“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
– Philippians 4:13 NIV
School can be hard. It is very hard for many of our students especially this year when some are in person, hybrid, or completely online. Students who might normally look to their teacher for support and guidance when they are struggling may have to wait until help comes along. Meanwhile, the overwhelming feeling and pressure of the next task to complete along with the complexity of the work gets more challenging everyday. The feelings of inadequacy continue to build up until the child, or even adults, reach their breaking point and throw in the towel.
As educators, parents, and co-workers, we can look for the signs in our loved ones that things are just not going right. When we notice the signs of someone struggling, we can step in to support them with confidence and the evidence that they are making strides in the right direction. They may not know the answer yet, but they are on their way!
3 Signs That Signal Someone is Struggling
Students may start to struggle in school for a variety of reasons. Many of which could be outside of their control. Here are three signs that will show you early on that a student is struggling academically, socially, or emotionally:
- Attendance- Just being in the classroom each day is one of the best predictors of student success. It seems pretty obvious, but the more students are in school, the more they will learn, right? Stress levels for students who miss school often increase though. After they miss a few days, they might feel that they cannot catchup and that it is pointless to try.
- Grades are slipping– The student may have started out doing great or average, but now they are not turning in assignments, providing low-quality work, and do not seem engaged in class. Keep a close eye on these students as they also might start missing school because they are not seeing any success.
- Low engagement– If you are starting to see a student withdraw from the lesson, not participate in group work, or struggles at lunch or recess, then this could also be a sign that they need some extra support.
There is Always Struggle Before a Breakthrough
If students are showing one or more of these signs, then they need some sort of support. Students may have some issues at home that they need to work through with a school counselor. More than academics, students want to feel welcomed and known at school.
We need to be a listening ear for students when it comes to their struggles. Even though we can see a solution quickly, they might not be able to see a way out of their situation. Give them real examples of when you struggled, but came out the other side a better person. Your determination and grit to stick it out helped shape who you are today.
Think back to when you were a little and just learning how to ride your bike. You had your helmet on, with someone right there next to you when you started. At first, you were nervous and wobbly. You probably fell down a time or two and got some scratches. When you looked back at the adult who was there, what did you see? What did you hear? They knew this was one of the hardest things we had ever done, but they also knew that if we could make it through this struggle, the rewards would be great!
The support and encouragement from a person that we trust can lift us up and propel us forward through the unknown and into some incredible moments that we may not have experienced on our own. We need to be there for our students and each other because our own breakthroughs may be right around the corner.
The Power of Yet
So how do we develop a sense of determination and grit in our students today? There are so many things that are trying to get our attention, it is easy to just try something else because what we were doing may have been hard or inconvenient. It’s all about seeing a new perspective on the facts that we see in front of us. We can choose how we see the facts and what our response will be. We can develop this grit in ourselves and our students with one word-yet. Adding yet to the end of a sentence can change your outlook and give you motivation to keep trying. Take these statements for an example:
- “I just can’t add and subtract fractions-yet.”
- “I haven’t made the basketball team-yet.”
- “I haven’t made any friends-yet.”
- “I don’t like to read-yet.”
- “My inventions are working-yet.”
- “My business is not thriving-yet.”
These types of statements turn negative thinking on it’s head. Sure we have some obstacles now that we need to overcome, but it will happen if we put in the effort and have a positive influence to keep us pushing forward. Thomas Edison, an famous American inventor, tried and failed over 1,000 times before he finally got the light bulb to work. He knew the power of yet. He was determined that through the struggle he would have a breakthrough, and a breakthrough he had indeed!
Embrace the Struggle
We need to now more than ever teach our children how to show grit with determination and effort. There are too many things out there trying to distract our youth away from their goals and dreams. Let’s be a positive influence on our young people and let them know that things in life will be hard, but the journey to success will be full of mini victories along the way. Never give up!