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How do you motivate a bright child with school?

(25 Posts)
EverythingWillBeFine Thu 07-Jul-16 16:20:12

Parents evening with dc1.
This child is extremely bright bit does f**k all would be a nice summary.
It has been brought up in different ways, from 'I didn't realise how GOOD He is until at least the middle of the year because he never says anything' to disruptive behaviour sad

So what can I do to 'convince him' to be more involved with what is happening?

I know a lot of it is coming from finding things too easy/uninteresting. A lot is also from having no respect for some teachers, the ones who let pupils be very disruptive, mayhem in the class or expect him to stay content and engaged when they have done no differenciation.
The result is that he has disengaged from whatever happens at school and because he is disengaged, he is getting bored iyswim. (Or at least that's my view on the situation - you can't be interested with what is going on if you look at it from a distance).

I'm not happy with his overall attitude. It seems he couldn't care less about what the teachers think/tell him.

And talking/explaining things to him doesn't very efficient either.

So now, what can I do?

EverythingWillBeFine Thu 07-Jul-16 21:09:57


EverythingWillBeFine Thu 07-Jul-16 21:11:19

Sorry bump

MustStopAndThinkBeforePosting Thu 07-Jul-16 21:14:20

I wish i knew. I think we are headed this way with my ds too.

EverythingWillBeFine Thu 07-Jul-16 21:24:20

The move to secondary seems to have make everything worse.

In which year is your DC Must?

FlopIsMyParentingGuru Thu 07-Jul-16 21:37:19

Watching with interest thoigh much younger child and not disruptive behaviour just painfully distracted

EricXXGmex Fri 08-Jul-16 10:33:24

Which year is your DS in EverythingWillBeFine?

Eldest is not at secondary yet, but we've already had issues with 'masking' and I think we still are. It's a viscous circle: child tries to fit in by not showing their full abilities, school assumes the shown ability is the true ability, school set work appropriate to what the child shows, the child fits in by getting most but not all right, the school thinks the work is the right level, the school record that level, that level gets passed on the next teacher or school ... and thus slowly but surely the 'pretend' level becomes the actual level, because the child is never exposed to anything more challenging.

For the child this means that they have no interest in their work, because it's easy for them. At secondary school in particular there is often a culture of pretending not to care, and pretending never to do any revision or anything. Except that some kids (and I was one, so I know it to be the case) they get the best marks, or almost the best marks and they really do do nothing - no revision, homework done in a few minutes just to keep out of detention and so on.

The massive issue, as you know, is that at some point the child comes across something that they can't just do, and often by then it's too late for them to know how to deal with it. I was half way through Pure Maths A level before I realised that, actually, I was one of the worst in the class because never in my life had I had to learn maths before. The older you are when you realise that you've never learned to stick at something you find difficult, the more of a challenge it is to learn those skills.

It sounds to me like the school (and you , perhaps) are making this out as if it's a problem your DS has to solve. You need to be in the school advocating for your DS and explaining in a non-confrontational way that your DS is not engaging with the work because it's not challenging enough. If your child is Gifted, it's likely you are too, and it's easy not to realise that; you know how when you were in school and kids got work they really struggled with, and you couldn't understand how it they could find it so tricky? - well you should have been getting work that challenged you in the same way, because you need the skill to press on and work it out, and you need to learn it. The 'winners' from our education system are those who are at the level where the hardest work set is a bit of a stretch, because they mix above average ability with the learned skill of perseverance. I bet that if you look back at the kids you were at school with , the highest achievers as adults were not necessarily the cleverest.

BathshebaDarkstone Fri 08-Jul-16 10:36:09

Talk to his form teacher. He should be given more difficult work to stretch him.

BravoHopeful Fri 08-Jul-16 10:43:46

Try reading this book

Brilliant, substantiated by research evident, and very practical.

EverythingWillBeFine Fri 08-Jul-16 11:32:53

Dc1 is in Y7.

Bravo thanks for the link. I'll have a read.

Eric YY to all you said.

