Please help me help my High School Son

Nancy ClineJanuary 28, 2002

My son was in the gifted program all through elementary school although his grades weren't exceptional. His teachers felt he was getting bored in class and needed something more interesting to do. When he didn't do his homework, they had him stay in at recess to do it. He had quite a talent to talk his way out of most situations. The teachers all loved him.

When he got to middle school, he was teased constantly by the kids in school. What about? As near as I can figure it out it was for everything. Good grades, bad grades, how he walked, how he talked, what he was interested in, I'm not sure but I think he was teased about breathing. The teachers, eventhough we talk with them and the principal, did nothing about this. He continued his history of not doing his work eventhough I tried talking with his teachers and checking his agenda journal every day. He almost didn't graduate from 8th grade last spring!

He's in high school now. He only had 4 classes last semester. He got a B, a C, a D, and an F. He has a grade point average of 1.5. We've tried professional counciling for him and he refused to talk to the councilor. There is nothing left that he likes to do that we can take away from him. He has very few friends around our house so grounding him to the house has no effect.

My question is this? What can we do to get him to take an interest in school, do his work, and get it turned in?

Thank you in advance for your help,


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Can you find something he DOES like to do--to let him do it, not to take it away from him? Some place he DOES like to be?

Maybe those things will help him create some enthusiasm. He's got to be really depressed if he went through Jr. High getting teased like that.

Can he volunteer w/ the elderly, kids, the Humane Society? Somewhere that he can see how energy expended can actually accomplish something important, worthwhile, valuable? Somewhere that he can see how important it can be to follow through on your word to someone?

I think a "worthy cause" would make more of an emotional impact than a job. He might care about it more than caring about contributing to some company's bottom dollar.

School can seem like such a "for everyone else's agenda" sort of activity. And if he's not getting anything out of it, why would he do it? He's probably had to disconnect from caring about school, in self protection. And of course teenagers are notorious for not being able to see anything beyond next week or next month. The idea of being 28 and wanting to buy a new stereo and not being able to because he's still working at Wendy's is just not on his radar screen.

You need to find away for him to be able to see beyond now, and see beyond school. (esp. since school must be REALLY CRUMMY!)

If you can get him to take an interest in ANYTHING, it might rub off on school--eventually.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2002 at 4:28PM
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From your post, it sounds like you have a real problem on your hands. I assume you have already considered and had him tested for drug and alcohol use--while I hope not, it could be a factor here (and sadly, if he's as depressed as he sounds, if it isn't yet, substance abuse could be right around the corner for him).

He definitely needs some interests. Sports would be good if he's inclined. Music or dance, if his interests lean that direction. How about something like learning how to animate cartoons--DD loved doing that some years back. Volunteering is a great idea--about half the 'candy-stripers' at the hospital when my daughter was in high school and voluteered were guys (they weren't called candy stripers and had MUCH better uniforms to wear than the poor girls did). How about getting him involved in raising seeing eye puppies--check with your county 4-H on that one, they usually run those programs. Or perhaps some Saturday classes at the local college--many offer programs for high school students. A parttime job might even be a good idea if he can find one at his age--something like working in an ice cream parlor, perhaps--for a teenager, money is tangible evidence of his worth. I think at this point, it would be a good idea to look for some interests outside of school for him--once he starts to feel better about himself, he may find he can deal better with the pressures at school.

I wouldn't give up on the couselling--do your research first. Interview several counsellors and find one who seems to understand your problem and who can come up with a plan. Maybe if you persevere, after a few sessions, he'll feel comfortable enough to open up. Let's face it--it's pretty hard for most of us adults to tell our problems to an outsider on the first or second meeting, so give him a little time. I'm sure you've also been frequent visitors to his guidance counselor, teachers, etc. Have you considered changing schools? Perhaps a vocational high school, where he can learn practical talents might be both more interesting and more useful to him.

