IT'S USEFUL AT TIMES TO HAVE A FRESH PERSPECTIVE TO “MAKE THE GRADE.” WITH THIS IN MIND WE HERE AT OUTLOOK-12 HAVE CREATED A SPECIAL COLUMN WHERE YOU, OUR READERS, CAN WRITE TO US WITH YOUR PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL QUESTIONS AND GET PERSPECTIVE AND INSIGHTS FROM OUR RESIDENT AWARD-WINNING EDUCATION VETERAN AND CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST GARY COOPER. AN EDUCATOR FOR MORE THAN 45 YEARS, GARY HAS TAUGHT STUDENTS FROM NURSERY SCHOOL TO COLLEGE AND IS ALSO A GUIDANCE COUNSELOR.
Q: My daughter is in the second grade and is a daydreamer. I don’t mean just a little. I mean that she tunes out her teacher, doesn’t take notes and in general has no focus. I’ve tried talking to her and punishing her, but nothing gets through. If she doesn’t like something going on like a boring lesson or being chastised, she just goes off into her own little world. I’m frustrated and out of ideas. What should I do?
A: A seven-year-old daydreamer is not particularly alarming. My standard advice is to assist your daughter with her lessons. As long as she is learning at a reasonable rate, most problems will be greatly reduced or all but eliminated. If her disenfranchised state persists, you may want to consider having her medically tested to determine if your child suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Keep in mind that even if it is determined that your daughter does not have ADD, that doesn’t automatically mean that she should be medicated. Frequently, a change of diet may reduce her daydreaming. In a similar vein, your daughter may simply not be sleeping enough. On the other hand, if a physician prescribes medication to assist her, I recommend trying it and then determining how beneficial this pharmaceutical addition becomes. I strongly advise you to not punish your child for her daydreaming. Instead, help her keep up with her studies.
Q: I have a nephew in junior high. He’s a good kid and a really good student, but he’s not athletic at all. The problem is in order to pass gym he is required to do 20 push-ups and not the easier kind where he can have his knees on the floor. He’s been trying and trying for weeks now, practicing at home every night, but the best he can manage is 10, and even that’s a major struggle. I think this requirement to pass gym is unreasonable, and I want to go in and complain to the school’s principal, but my sister has told me not to make waves. But I can’t stand by and do nothing. What would you do?
A: Different states have different requirements to successfully pass physical education. My first thought is to identify your nephew’s state’s physical education requirements. Armed with this information, you can compare his teacher’s standards with the state’s standards. If in fact this particular instructor has overstepped his or her grounds, it can be “gently” brought to his attention. Please keep in mind that a poor or even a failing grade in gym will usually not have any long lasting effects on your nephew’s future. If the teacher is willing, your nephew can do a project or report that can be put towards his gym grade. For example, he can write a report on the origin of the Olympics, a famous athlete or the history of a sport. Most physical education teachers are willing to assist the less athletic student. Good luck and keep in mind that antagonizing this instructor will probably do more harm than good.
Q: I’m a guidance counselor at a high school. There is a junior here who has always been a star pupil. She has made the honor roll every semester. She’s always been very upbeat and involved with school activities. But within the last month, she suddenly retreated into herself. She has not been showing up for all the school clubs that she joined, her teachers are telling me that her grades are slipping and she no longer socializes with her peers. I’ve tried talking to her and using all of my usual methods to get a student to open up to me about their troubles, but nothing has works. I’ve also met with her parents, but they are as baffled as I am. She’s a good kid, and I’m worried about her. What else can I do to help her?
A: Often teenagers in general have mood swings, however, the severity of the change raises a red flag in my mind. My experience has led me to believe that some seminal incident may have occurred. My initial thought that some type of abuse might be the genesis of the problem. This possible abuse may range from a form of bullying all the way to molestation. The next thought I had could possibly involve some illicit drug. Large mood swings can be linked to some pharmaceutical agent. My final thought is that this teenager’s metamorphosis might be linked to a malady or other medical condition. Speaking as a guidance counselor, each counselor must know his or her limitations. Although you might attempt to further investigate this student’s circumstance, at some point in the near future advise her parents to seek medical involvement that might reveal the cause of these changes.