There is a big issue IMO with his attitude towards achievements and ability.
There is at the same time an uneasiness about showing how good he is (eg in maths he got the highest level he could get, 7a, wo making any effort at all during the whole year AND hiding his abilities) and this idea that either you are good at something or you aren't. The idea that you can improve and get very good marks indeed is completely foreign to him sad

We've tried to compensate for that by involving him in music and a sport but clearly we aren't there yet (and it doesn't teach him how to learn either).

Will involve the Form Tutor next year. I tried this year but I can't say it has been helpful at all.
Nor has contacting a specific teacher either....

The best that has worked so far is to show him how his results and attitude now will affect his ability to chose where he will go to Uni and he will do...

user1466610292 Fri 08-Jul-16 11:33:40

This is a very difficult situation and one I see often. To try and give you some insight from a teachers perspective I have found there are two kinds of children like this. The first kind misbehaves when bored because the work doesn't stretch and challenge them enough (I would have been exactly the same as a child) , the second kind considers themselves too clever to do any work regardless of how difficult it is and the main issue is attitude.

If children in the first group aren't applying themselves, or are misbehaving in the lessons then I would put that fully onto the teacher - they need to differentiate sufficiently to engage that child. I have taught children like this, and as soon as you give them something that is difficult and interesting they are fully engaged and 99% of behaviour and attitude problems are gone.

Children in the second group are a lot more difficult to deal with, and regardless of how differentiated or difficult the work is they consider themselves above it (and usually above the teacher in terms of intelligence.) I often think it is a maturity thing, something I think 99% will grow out of, however they need to grow out of it before it impacts important stages, like GCSEs. I can give you an example, I have a pupil, let's call her B, she is incredibly bright, she could leave her GCSEs with three A* in my subject with no problem. However she literally does nothing all lesson, and worse than that she stops others doing work who aren't as clever. She has work given to her every lesson which is incredibly difficult and challenging, yet she will find every opportunity possible to disrupt others instead of trying it. Every question is met with a silly smart comment, every two minutes she is out of her seat to put something in the bin or to borrow something off someone else, this is just so she can chat. At the start of the year she was getting straight As in her tests, at parents evening I spoke to her and her parents about this attitude problem and said she needs to be pushing for those A* because she is more than capable. However now we have got to the end of the year, we are further into the course and going over the more difficult concepts and she is still displaying this I can do everything without any work attitude, yet her grades are slipping. In an observed lesson with myself, which was rated as outstanding, her response to an understanding check at the start of the lesson was that she could do everything already. When she was quizzed about it by the observer she couldn't, but still had a smart response/comment about it rather than engaging with the fact that actually she needed to get her head down and get on with it. Now some people may point the finger of blame at me as a teacher, I should be making sure that she is working and getting everything done, and yes I should. But I have 29 other pupils in that class who are also my responsibility and I view it like this, do I spent most of the lesson on the one child who clearly considers themselves above anything we do, constantly asking them to get on and get things done. Or do I focus my attention on the 29 other pupils who maybe aren't as naturally bright, but are working their socks off to get better grades. I have 60 minutes in a lesson, that's two minutes per pupil, obviously it doesn't work out like that but if every five minutes I am returning to the same pupil who just can't be bothered it really isn't fair.

Like I said a lot of pupils grow out of this attitude, I do believe it is a maturity thing and from my perspective it seems to be more common in boys than girls. I don't doubt that there are some teachers out there who make the attitude and situation worse with their lack of effort (I.e. suitable differentiation) and I definitely had teachers in school that I considered stupid and had little respect for. However again I think it is a maturity thing where this opinion is applied to all teachers, rather than the ones where maybe there is an issue that needs to be addressed. Teenagers are a very complex group, I have a year 8 form, so they are just hitting that crazy hormone stage and at least once a week we end up in a discussion about teachers shouting and being unfair, and why can't we shout back at the teachers etc. Then we get into the whole thing of, well does every teacher shout at you - no, have I ever shouted at you - no, have I ever asked you to do something during registration in an unreasonable way - no, so are all teachers nasty and mean and horrible so it's fine for you lot to be rude and talk over all of them - no etc etc.

