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for those with very able but wildly underachieving DC

(29 Posts)
willthecreamcometothetop Sun 16-Feb-14 17:43:41

i despaired of my able DS ever achieving his full potential. He underacieved in GCSE's and A levels. although on paper without any knowledge of his potential his grades were certainly more than respectable but they should have been stellar with his high IQ and acagemic ability. whilst doing GCSEs and A levels he questioned continuallytheir value time and time again and refused to really work. no amount of bribery or cajoling worked. DS now at uni and has found his groove, he is hitting those 1st's and working to potential. i guess what i am saying to all those frustraed parents who think 'why are you wasting all that talent' the cream does eventually come to the top!

Shallishanti Sun 16-Feb-14 17:52:32

I can second this- DS actually 'woke up' about half a term before a levels - and started asking my opinion on his essays!- went to uni, did well, now doing a 2nd (vocational) degree
It is incredibly frustrating though, my sympathies to anyone in this situation, tis very true that you can take a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

lljkk Sun 16-Feb-14 17:55:36

but how did he get to Uni and do you think he's on a course that's below his potential?

I'm just aiming for GCSEs good enough to get into 6th form at the moment, but not sure DS will even go to 6th form.

willthecreamcometothetop Sun 16-Feb-14 18:09:46

he got to uni because at the end of the day he is bright and got good but not the best results with very little work. I have and i lie not a folder in my inbox of about 200 emails that are from his teachers all saying in different ways 'when WILL DS do some work!?!" I nagged and nagged because at least it felt that I was doing something but it was to no avail. He and I know many other boys hate being told what to do and when and how to revise. However something must have gone in as he is now doing it his way andwell.

Dominodonkey Mon 17-Feb-14 10:05:35

The problem is that the nagging probably made it worse but teachers are forced to do it because if a child like your son doesn't get his target they are lambasted by the head.
I appreciate it is frustrating for parents but it is disgusting that teachers had to waste their time writing 200 emails because your son is lazy.
We red to move back to a system where children who want to do well are helped extensively (regardless or ability) and lazy brats are left to sink or swim.

willthecreamcometothetop Mon 17-Feb-14 11:42:57

I agree up to a point Dominodonkey but I think the teachers were simply keeping me fully informed about his lack of progress and putting the ball firmly in DS's court rather than being fearful of meeting targets. He refused to attend any additional classes and those that cared did, so they were helped extensively. It was up to him in the end to sink or swim and sink he did by his standards. The fact that he is achieving now has got me thinking that it is more than just laziness that prevents some bright children from achieving well. They just don't understand the relevance and purpose of it all at the time and their energies are put elsewhere.

sandyballs Mon 17-Feb-14 13:40:50

'Lazy brats left to sink or swim', bit harsh Domino!

lljkk Mon 17-Feb-14 13:54:55

Is it a waste of time to communicate with a parent about an underachieving pupil? I would have thought that was a standard part of teacher job description. What would their time so much better be put to?

I think I'm impressed that OP saved them all. I would have definitely got too depressed to have so many on my 'poota.

Shallishanti Mon 17-Feb-14 13:57:03

I think it's also that school curricula don't engage young people or expect t hem to think critically. Ds had the potential to be a good linguist but GCSE languages seemed to be boring and mechanistic- I remember all the dcs being coached for oral exams which were more to do with demonstrating you had mastered a particular language structure or set of vocabulary than actually communicating- so they would be expected to make up activities/pets/hobbies rather than speak about what they actually did or enjoyed
I could see why they didn't feel inspired by this or want to put any effort in. The deferred reward of a good grade wasn't enough motivation. Only when Ds realised that ideas themselves were interesting and worth discussing did he really start to work. An awful waste, really as education at all levels should be (and can be) exciting .

willthecreamcometothetop Mon 17-Feb-14 14:29:18

when our DC's don't engage nagging may not work ....for now. but i continued anyway thinking it was falling on deaf ears. I now believe they will remember the advice and gems of wisdom once they recognise that the task in hand is worth their while. You can lead the horse to water but you can't make it drink..........for now. Time to delete those emails.

wigglybeezer Mon 17-Feb-14 14:38:45

I think it is interesting that every time I read a thread on this subject, nine times out of ten it is a boy we are talking about, DS1 fits the mould, although he is only slightly above average in ability performing below average.

