What to Do When Classes Are Too Hard

What to Do When Classes Are Too Hard

Now that most students are at least a couple of weeks into the school year, they’re probably getting a good feel for the classes they selected months ago.

Around this time every fall, we get a lot of questions from students and parents about what to do if a class is too hard.

Today, we’ll share our perspectives on this topic and offer advice for how high school students can move forward successfully.

Finding the Right Balance of Course Rigor

Education is all about growth—and growth happens when we pursue the edges of our ability. If your student isn’t pushing themselves in some way, they probably aren’t growing.

Does this mean that your student should be pushing themselves to extreme limits in every single class? Absolutely not. But taking classes where they can mail it in with very little effort and get a good grade won’t do them any favors, either.

At Signet, we like to use the analogy of learning to swim when we talk to students and their families about finding the right balance of course rigor. If you’re learning how to swim, you want the ground to be just far enough away to push you to try, but close enough that you can stand on your toes to keep your head above water if you need to.

When a student is challenging themselves in a reasonable way, it might look like spending an extra hour on the material (not an extra 6 hours!) and having to manage their time a little more carefully—but they should never have to cancel their activities or give up their social lives to make it work.

Signs That a Student May Need Additional Support

There are a few reasons why a student might complain about a class being too hard:

Before taking any action, it’s important to define what success looks like in this particular scenario. What is the teacher expecting from your student? What is your student expecting from themselves? Does success look like feeling good about getting a B in this class instead of an A?

Once you and your student have settled on a definition of success, determine what distance they need to cover to reach their goals. Is that distance reasonable, or is it going to lead them down the path to academic burnout?

If you decide together that the distance is reasonable, the next step is to determine if your student can get there on their own or if they need outside support in the form of a subject tutor or even an academic coach.

Keep in mind that many teenagers are experiencing worse-than-usual anxiety right now due to the pandemic. That stress and tension can manifest into worries and doubts about their academic performance, but it’s not necessarily a reflection of their ability.

In some cases, all it takes is a trusted subject tutor or academic coach to help students shore up their confidence during difficult times.

If you and your student decide that it’s best for them to drop the class, that’s okay, too. It’s not a sign of failure or a reason for them to feel ashamed. Just be sure to talk to the teacher and the school guidance counselor or administration about what dropping or switching classes entails before making any final decisions.

If your student needs support with their challenging classes, Signet is here to help. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Picture of Sheila A.

Sheila A.

Sheila Akbar is President & COO of Signet Education. She holds a bachelor's degree and master's degree from Harvard University and two doctoral degrees from Indiana University. She joined the team in the summer of 2010, bringing with her a wealth of experience teaching SAT, ACT, GRE, literature, and composition in both one-on-one and classroom settings.

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