Part of being a parent is sharing our values and views on life, like making sure they receive a good education, usually in the belief that such things are vitality important and will help them to find happiness later in life, or at least a career that will sustain them.
But what if you are one of those parents whose child is obviously not suited to life in a classroom, as I am, and it becomes obvious that he or she is struggling, or even worse getting into trouble?
There are currently around 50,000 (1) kids each year that disengage from Australian schools, and it has also been estimated that for every student that actually drops out of school, there are two more that stay on but are struggling to cope with life in the classroom. It seems that getting a good education is often harder than it seems, leastways for some!
All children have the potential to enjoy learning, but their learning needs and values can differ, so for many students who are having difficulties in the classroom there is no enjoyment, and they will often feel like failures. Failure carries a powerful stigma in our culture, and nobody wants to be seen as one.
Many young people who are actually quite bright, can simply find themselves in a situation where they are unable to properly express who they really are.
Some may even start getting into trouble in an effort to escape their situation.
Not achieving their potential
This is often the point at which many schools begin applying a little pressure in an effort to make sure the student does the work.
Letters get sent home, detention is threatened and at times given, but as the punishments start to accumulate, the Kangaroo type kids in particular start to retaliate, often in the only way they know how.: They argue with their teachers, ‘lose’ their homework, disrupt lessons and generally play the part of the delinquent, all in an effort to distract people from the simple fact they are not coping and are starting to feel like losers.
How to help maximise your child’s potential
So if you, like me, are convinced that your child has something to offer the world but is struggling to express that at school, sometimes the greatest gift you can offer them is a rational explanation for why they are not coping, and then help them to discover where their true calling lies.
Four types of Learner
The four types of learner can be linked to the characteristics and traits of some well-known Australian animals:
- Kangaroos – who enjoy having the freedom to work on projects that excite and interest them and in doing so become energised;
- Dolphins – who strive to make personal connections and enjoy learning about ideas and values;
- Eagles – who live in the world of ideas and are constantly seeking knowledge;
- Wombats, who thrive in school because it offers them the routines, customs and traditions that are appealing to them.
Our oldest boy is a Kangaroo, he made it to the end of grade 10, but it was a close call. He was never destined for a life of academia though, and is now one year into a carpentry apprenticeship. He loves to be outdoors and is also very physical, personality traits that are not easily catered for in a classroom.
The youngest son (also a Kangaroo) is now approaching the end of year 10 but has a different outlook and wants the option of going to university in a couple of years’ time. So we have carefully chosen subjects that offer him the best chance of achieving this, and have been extremely lucky to have a school that offers non-OP Maths and English, along with a number of electives that allow him to express his natural creativity and love of nature.
Using your child’s learning traits and needs to maximise their potential
In a different school he may not have been so lucky, because kids will always find a way to let their innate personalities ‘bubble up’ to the surface. Often it is up to their school whether this is managed in a positive and informed way, or whether in a way that will cause the student problems, both in the classroom and later in life.
Help your child to understand themselves
I believe that we help set our children up for success when we give them a better understanding of what makes them tick and how they differ from other people. With this understanding, parents can also begin the task of helping our children navigate their way through life. School is a big part of this, and should be taught in a way that is consistent with our children’s innate values and talents, not ours.
The greatest gift we can offer our kids is the permission to be themselves.
“Over 50,000 young people who leave school early each year will never gain further qualifications, at a cost to Australia of $2.6 billion per annum”, Fergusson, A, Young, S 2005, ‘Strategies to assist disengaged youth to make the transition to learning and earning’, in Vocational learning: transitions, interrelationships, partnerships and sustainable futures: proceedings of the 13th annual international conference on post-compulsory education and training: volume 1, ed. G University Faculty of Education Centre for Learning Research, Australian Academic Press, Brisbane, pp.233-239.