2 minutes reading time (370 words)

Low Skills do not Mean Low Intelligence

Many students who struggle in school are called “lazy and dumb” by their peers and at some times even by a teacher or parent! This is extremely hurtful and unnecessary.

First of all, you cannot always tell whether a child is working really hard or not. Even if you ask a child whether they studied they will often tell you they didn’t. It is much easier for them to say, “I didn’t study, so I failed,” than to say, “I studied a long time, but I still failed.” There are children who have given up on themselves and quit trying, but be very careful about accusing any child of being lazy. You have no way of knowing for sure how hard they are working!

Secondly, these children are often smart. I have taught children whose measured intelligence was in the superior range (even at the 99th percentile) who failed in school! These brilliant children might not be able to read, spell or do math, yet their intelligence suggests that these things should be easy for them. Reading, spelling and doing math are acquired skills, not innate like intelligence. For one reason or another, they did not learn the skills they need to succeed.

As you can see, you can have a brilliant child who is failing in school because of poor skills. They might look “dumb,” but they are far from it. Skills and intelligence are not the same thing. I have a rule that I never, ever call a child lazy or unmotivated. I ask myself these questions—“Why is this child having such a hard time in school?” “What is holding this child back?” “What can I do to provide some success for this child to get them back on the right track?”

If you feel your child is misunderstood, it is important to get together with your child’s teacher. My next post will offer some help in deciding whether or not your child is working hard enough. Then after that, I will discuss how to plan ahead for meeting with your child’s teacher to discuss these issues.

Remember, when children struggle in school, they need both their parents and their teachers to work together to figure out why.

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#5 Livia McCoy 2010-10-15 23:28
Stephanie, thank you! That is exactly the point. I have seen it happen over and over again through my years teaching struggling students. I am amazingly watching one of my seniors pulling himself up out of the depths and discovering his strengths. I encourage him daily and have engaged his parents in doing the same. One of his teachers said, "It was like he wasn't even in class the first four weeks." But, now he is learning and doing so much better.
#4 Stephanie 2010-10-13 01:34
I appreciate you for coming up with this kind of thought or article. You have enlightened those who are underestimating the capabilities or let’s just say the intelligence of a certain individual. I believe that each person has their very own special gift that has to be discovered, and nurtured. But some fails or was not even able to show it to the world only because they were pulled down instead of being pushed by family, friends, teachers and everybody.
#3 Livia McCoy 2010-10-06 21:53
Thank you both for these comments. I plan on writing soon about what types of reading programs are supported by a great deal of research. We know how to teach children how to read! Next week's post will address some things to look for to decide whether your child is really working hard.
#2 Mom 2010-10-06 17:15
There is no doubt that performance in school is no measure of a Childs true intelligence. The disturbing part is schools allow these children to leave elementary school without the ELEMENTARY reading and writing, arithmetic skills. Ontario Canada is one of the worst for this in that instead of the child writing by hand and reading from books, computer keyboards, calculators, etc are used as well as another student to read the quiz questions outloud for the child. The elementary skills are not developed as these intelligent children learn to cope quickly using the tools given them. The schools just push the children through thier miserable ineffective system as fast as possible often ignoring the concerns and pleas of the parents. Many teachers just follow thier sched thier only concern thier paycheck and not the skill building of thier students!
#1 Caroline Mukisa 2010-10-06 16:03
I think your sentence, "For one reason or another, they did not learn the skills they need to succeed." is the key here. As adults, even as "successful" ones, we often get lazy, sometimes because of tiredness, sometimes out of fear and sometimes out of stress" It's knowing how to lift ourselves out of the laziness that helps us achieve. I look forward to your other posts to see how as parents we can deal help our children through this process in a school context.

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