As we approach the end of Term 4, I am often asked different variations of the following question, and it really is a tough one.
“Is my child at the level they should be, and if they aren’t, should they be repeating the year?”
The majority of students that I see each week are children who are struggling or ‘behind’ in some area of their learning. Their report shows poor grades in certain areas, and as a parent seeing these low grades and feeling that your child isn’t at the standard they should be can be incredibly difficult.
One aspect of tutoring that I love is the one on one nature of it, and the fact that I get to know each student on a personal level, finding out things like their interests, their hobbies, what they like about school, what they hate about school, which sport they play, which AFL team they follow, who their friends are and their favourite television programs. More importantly, I also find out how each student learns. Some need a variety of activities and games in a session to keep interest levels up, while others learn best focusing on one topic with pencil and paper type work. Some need a lot of visual activities, while others need more verbal prompting. Every child is different, and every child learns things at their own pace.
So when this question comes up, I am always a little bit torn. Because yes; on paper perhaps the student isn’t quite up to their grade level. They may be at a lower reading level than their peers, or they may struggle with spelling or with counting or perhaps they still don’t know all of their times tables. But, there is so much progress made on a week by week basis that may not be factored in to these levels.
Yes the student may still not know all their times tables, but they have worked incredibly hard to learn their 2’s, 3’s and 4’s by rote memory. Now they are able to draw ‘groups of’ pictures to work out the bigger ones, and while it may take a bit longer – they do get the right answer in the end. And maybe they are still reading a few levels behind everyone else in their class, but they now have the confidence to sound out words they don’t know rather than just put their head on the desk. And they are actually excited about reading now, they aren’t shaking and on the verge of tears at the thought of reading out loud. Maybe they are still getting in trouble at school, and it feels like their teacher is sending a note home every second day about ‘how distracting they were on the mat today’. But now they are at least able to sit still each morning while they do their spelling words because they have been practicing and they know that they are going to get most of them right, instead of all of them wrong.
Sometimes having a child repeat the year can be beneficial, as it revises topics they have already learned, and allows them to ‘catch up’ to where they should be academically. But repeating the year can also be detrimental to children, especially as they get older. Seeing their friends and classmates move up a year while they stay where they are can be difficult, and their confidence can waver and decrease dramatically.
It’s a decision only you can make with your child, and I encourage you to get the advice and relevant information from teachers and schools before you make any decisions. But just know that it may feel hopeless – but your child has made progress (whether it is academically socially, emotionally or behaviourally).
No matter how small, these improvements are still massive achievements that kids should be proud of – something I am sure to tell my students on a regular basis.
Lauren is the owner of MPT, a primary school teacher, tutor and Mum to a nearly 2 year old son.