“Our son was an actively engaged learner in elementary school and early middle school. He loved his teachers, his classes, the projects assigned, and he often went above and beyond what was required. Then, eighth grade hit hard. Suddenly, he didn’t bother with homework and lost interest in a good report card. He spent his time reading books he wanted to read and teaching himself graphic design on the computer. The interest and creativity were still there, but they weren’t related to school.”
What had happened to this bright teen student?
“We turned to an educational psychologist friend for help. We were desperate to have our successful school student back. The testing came back indicating our son was extremely bright. Our friend’s answer to the problem? Let him be. He will become engaged when he finds something for which he has a passion."
Ultimately, this prediction was correct.
Hands on experience provided the key.
"Today, we have a grown son who is an innovative, engaged leader. However, the high school years and early college years were a test of our patience as he continued to underachieve in his traditional school environment while self-teaching on his own time."
There was one exception, though.
"During his junior year of high school, he spent the spring semester in an environmental program that emphasized hands-on, experiential education. Every class was tied to understanding sustainability and the environment. The courses were rigorous, but he earned the highest grades he ever had. He was never bored. And, the work he now does as an adult can be directly related back to the values and skills he learned in that program."
Teen students need engagement and relevance.
What this mother has described is, unfortunately, not rare. As educators, we all share a commitment to student success. We recognize that aspects of traditional education, such as the increased emphasis on standardized testing, the obsession with the Ivy League, and the focus on rote learning as students enter high school, can wear a student down. Without strategies that keep students engaged, they lose the excitement about learning that characterized their early school experiences.
Are you seeing this shift from engaged to bored in your own student? If so, take the time to research educational options that focus on engagement, relevance, and experiential learning. You may find that boredom is not the real culprit, but rather the culprit is an educational environment that is not meeting the needs of your other-than-average student. Be assured that alternatives exist.