I'm not sure this has helped much, I think I have just waffled on a little bit too much. What I am trying to say is if your child falls into the first category then go in and speak to the teachers about how they can challenge him more in lessons. If he is in the secondary category then hopefully it is an age/maturity thing and he will grow out of it soon.

EverythingWillBeFine Fri 08-Jul-16 11:35:15

Actually that bring to another question for me.

How much differenciation can you ask from the teachers? If a child is already working at the top of what they are 'supposed' to teach (already the case in a few subjects), what will they be able to do?

At lest, unlike in primary, they've all acknowledge his abilities so that's a start. It's a shame it has come with his total disengagement from the process.

user1466610292 Fri 08-Jul-16 11:41:06

Having read your post above mine now everything I don't think I've helped at all now, sorry ha ha.

I would just say if he is in year 7 not to worry, the year itself is a massive change from primary and does take some getting used to. A lot of pupils are only really comfortable by the end of it. By the sounds of it I would say the teachers need to be picking up more on this ability and challenging him in class in a way which doesn't make him feel singled out or embarrassed to try harder.

Another good way of explaining the importance might be to mention options in year 9. The grades he gets probably will impact which subjects he can pick for his GCSEs.

EverythingWillBeFine Fri 08-Jul-16 11:42:19

Xpost user and yes I agree with you.

My big worry (and thank you to have allowed me to be able to 'verbaise' that clearly) is that he is moving from your first type of child who is just bored to the second type of child who has an attitude problem.

With no offence to the teachers he had though, some of them were probably not good enough though. Think a French teacher who couldn't speak French (dc1 is bilingual and created mayhem by trying to catch said teacher...) or one teaching chemistry that didn't know the periodic table (think 'Oh is that element on the table then?').
Sometimes I think respect is earn and should work both ways. However, I would still have expected him to behave even if the teacher was crap iyswim.
I have no idea what I can do about that at home though, apart from telling him it's inappropriate and disruptive for the others who can still learn from said teacher. (Doesn't always help me either though because it just means dc1 carries on doing that but doesn't tell me instead so I have even less tools to be able to help him/go and see the teacher etc...)

user1466610292 Fri 08-Jul-16 11:49:04

If a child is working at the top of KS3 grades, like the 7a in maths. I would be expecting the teachers to be differentiating to include KS4 work for them in the lesson. He shouldn't be sitting at that 7a with no challenge until he starts his GCSEs.

(However it is also worth considering that that might just refer to specific year 7 topics in maths. So going into year 8, he may find with completely different topics he isn't hitting that 7a grade straight away if that makes sense. So for example if he did long division in year 7 and was getting 7a in the test for it, he may then go into year 8 and start doing angles and take a while to reach that 7a again - if that makes sense. I would view it this way, say the teacher planned to cover topic A in three lessons, but by the end of the first lesson your child had fully understood it but others hadn't. The next lesson I would be expecting them to provide something more challenging for your child to do, I.e have a go at some KS4 questions on the topic, rather than doing the same as the other pupils.)

EverythingWillBeFine Fri 08-Jul-16 11:51:49

Xpost again!

That's very helpful, thank you.

I really think that for dc1 the big issue has been how gutted he has been by the first term in Y7. Not about settling in etc...
But he was hoping to finally be able to do something a bit more interesting and found himself doing all the basics again (think capital letter at the start of a sentence and doing column addition). It just killed his love for learning sad

EverythingWillBeFine Fri 08-Jul-16 11:57:55

I did mention that to his form tutor during the first term.
His answer to me (and dc1) was 'well you'll just have to get on with it'.

Not that helpful....

I will have to broach that next year as in 'how can we improve dc1 attitude?' Rather than a 'He is bored, what are you doing to differenciate?'
But I suspect the first question will be answered with 'well he needs to learn to behave doesn't he?'

EverythingWillBeFine Fri 08-Jul-16 11:58:31

Btw thank you so much for your pov as a teacher. It helps a lot.

user1466610292 Fri 08-Jul-16 12:06:06

It is difficult and I totally get it with a lack of respect for teachers who get things wrong, because I was the same as a child. I had a science teacher who was terrible and I spent the lesson trying to catch him out and prove him wrong. As teachers we have that same lack of respect for other teachers who don't know what they are doing!

