Helping Students When They Fall Too Far Behind

Post for Podcast No. 25
by  Dr. Daniel de Roulet

In our experience, students fall behind in classes primarily because of problems with relationships, life emergencies, over-commitment, and lack of self-discipline/time management.  What complicates student lives, and what can we do in counseling students about these complications?

  • The end of a relationship which is very important to the student may be devastating—to the point where the student can no longer concentrate of their studies. The effect may be immediate or manifest slowly after the end of the relationship. Students may even have on-going disagreements with each other that are equally distracting—all we need to do is look at the dynamics which occur in university dorm-room and realize that our students are not experienced in managing conflict.
  • Students experience (often for the first time in their lives) serious illnesses or deaths in their families and among their friends.
  •  The funding source for the student’s education may no longer be available. Often, they must transfer to another institution of secure the funds on their own. A student or parent may simply have failed to turn in a form by a deadline and needs to leave the institution. This is something we see more often than you can imagine.
  • Going to college can often offer more opportunities than are possible to take advantage of. You can major in a subject – then you can minor in another, or two others. Then, there is the possibility of a double major.  You have a new freedom! You can get a part-time job. You can join a campus-club. An internship or activity related to your major can turn into a time commitments, which takes away from your studies.
  • A lack of self-discipline can end a college career – period. It is that important. If a student has not learned this before they enter college, they must learn – and – master it while in college.
  • Time Management is in a similar category, yet different because it cannot exist without self-discipline. The very words, “TIME + MANAGEMENT” can repulse students because it represents a lack of total freedom. Not being able to overcome this can result in the end of a college career and later in life, the loss of a job.

So, how can we help?

This is where three approaches for counseling come in.

ONE – Help the student to discover the “why” and develop a plan to recover

The simple act of taking time to understand the student’s situation can be HUGE in their life. By listening to their story you will be able to quickly determine why they are having difficulties. Once you know the “why” it becomes possible to determine if they can recover in time to save their grade – or not.

TWO—Think about a “Plan B”

The plan to recover may involve a re-take or a Plan “B”. A re-take is a second chance –given, not simply an opportunity to do better, but to take a test or assignment again with a head which is clear of the duress that it was under the first time.  The professor may find it necessary to re-craft the assignment or test for this re-take to give the student an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the subject matter.

Plan “B” involves an acceptance of the grade earned in the current course and a look to the future to take another course to fulfill the requirement or to transfer to another institution.  These are never easy meetings, but they are priceless opportunities to help your students through life-changing difficult times.

THREE— Keep in mind that YOU may not be the right person to help the student

Colleges and Universities have counseling resources and professionals who can help with more serious situations. Do not hesitate to call them if you believe they can help more than you.

In addition to the counseling center and professional counseling you can suggest to your student to

  • Find a circle of friends who can support them.
  • If they belong to a certain faith, connect with that community.
  • Speak with their parents and family about their situation.

Oftentimes, in wanting to be independent, students do not connect with their established communities.  Counsel them that learning to be independent means learning to be successfully interdependent.

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3 Comments

  1. I am really looking forward to following this material as I have just started PTLLS level 4 and am learning abouot the roles, responsibilties and boundaries of a teacher

  2. Dear No1, Thank you for your interest in our work and welcome to the Student Caring Community. We have many more subjects to research and present, so stay tuned and good luck with your studies. Teaching in infinitely rewarding.

  3. Dear readers, We hope you find this research useful. So we may continue to improve this topic, please take a moment to leave a comment with your feedback. Thanks!

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