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To Get Help or Wait and See?

To Get Help or Wait and See?

TO GET HELP OR WAIT AND SEE?

When should I intervene on behalf of my child and get extra help?  As a parent, you don’t want to intervene too early, and stifle your child’s self discovery.  He/she needs to learn how to navigate things with an appropriate level of independence.  With that said, you also need to be able to recognize when your child is struggling to the point of needing intervention.

To keep it simple, it’s typically better to be on the cautious side.  I’d rather see a situation in which a parent is a bit overly cautious, intervening perhaps earlier than necessary, rather than one in which a parent decides to “wait and see” too long, such that small problems become much bigger ones.  Every semester, every school year, we encounter students that have fallen so far behind, not only is it very difficult to get them caught up, but a lot of damage has been done to their self confidence and their motivation.  Consistent, repeated struggles in a particular subject/class can seriously erode a student’s confidence and also his/her attitude toward that subject.  These two issues can be much harder to overcome than difficulties in the subject matter itself.

In short, at the first signs of struggles, I recommend you have a conversation with your child to see how he/she is feeling about things.  I would also have a conversation with the teacher, to get his/her input.  Based on what you’re hearing, you can decide if something should be done.  If both your child and teacher feel there are issues, that’s a bit of a no brainer.  But, what if they feel differently from one another?  This is also pretty easy, though it doesn’t seem so perhaps.  Basically, if either the teacher or your child feel there are problems, that means there are problems, of some nature anyway.  If your child is feeling behind, chances are something is up.  Even if the teacher is not seeing it, your child is feeling it, and this can lead to confidence and motivational issues.  Of course, as an educator, if your teacher feels there are issues, that is likely to be true.  Not always, but usually.

If you choose to wait and see, you should set a timetable for when you are going to check back in.  The older your child, the shorter this time period should be.  For an elementary student, you may want to give it a month or even a few months.  However, for a middle school student, waiting several months is too long, make it 4-6 weeks, perhaps a little less.  For a high school student, I would not wait more than 2-3 weeks.  Information is covered rapidly in high school.  If you’re considering intervention, this means some time has already passed in which your child has struggled; add to this another 2-3 weeks and you could be looking at 6+ weeks, or 1/3 or more of the semester.  That’s a lot of material that’s been covered, and less time to get things back on track before the semester is over.  For high school students, each semester ends up on the final transcript, so each semester counts.

If you choose to intervene, rather than wait, you should follow a similar check-in timetable to ensure progress is being made.  It really is up to you, the parent, to make sure proper steps have been taken, there’s appropriate consistency and follow up, and your child is improving.  You can, and should, expect help and feedback from the teacher, but you cannot expect to put things entirely in his/her hands.  Teachers have many more children to worry about than you.  In the end, the buck stops with you.