The problem is the profession struggles so much to recruit and retain good teachers and there simply aren't enough out there. They are giving ridiculous amounts of money to entice people to train who haven't even got good degree results in the subject they will be teaching, most people do it because they leave uni and don't know what else to do. It is seen as an easy option with long holidays! But 50% of teachers leave within 5 years.

If there have been specific incidences where teachers are regularly getting things wrong in the lesson then I would complain to the school and ask for him to be moved to a different group or set. Hopefully going into next year he should change subject teachers anyway and that may well help the situation. I would ask to speak to the head of the department to sort teaching problems out, I,e, head of science about the chemistry teacher. The other person you could speak to is the SENCO. This is the special education needs co-ordinator at the school, they should have a focus on children who are gifted and talented and may well be able to help him focus and realise the importance of pushing himself. The SENCO in my school is absolutely amazing and will fight for the children who need that little bit more focus. They are brilliant and it does help because as a subject teacher you can see up to 150 different pupils a day - so having someone else there reminding you to be focusing a little bit more on a specific pupil is really useful - and if you are a good teacher you don't mind the emails popping into your inbox reminding you to check this, or do this or that.

user1466610292 Fri 08-Jul-16 12:11:12

His form tutor sounds rubbish, I'd go to the head of year instead next time.

In my experience very few children are actually just bad. There is always a reason for the misbehaviour, and if you can get to the bottom of that and sort it out, rather than just keep punishing them for it, then long term it works out better for the pupil and the teacher.

Good luck with everything

EverythingWillBeFine Fri 08-Jul-16 12:11:54

The teacher crisis and the fact teachers are overstretched is the reason why I haven't used the issue this year.
I know they are struggling and dc1 will be seen as less of an issue than a child with SEN who is trailing way behind.

Even more aware about it because dc2 (who start Y7 next year!) has some issues himself...

It seems I'll end up with a few meetings with the SENCO between them then....

EverythingWillBeFine Fri 08-Jul-16 12:13:19

Well it's good to knoow I'm not the only one to think it was a rubbish answer! It had the effect he wanted though. I didn't ask for anything after that....

lljkk Fri 08-Jul-16 13:21:27

I have the opposite problem... mine is so used to being top dog in everything that she hasn't learnt that it's okay to be ordinary at academics or have the occasional bad day. She has no feel for how much revision is plenty enough (so gets compulsive and rehashes same material constantly until she's having a panic attack about it), or the idea that there is slack in the system, she doesn't have to always be perfect. Wants to protect her reputation. Sees her social position as dependent on being the notoriously high achiever. Although she's also increasingly nervous about attracting so many Geek Boys.

Recently got an A* on something with minimal revision; maybe will learn to pace herself at last.

I also have a "I'm so clever I don't need to work at anything" attitude kid, but I find the hyper-compulsive over achiever worries me much more.

EverythingWillBeFine Fri 08-Jul-16 13:50:35

It's hard isn't it?
Dc2 has some sort of undiagnosed SEN. Several visits to Ed pay and SALT haven't come to anything but this is strong enough for his Y6 teacher to be worried and to ask his secondary to put him on the 'to keep an eye on' register.
I worry less about him, prestige all the problem than dc1 because he has learnt that to be able to achieve something you need to work hard.
He is potentially one of those who will go over the top though, like your dd.

Singlemum1985 Sun 10-Jul-16 22:05:10

Thanks for your post OP (nothing helpful to add) it has really made me see how important it is to get my DS settled before he reaches the same level.

My DS is in Y1 and we have already experienced the boredom factor despite recommendations from the SAS for extended differentiation and add-on tasks to be available if he finishes early! Y1 has been a nightmare for the both of us and I'm hopeful Y2 will be better!

I can foresee that my DS will develop a bad attitude if we don't get it sorted sooner rather than later! smile

I really hope you can find a positive way forward for your DS and that he finds his love of learning again, it's heartbreaking when you feel like your hands are tied confused

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