When I was in the first year of teaching and without experience, I was very frustrated by having students in my class who scored 7 or 8 on tests, while I taught everyone equally well? Meanwhile, I found the answer to that question: not everyone is the same. Now I face: why do I have children in my class/school who, despite having intellectual abilities, do not have academic results consistent with their abilities? Why do some children work at school below their intellectual potential? I’ve asked various questions: why isn’t the child doing well enough to cope in the competitive world? Why aren’t they doing more exercises? Why aren’t they interested in learning and receiving low grades?
Potential Students who do not perform
First, we need to clarify whether a child is working below their potential or not. Working below potential means that a child’s performance at school, reflected in grades or test results, is below the level predicted for their age, abilities, and potential. In other words, there is a significant discrepancy between intellectual capacity and school results. However, determining a child’s learning potential and intellectual ability is not done by comparing your child’s grades with those of their classmates. Determining learning potential and intellectual ability is done through standardized tests, administered by specialists (e.g., determining IQ with the help of a psychologist). If your child has average intellectual abilities and gets grades of 7 or 8, it means they are working at the level of their potential. If they have higher-level abilities, get grades of 8 but are capable of getting 10, then they are working below their potential.
Clues There are several signs we can generally observe in a child that indicate they are working below their potential: they have better school abilities (tested) than school results, sometimes they get good school results, other times poor ones, they fear making mistakes or failing, they have poor time management (lose time), they comment on what is imposed on them, especially tasks or homework, they have low tolerance for tasks they find boring or difficult (get bored, show no interest in certain tasks), and sometimes they have low self-esteem.
Causes If:
• they spend too much time socializing,
• are involved in too many extracurricular activities, are given tasks that are too difficult (or too easy), or
• are not active enough in class, they can become a student with academic performance below their potential.
Students who do not perform
Some children set minimal goals for their school tasks. They know that by putting in minimal effort, they will get the desired result. If they set higher goals and invest more energy in achieving them, they would get better results. Others set unrealistic expectations for academic results, or these high standards are imposed on them; they realize they cannot achieve them and give up. Perfectionists decide that things must be done perfectly, experience failure, and give up. The common thing for all of them is the failure to organize time and effort for school tasks. Let’s not forget that fatigue or disorganization can have the same effects. Whatever the causes, one thing is clear: once a child chooses to work below their potential, they will always find strategies to avoid doing what they don’t like.
Blame If we ask teachers, they will say that parents are to blame; if we ask parents, they will blame the teachers. Teachers in higher grades blame those in lower grades, everyone blames the government and the system, or the students, saying they no longer have motivation. Obviously, children blame parents and teachers. I don’t think it matters who is to blame; what matters is action, and that happens when everyone cooperates. To change the child’s view and attitude towards learning and school tasks, we may need to change something in ourselves: we cannot make anyone do what we want; we can only change our behavior towards them and hope they are motivated to change.
How? If the child invests enough time and effort into school tasks and gets good results, they will become a successful student, at their level. Regardless of age, to succeed, the child must be involved in tasks that respect their zone of proximal development (see Vygotsky’s theory), meaning “give them work as much as they can and a little more” (translated, tasks that they find challenging and frustrating). Consistency and increasing tolerance for frustration seem to be key words, along with self-confidence.
Students who do not perform
Solutions come with good cooperation with the school. The teacher can help by exposing the child to different teaching methods or customizing the curriculum, breaking long-term goals into smaller, clear objectives, and establishing an individualized recovery plan. These strategies will be successful when combined with active involvement and efforts on the part of parents. Leaving all the responsibility solely on the shoulders of the school when a student needs help is wrong. Monitoring the child’s efforts in learning, encouraging them to study and do their homework, sustained motivation for boring, difficult, or frustrating activities, consistent and active involvement when needed, are keys to the child’s success. In short, by changing the way we teach, the way we educate children at home, and the way we motivate them, we can radically influence the child’s enthusiasm and effort at school.