I thought I was doing him a favour by arranging an apprenticeship with a family member but this has meant he thinks he doesn 't need to bother passing exams...

morry1000 Mon 17-Feb-14 14:52:48

Withthe cream. I could have written this post....

I am hoping DD continues in her massive improvement ....

rhetorician Mon 17-Feb-14 14:58:57

interesting: I have one of these in the making (I think!), and she just doesn't think like most people, as DP says, she doesn't just think outside the box, but would question the point/existence of the box! She will not learn things for the sake of them, only when she can see their purpose. It could turn out amazingly…equally, it could all go horribly wrong (she is only 5, so anything could happen)

some of it is because teaching is usually pretty conventional, and focussed on skills acquisition rather than deep learning - so my DD wouldn't learn letter sounds just because they were there, but learned them at speed when she understood them conceptually. But this means that various kids in her class are ahead of her because they have been practicing for much much longer. She is starting to learn the value of practice at least!

PS, mine is a girl!

willthecreamcometothetop Mon 17-Feb-14 15:15:10

With my DS he knew he was academic and would eventually go to uni. So he did get the necessary requirements to transition from GCSEs to A levels and A levels to uni but he did no less and no more than the absolute minimum to do so. He is very lucky but i don't think he was emotionally mature enough to see the big picture and do it any other way. I am approaching GCSEs with DS2. i will continual to nag, cajole if necessary but i will no longer weep in despair.

rabbitstew Mon 17-Feb-14 16:00:59

But has his attitude actually changed? He got to where he wanted, after all, didn't he? Does he regret not working harder, or is he pleased he didn't work hard when the work was boring and is now working hard because he's interested in what he is doing and sees the point of it? It sounds as though he didn't actually need better grades than he got, so he didn't miss out on anything to be a lazy b*gger at school: he just saved his energy to work hard at something he views as worthwhile.

rhetorician Mon 17-Feb-14 16:06:04

also some kids are just strategic about stuff; my DP at school did precisely and exactly what she needed to get her college place. And not a jot more. It's probably good not to get too swept away on the tide of A* grades...

BackforGood Mon 17-Feb-14 16:29:20

Thanks for posting WilltheCream - we are at the stage of ds doing A-levels this Summer, but not on course to get the grades he needs. Hasn't really got an 'insurance' offer as the 3 places he wants to go all gave him the same offer (4th choice was a higher offer). Absolutely like you describe - perfectly capable, but never prioritises A-level work over ANYTHING. It's good to know, ShalliShanti that there is a slight hope he might pull it all together over the next couple of months.
Domino - that's a bit of a harsh post. A HUGE part of a teachers job is trying to support ALL students to reach their potential, including those who aren't blessed with a perfect work ethic. Communication with the families can often be a great part of this. You are somewhat blinkered to think that teaching staff should only deal with those 'perfect' students for whom it all comes naturally...... are you related to Michael Gove in some way ? hmm

lessthanBeau Mon 17-Feb-14 16:52:27

I could have written this post about my DD, now at uni and hitting the 1sts, so clever without having to try, unfortunately she was so lax she did a btec instead of A levels, then discovered she loved biology which was part of the course on the btec, however she couldnt get onto the bio-med course she wanted as she hadnt done an A level in any science, so had to do a foundation year to get on the right course, so the foundation year and the degree have taken up her 4 yrs of funding so we have to try to find the money for the masters year ourselves. I do refrain from saying I told you so regarding the lazy ass choice of the btec , but they do come good in the end, my dd has got half the money put aside for her Masters herself so we only have beg or borrow the other half.(9.5k for one year unbelievable!) then she will be on to her PH.d.
so dont give up on your smart lazy teenager, they do figure it out for themselves eventually.

