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Why children struggle in the classroom


Article by Kimberly Selchan

Photography by Kimberly Selchan

Do you ever wonder why "that" kid (or maybe it's your kid) has continual struggles in school, even though "nothing is wrong with them"?

Typical students struggle in school settings for various reasons, which may include difficulty staying focused, trouble getting organized, lack of interest, health reasons, or anxiety. Generally, all kids can improve their academic performance by getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, and finding a tutor who appeals to their learning styles. When typical students struggle in a classroom, the best way to help them thrive is to understand the root cause of their struggles in the first place. A typical student could have Fs or they could have As, but this definition would not include students with neurodivergence (ex ADHD and ASD).

Note: I will be using the word “typical” here to address neurotypical learners (individuals with typical neurological development or functioning) who are part of the general education population, with no accommodations.

Here are some reasons I've found why typical students struggle in a classroom and how to help:

Lack of Individualized Instruction

The teaching method used by a teacher may not be suitable for a particular child, especially in a traditional classroom setting with diverse learning styles. Children in the same class can be of various ages (especially in high school) and have unique goals, personality types, and learning differences.

Learning Gaps

A learning gap is the difference between what a child is expected to master at a particular grade level (measured by standardized tests like AIMS or AZM2) to what he/she has mastered. Children's education builds on previous concepts similar to building blocks and a lack of fundamental knowledge or understanding can lead to a knowledge gap for the typical student. (while I will provide a detailed article on learning gaps in a subsequent post, Tutor Doctor can adequately identify and remedy knowledge gaps in our students,)

Time Management

This is a difficult skill to master; even adults find it challenging to maintain a schedule, so, understandably, children struggle to learn prioritization, time allocation, punctuality, submitting assignments on time, and keeping to the school’s schedule. Improvement in time management skills can significantly improve a child’s academic performance and overall success in life. Time Management falls within the general category of Executive Functioning which I discuss in other articles. The brain’s frontal lobe is not fully developed until 25 years of age, so the entire academic careers of most children occur while this critical part of the brain is developing.

Poor Study Skills

This is not as intuitive and is not usually a "will" issue as I often hear parents suspect. And, study skills can be taught! Most students who perform poorly, simply do not know how to study because they were not taught, and neither do they understand the journey of getting information from the working memory to the long-term memory. Tutor Doctor Chandler-Gilbert takes pride in developing the study skills of our students as this sets the foundation for building their education. We often use cognitive assessments to discover how a student learns and recall so we can best instruct them how to take notes and review them.

Lack of Interest and Engagement

In my early years in school, I never understood the importance of Pythagorean theory in mathematics; it was just something I knew I had to memorize to solve problems. But now I appreciate that Pythagorean theory can help a sailor (or pirate) successfully navigate oceans. When a teacher or tutor makes learning interesting for students with real-life examples, they can widen a student's imagination, spurring their desire to learn.

The list of reasons why typical students may struggle in a classroom setting is exhaustive; however, most of the issues listed and more can be significantly improved with the help of a tutor. Don't stay frustrated, and don't be mad at the system, but please do not sit idle if you see your child losing confidence in academics. At Tutor Doctor Chandler-Gilbert we understand that no two students have the same learning capacity; hence, our tailored approach to tutoring ensures we remove any hurdle between your child and academic success.

Kimberly Selchan, Resilient One, and Tutor Doctor Owner

My mission: “To help today's youth become tomorrow's successful adults”

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