The red flag you’re (probably) not looking for

Do you get concerned when your kids find English or Math or Science easy? If not, you’re in good company. If so, you’re one of the rare few. 

Seldom do we raise an eyebrow when students think a subject is “easy”  – also known as getting good grades without trying – when in reality this is a MASSIVE warning sign that they need help. Why?

Reason 1: “Easy” A’s perpetuate harmful, binary perspectives on learning and achievement, mainly that:

i) grades reflect abilities (not true)

ii) good grades = strong learning outcomes (nope + maybe the most dangerous assumption of all)

iii) you’re either good at something or you’re not (you have a “math” brain, or you don’t; you’re creative, or you’re not).

This not only skews students’ understanding of what they’re capable of (ie what they’d even be willing to try to do), but creates space for bad attitudes towards all the subjects that aren’t “easy.” No doubt you’ve seen how much harder it is to get students to do homework in classes they think they suck at.

This alone sabotages their ability to do well (and they ARE able to do well, I promise you).

Reason 2: It masks their strengths and undermines self-awareness in general.

Tying into Reason 1, when students think they’re “good” at Math or History or Chemistry, they think they’re good at that subject. This assumption precludes introspection about why or how they’re “good” at it, about the types of thinking or reasoning or communication that they’re using.

Having to “do well” in isolated subjects is a school construct. Students understand their capabilities in ways that won’t apply in “the real world.” This makes it that much harder for them to think critically (and quite literally outside the box of specific subjects), problem solve, get resourceful, figure out what their real strengths are and what they’re truly capable of.

Reason 3: It undermines learning within “easy” subjects.

If something comes “easy” for students, they don’t question why or how that is. Common student thinking is along the lines of: 

It’s easy → less work  → yay!

Putting relatively little effort or thought into the work usually means they’re not learning – they just happen to get it.

They’re not building skills, not learning how to learn.

This is sad, but the longer term implications are downright scary. If students think things are easy, they’re that much less likely to build the skill set or resilience to navigate challenges (see Reason 2).

When readings get more dense, essays get longer, and expectations get higher – as they progress – they fall behind in subjects. Subjects they “were good at” / that “used to be easy” become hard because they never learned to stay ahead.

Here’s the bottom line:

The danger is not in bad grades – these are well known red flags and tend to precipitate action. The real danger is when they’re coasting and finding things “easy.”

If you’re seeing red flags, reach out here.

Let’s get clear on what’s going on and create a game plan to get on a better path.

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