What can you do when your kid is the one who doesn’t get noticed by their teachers?
Do you have an under-the-radar child? A child who just quietly gets on with it, doesn’t cause trouble, isn’t extraordinarily gifted, does average and perfectly acceptable schoolwork, and doesn’t really get noticed by their teachers? Or perhaps your child is under-the-radar in the sense that they are having a bit of a tough time, but it isn’t obvious to their teachers, or they “mask” well enough that nobody realises something is going on beneath the surface.
WHAT EXACTLY IS AN UNDER-THE-RADAR CHILD?
An under-the-radar child may be experiencing difficulties in school, but may not be receiving the attention or support they need. This may be due to a variety of factors, such as a quiet, reserved, or introverted personality, good behaviour that doesn’t draw attention to themselves, or their academic performance being juuuuuuust good enough to avoid being flagged for extra attention or resources. Under-the-radar children may not be identified as needing extra support or intervention, and as a result, may struggle to keep up with their peers or reach their full potential.
PLEASE HAVE SOME SYMPATHY FOR THEIR TEACHERS
Teachers deserve respect, compassion, and understanding for doing all that they can do to help each child in their classroom as much as they are able. The reality is, teachers are underpaid and overworked, and don’t have the time or resources available to individually focus on every single student. They try very hard, and they care deeply, but it’s not possible to spend as much one-on-one time with their students as would be ideal. So when students appear to be doing okay, it’s not surprising that they may be overlooked. This doesn’t necessarily mean your child has a bad teacher – it more likely means the teacher is probably not aware your child might need some extra assistance.
HOW CAN I HELP MY UNDER-THE-RADAR CHILD?
First, try to identify what the issue is. Is your child struggling in maths, but not quite badly enough that they think they should join the after-school tutorial? Do they need a little nudge in the right direction, or is more significant intervention needed? Is there something you can do at home to support them, or have you tried everything and need the school to step up and give you some direction?
Second, setting up an encouraging, supportive home environment can go a long way. Encourage your child to read, research topics that interest them, ask questions, identify their emotions, and express themselves creatively. Create a homework zone that’s set up for them to study – a space that’s as quiet and distraction-free as possible, with resources and materials at hand to get homework done more smoothly (with less hunting for a pencil sharpener or noticing what’s on TV). Third, show an interest in your child’s schoolwork, and help them with it – or even just sit with them while they’re doing their work, to show respect and support for what they’re doing. If they see that you value their schoolwork, they’ll have a better chance of valuing it themselves. And if you’re nearby, they might just ask you for help – or at least you can observe them while they’re working and possibly get an idea of what’s going on that the aren’t telling you.
TALK TO THE TEACHER
If you have concerns about your child, get in touch with your child’s teacher to set up a time to talk – not at the school gate, not at morning drop-off, not at the five-minute parent-teacher conference once a term. Go in with specific examples of what your child is struggling with, and ask for the teacher’s ideas for how the school might be able to help, and what you as a parent can do at home. The teacher may need to go away and ask for input from another staff member, or they may need to look for some resources to share, or find out whether a referral to another service (like speech-language therapy or occupational therapy) is needed. This is okay – not every answer will be immediate. It’s fine to ask when you can expect to hear back from them, and to politely follow up if the deadline has passed. But please know that unfortunately, almost nothing in the education system moves quickly, and it might take a bit of time to see some action.
LOOK INTO TUTORING
Would your child benefit from some sessions with a tutor? Even if it’s just for a month or two while they work through a tricky subject or catch up, or if you have a review session once a fortnight to make sure they’re on track, many under-the-radar students benefit from the quiet and focussed tutoring environment. There are a number of local tutoring services, from individual or small-group subject-based tutors to larger computer-based tutoring centres. Check in your local newspaper or with your child’s school, as they may have a list of tutors available, or know some retired or relieving teachers who also offer tutoring outside of school. Many schools have tutoring groups at lunchtime or after school, taught by a teacher or by some more senior students. (The benefit of these is that they are free of charge.) Tutoring can help your child gain confidence in their abilities, and expose them to different teaching styles and learning techniques – it may be that the tutor can reach them in a different way to their classroom teacher.
IT’S A FINE BALANCE
Some kids just don’t want to pop their heads above the parapet. They don’t want attention or accolades, and being noticed makes them feel nervous. (Introverts, unite – separately, in our own homes!) Recognise that if your child is happy, they’re passing their classes, they have friends and outside interests, and they generally seem okay, it might be all right to let them continue to be an under-the-radar child. This is very individual! If you feel like something is “off”, investigate and take action. If you look more deeply and discover that everything really is fine, and your child is just happy going unnoticed, that’s okay too.
It’s not just about schoolwork
Time-management: Help your child to develop organisational skills, prioritise tasks, and manage their time effectively. This will help reduce stress.
Extracurriculars: Encourage your child to participate in activities outside of school, such as sports, music, or a hobby group. This will give them an opportunity to develop new skills and interests, and make friends outside of the classroom.
Goal-setting: Help your child set achievable academic and personal goals, and support them in working towards these goals. Celebrate their successes, no matter how small, and help them learn from their mistakes. This helps build self-esteem and keeps them motivated.
Social skills: Help your child build social skills by encouraging them to participate in group activities and meet new people. This can help them feel more comfortable in social situations and grow their confidence.
Leadership: Encourage your child to take on leadership roles, such as organising a school event or starting a club. This can help them develop confidence, build their social skills, and get noticed by their peers and teachers.