• December 2, 2023

This piece is dedicated to school teachers, private tutors, learning specialists, and, let’s not forget, our homeschooling parents.

Schoolwork is bound to get tough, and kids can react to difficulties differently. Some children may withdraw, unwilling to engage in any school work after they’ve failed at it. Other children may grow anxious, high-strung, and restless when faced with fresh school work. This can all turn into a violent volcanic explosion if a student fails a test or assgiment and a BIG reaction sometimes follows.

How do you handle all of this?

What’s Really Happening When A Student Fails Their Work/Class and has a BIG reaction

Whether at school or at home, kids attach different meanings to their performance, and those meanings will, in turn, affect their reactions. While controlling the reaction is important, what is really important is preventing a student from internalizing their failure.

If a student fails a test or assignment they’re likely upset with themselves. Depending on that child’s personality, they can either internalize their feelings or take them out on other people. But, the core of what they feel is being upset for not getting it right.

See why it doesn’t make sense to focus on just their reaction? Their reactions may be misleading if considered alone.

It Should Not Stop There…

As an adult, you realize that you’ll get nothing done if you stop and quit just because you failed at something the first time. Furthermore you learn that you are NOT your failures. Kids are yet to find that out, and that’s why they need help coming back to reassess their work and bounce back from a loss (whether that loss be a failed test or a subpar homework grade).

Help the Student Eliminate or Reframe their Reaction

This strategy is highly efficient, and you can get creative with how you help them reframe their reactions.

Help the Student Eliminate or Reframe their Reaction

The first step to helping a student reframe failing their school work is to separate the actual school work from their reaction about what has happened with their school work.

When upset, you’re less likely to be interested in what caused the upset anyway (i.e., figuring out what’s correct or incorrect); the same thing applies with kids in pre-school through to high school. So, once these two aspects are separated, it becomes easier to reframe the way they feel.

Depending on the approach you adopt, your ultimate goal would be to show your student there’s so much more going on than missing the correct answer to assessment questions or making poor grades on other school work. I usually calm my student down first (i.e., eliminate the emotional reaction), change the subject, talk about something else. My general goal is to get their mind off the failure before we get back to it.

When you bring them back to the school work that needs some re-assessing, their reaction isn’t intense enough to cloud their ability to help themselves. Reframing their reaction to incorrect answers has already started because the student could do other stuff before re-assessing.

If you can point out the areas they’ve gotten incorrect and review their work with them, they’re all in. They then realize its the answer thats wrong, they are not wrong. The test was failed, they haven’t failed.

Try this strategy a couple of times, and you might find that the next time they get something incorrect or fail, they can handle the anxiety. Even better, they eventually correct their errors.

I hope this helps!

Desmond utilizes his knowledge of education policy from his undergrad, his Masters of Education from Johns Hopkins, and a variety of advanced certifications such as CHPC and LWT to construct prime academic intervention programs and homework/executive functioning support for all his students.

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