You're certainly right to be concerned--you want him to live up to his potential, not throw away his teen age years, then wake up in his 20's finding he has no preparation for a job, life.... Good luck.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2002 at 5:51PM
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Thank you for your responses. It is great to hear other suggestions on this problem. Steven has some interests outside school like church and DeMolay. Steven says that High School is much better than middle school - the teasing has stopped and he has friends now and he even knows their names. They play "Magic the Gathering" card game and "Dungeons and Dragons" together at school during brunch and lunch every day. He seems to be excited about his new science class and his internet class. He is going to talk with a councilor tomorrow about maybe retaking Algebra 1 this new Semester (which started last week). Hopefully this will work out. Steven told me today that he did learn something from his Algebra teacher - She taught him "that he can't slide through High School". I hope this is a new starting point for him. I'll keep you informed.


    Bookmark   January 29, 2002 at 11:44PM
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wow! sounds almost like you were describing me back in my high school days, late 60s early 70s. i wish i could tell you something that would help, but i never did do much in high school, then dropped out of college after the 1st year.things worked out good for me, good career, great life, all that, but i could have done better, if i had applied myself in high school and college. i look back with no regrets though,i could have fallen in with a bad crowd, or been run over by a beer truck who knows. do your best, hope for the best, thats all you can do, good luck.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2002 at 1:17AM
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If you want him to talk to a counselor about his lack of involvement in the school aspect of his life, you might be sure that it's clear the counselor is there to help HIM sort out HIS life to HIS satisfaction, and not to coerce him into doing all the stuff you and his teaches want him to do. Give him a little power over the choice, if you can.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2002 at 2:23PM
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Talley Sue,
I've been in touch with the career center counselor at Steven's school, Steven is supposed to talk to him about getting added to an Algebra 1 class today - we'll see if he follows through. We had such a disappointing experience with the counselor that he went to a couple years ago that I'm reluctant to go that route again. Last night he seemed willing to state his case to the counselor at school and seems to have the drive to make an effort to correct the situation he has made for himself. He can't now, nor has he ever been able to, see the possible end results of his actions. We are going to look into Sylvan Learning Center tomorrow.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2002 at 2:47PM
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Have you looked into what impact his social problems might have had on him in middle school, could definately be contributing to his academic situation. Did you try more than one counselor for him to talk to?? Sometimes finding a good therapist is like finding a good pair of shoes...they need to FEEL GOOD otherwise they aren't worth it!! Let your son guide you in how he feels about helping select another therapist. It just seems to me like these problems aren't rooted in his school work, but possibly in some underlying issues that your son needs help with in order to be able to get back on a stable academic track. Best of luck!!! Take care of yourself during all of this too Mom!! :)

    Bookmark   February 23, 2002 at 12:49AM
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To all:
Thank you for replying to my plea for help. This is the update on Steven:

I took him to Sylvan Learning Center. They tested him and found that somehow he missed some basic math (ie subtraction, multiplication, and division and some other stuff) way back in the 4th and 5th grades and of course in all the grades since then. He has been working with Sylvan for 2 weeks now and is showing that he is quickly catching up on his math skills and is acting more self assured and happy. He had a winter vacation this week and when I reminded him that he still had class at Sylvan 3 times during the week he replied, "That's not work, Mom, that's fun!"

On another note his test scores from Sylvan show that he is reading at a 12th Grade level. (He's only in 9th Grade!)

We also found out that Steven will not have to take Summer School to make up the failed Algebra 1 class. He will be taking Algebra 1 in the fall then take Geometry in the Spring to catch up to his class.

Steven likes High School, has friends that he hangs around with (and even remembers their names and talks about them), and he tells me that the teasing has completely stopped.

Thanks again,

Nancy Cline

    Bookmark   February 24, 2002 at 2:26AM
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How is Steven doing? I am just trying to show concern. I hope he is really doing well in school. I would like to get an update.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2002 at 9:11AM
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Thanks for your interest.
Here's the latest on Steven: He is attending Sylvan Learning Center to bring up his math skills. We found through their testing that he missed key information as far back as 4th grade. In 2 months he is now working on 7th grade math and seems to be doing quite well in their classes. Steven doesn't have a math class in public school until next fall that's when we will find out if they have actually helped him.
In his school classes, Steven still doesn't want to do the day-to-day assignments but I'm in almost daily communication with his teachers and we're trying to get Steven to take responsibility for his actions.
Progress reports come out this week so I'll try to post Steven's current status then.
Thank you for being concerned and asking for an update.

Nancy Cline

    Bookmark   April 28, 2002 at 10:28AM
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