Tabby1963 Mon 17-Feb-14 18:00:40

That's great news, OP. Same thing happened with my DS. In his case he only 'pulled his finger out' when motivated by wanting desperately move into a flat share with friends in another city. He left home at age 17. He found a one year college course to do that was interesting, found a job to do (evenings and weekends) that supported his living expenses and has now got a lucrative apprenticeship with the local council.

I remember before all this the difficulty I had trying to get him up for school, or do homework, or study, or tidy up after himself. Today (19)he's a different person altogether. Motivated, driven, and with definite plans for his future.

I don't know if it's a 'boy thing', but certainly my DS saw little point in doing something if he didn't see the point (despite my nagging). Rhetorician makes a similar point about her DD "She will not learn things for the sake of them, only when she can see their purpose."

rhetorician Mon 17-Feb-14 20:51:05

Phew tabby, so she will get there in the end. She is pretty determined once she has decided that she wants to learn something. But it's not helpful. I mean, I don't always see the 'point' of making my children eat their veg/not watch tv etc... grin

Dominodonkey Mon 17-Feb-14 22:35:58

OP- thanks for your measured and considered response and for not jumpin on my terminology. I do think that sometimes they can't see the point because at many schools the teachers will run around after them ensuring they get respectable grades.
back for good this is not an encouraging chat or a few detentions or emails, this is not a child who has no support at home, this is a child who despite numerous interventions still failed to work to his potential. I will quite happily spend every hour of the day helping students achieve their potential including lazy students who are willing to turn it around but when there are limited hours in the day I would rather spend it with the child who is working hard (whatever ability they are) than one who can't be arsed. I make no apologies for that and if that really is goves ideology then I welcome it.

willthecreamcometothetop Tue 18-Feb-14 09:53:08

Rhet we need those that question and don't necessarily go hell bent to reach targets. As my Ds used to say ad infinitum 'Who the F...set these moving targets anyway?' it is only now in the wisdom of hindsight do I have a little sympathy for his plight. further up thread the question was asked has he really changed? probably not but the difference is I like his attitude now and I respect that 'edge' he has of not jumping through hoops if he doesn't understand or simply doesn't care for the reasons why. But I am eternally grateful that he was surrounded by a culture of working hard at his secondary school and the same at home . it was that that stood him in good stead in the end. Once he decided that it was time to drink, to continue the horse to water idiom, he found he was terribly thirsty.

rhetorician Tue 18-Feb-14 21:39:13

It may also be willthecream that the style of learning at uni just suits him much better. This is a good thing, I teach at uni and usually find the opposite is true, high achievers with strings of excellent results actually don't know how to learn, focus or discriminate without external drivers. I hate the imposition of conformity in education in the last couple of decades more than any of the other horrors afflicting my profession.

looplab Tue 18-Feb-14 22:10:07

Good one cream, I feel uplifted for the moment anyway. I never believe the stories of teenage hormones etc and famously argued I never had them, but I must say they go totally weird around age 14-15, just when they need to start focusing. The parent-child relationship goes very bumpy thats for sure. Your DC has turned out good and thats great, but I do fear for those who let things slide too far....

willthecreamcometothetop Wed 19-Feb-14 12:26:37

That was my fear looplab-will things slide too far. I think there are no short cuts to achieving your best. For my DS his priorities lay in an eductation of a different kind -i.e girls, all night parties, facebook and I dread to think what else. He says he has no regrets. he says he enjoyed his teens to the max. He also said at what other time in his life will he be able to party until he drops, sleep until 2 in the afternoon every day, eat like there's no tomorrow without putting on weight and wake up feeling on top of the world and thinking that anything and everything is possible. in his book that what a teen is about and he wanted to look back with fond memories. Some DCs will not need to do the things my DS did and focus on their work religiously, some will be able to do the same but in moderation, some will be like my DS, some will suppress the urge. Whichever way our DCs need to come to terms these conficting experiences and we pray it doesn't take them too long

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