Why Do Some Kids Struggle In School?

If you have a child that struggles in school, then you’ve asked yourself several questions. Why is school so easy for some and so hard for others? Why is MY child struggling?

As the mother of an out-of-the-box child, I have pondered these issues myself.

Oddly enough, I was reading a book called Linchpin , by Seth Godin, which, oddly enough, is about the globalization of our economy.

For days I wandered around in a daze. You could take his business theories and shrink them down to the theory of education in this day and age. So, after much pondering, I have taken his broad theories and boiled them down to how I see children and school interacting.

It made me realize that perhaps THERE IS A REASON SOME CHILDREN STRUGGLE AT SCHOOL… other than lousy parenting skills… (smile here).

How Does School Work?

We live in an age that focuses on standardization. Starting with Henry Ford, factories began to realize the value of quality control. Starbucks prides itself on having the same cup of coffee regardless of the location.

There are benefits to standardization! Teachers need to have a way to measure progress. Testing provides schools with lots of valuable data. When I was teaching, having the same curriculum and pacing schedule made it much easier for students transferring, and for teachers to find strengths and weaknesses in their children.

While standardization, in and of itself, isn’t bad, my concern is that schools focus on standardization to the extent that they forget about the individual artist that lives in each child. It is that special talent that makes them unique, extraordinary, and amazing, and will make them into successful adults!

It is also what may make them struggle.

Think about what we’re asking kids to do at school. It is a place where kids learn to fit in, perform well on standardized tests, and obey instructions. The tests (standardized) plot how our children are doing, and determine their success or failure.

But does that prepare them for life?

According to Seth Godin, while schools are really good at teaching kids what they set out to teach them; they are teaching them the wrong things. Consider his list of behaviors learned in school:

Fit in

Follow directions

Take good notes

Show up every day

Don’t challenge authority

Don’t ask questions (“…because I told you to…”)

Learn a little bit about a lot of things

Don’t say anything that might embarrass you

Participate in lots of extracurricular activities

Our schools are created to run like a job. You have supervisors and tests. If you do a good job, you get promoted. If you don’t, you eventually get kicked out, or “fired” from your job.

Children who do well have learned how to perform to the standard. But, what if you have a child that struggles? Maybe they don’t follow the rules, ace the test, or obey very well.

My question, then, is how DO you measure leadership? Remarkability? Perseverance?

What We Should Be Teaching

What We Should Be Teaching

1. Solve Interesting Problems

2. Lead

Godin theorizes that by teaching kids to solve interesting problems at school, they will learn to solve interesting problems in adult life. It is those solutions that will help solve our societal and economic problems.

“Leading is a skill, not a gift. You’re not born with it, you learn how. Schools can teach leadership as easily as they figured out how to teach compliance…. While schools provide outlets for natural-born leaders, they don’t teach it. And leadership is now worth far more than compliance is.”

Some of us are NOT wired to sit and comply and succeed at the art of school. It is torture to memorize multiplication tables, copy spelling words, or write about Christmas. Hence, the struggle.

While school will teach children some very important lessons about life and how it works, it isn’t a perfect fit for everyone. Our children may not ever learn to perform well at school. They will never be perfect.

However, as a parent, I hope my daughters learn, somewhere in the muck, how to be remarkable. Let us not get so wrapped up in test scores that we forget to embrace the artist within that makes them unique, extraordinary, and amazing.