incredibly emotional time for both male and female adolescents. It affects their ability to think. It affects their ability to communicate effectively. It creates a very insecure feeling because there are emotions created as well that they have never experienced before. Everything is new for them. It causes confusion when trying to reason, or figure out even the very tasks they have completed over and over, multiple times. This can cause a child to not raise their hand, nor approach a teacher for help.
Peer Pressure- Along with the hormone changes occurring in their bodies, these wonderful pre-teens also are learning Social Acceptance. What a way to bombard the senses.
Peer pressure is defined as the influence exerted by a peer group in encouraging another person to change his or her behavior, values, or attitudes in order to conform to the group norm, and receive social acceptance.
Yes, this pressure still exists today. Classrooms become almost like packs, or tribes. These kids are with each other for over 180 days a year, for almost 8 hours a day, Monday, through Friday. They become their own cities, villages, towns, and family pods. Those who are natural leaders, good or bad, will lead. Those who are natural followers, good or bad, will follow, and those who are their victims, will be their victims. This social problem will also cause a child to not raise their hand, nor approach the teacher for help.
Many times, it can be frustrating to a parent when they know that their child is not working to a level that they are able. Arguments can come about, making the child more prone to be silent. So the first step in your investigation is to not speak to the child first, but go to the adult. Go to the teacher.
The question you need to ask them is how often does your child raise their hand, or come to them for help. If the teacher says rarely, or never, chances are your child is simply afraid to get help, due to the emotional hormone changes, along with the peer pressure of all their friends knowing they needed help.
I have never, in my classroom experience, ever heard kids teasing the other kids outright, it is usually the little things that are spoken throughout the day that interpret the social status of any classroom.
The next thing to do, once you have gathered as much information as you need from the teacher, is to speak to your child.
You know your child, and you know how they communicate, but there are some really neat steps that can be taken to help aid you as you investigate further.
Take them out somewhere that is social, but relaxing. The car ride over is a great way to begin, and since you are going out, they are more relaxed to speak without even knowing they are doing so.
Share something of yourself. Don't begin by asking them outright, lead them, as they are children. By sharing some of your own fears, perhaps at that age, or even the age you are in now is a great way to show them that they can also share their own. I do this with my own, and have also done so with my classes, and it has always opened up the door for them to communicate.
Speak to them about the changes going on, and explain to them why they are having some of the new emotions going on. Many times, for them to just know it is physiological and not something seriously wrong with them, helps to build confidence in knowing the body is just preparing them for the next stage, and it will be over shortly.
Talk to them about raising their hands, and approaching the teacher for help. Don't ask them if they are afraid, just ask them their opinion of it. Ask them if the other kids in their class raise their hands, or ask for help as well. Usually, if no one does this, the other kids aren't going to do it as well.
The last thing, and this is the most important. Help them come up with strategies to, first, get through, the fear, and second, find ways to help them comprehend until they are able to raise their hands, and have enough confidence to march through their classmates to ask for help.
You will benefit with a happier child, and they will benefit by actually getting the education they deserve.