- October 11, 2018 at 8:16 AM #52649
I have a student who doesn’t have a lot of confidence. She rewrites words so they look perfect, even though her sloppy handwriting puts others best to shame. She thinks she knows an answer but will go back and search to double check that it’s correct. These things might not be bad in and of themselves but combined it causes her to have homework almost every night, which will sometimes last until after supper. Her parents and I aren’t sure what to do. Any suggestions on how I the teacher can speak and instill some confidence into her?
- October 11, 2018 at 5:50 PM #52651
This type of student is much less likely to appear in our classrooms than the opposite extreme, aren’t they? Then, the problem can be compounded when a classmate needs constant reminders to do careful work and this student takes those warnings seriously.
Your problem brings to mind a particular student. School was not easy for her but you would not have known that by the scores in the gradebook. She spent a lot of time being meticulous. In the early grades it wasn’t a big problem but by the middle grades it was interfering with her health–anxiety attacks and so on. She was spending 4-6 hours on homework every evening and still did not really know when good enough was good enough.
Her parents and teacher worked together to help her overcome her habit (and there may have been a health professional involved also.) One of the first steps was to help her understand her problem and then parents and teachers came up with a plan to help her. Some of her work load was cut back–she had difficulty copying and spelling words so for some assignments such as fill in the blank matching, the teacher would tell her to only write the first several letters of each word (enough that the teacher knew which word she meant.) It’s been a few years but I’m also thinking that the teacher monitored how much homework went home and only allowed a select amount to go home. Sometimes it may have meant allowing her to skip parts of the lessons so she didn’t have so much homework. She was not a daydreamer she just didn’t know when good enough was good enough.
But a big key was that both teacher and parents checked up on her frequently while she was working and if they saw her taking too long with a problem (erasing for perfection, double-checking, etc.) they told her it was good enough and she was to move on. The teacher also made a point of saying, “You know I don’t mean you, _______, right?” when she was giving a class lecture about neatness, carefulness, etc. They also made positive comments where fitting, such as, “I’m pleased to see how far you’ve gotten. It looks like you know what you are doing. Keep up the good work.”
Since this girl knew they were trying to help her she accepted their comments and allowed herself to move on. Sometimes the teacher may have even told her that she’s okay with seeing it a little sloppy but she wants to see it done in a certain amount of time.
It took a little while but that school year ended on a positive note for this girl. She struggled with it again to a small degree the next year with a new teacher but mom was on the look out and she was able to communicate with the teacher before it became a huge issue. She has graduated from high school and as far as I know never let herself become so bogged down again.
This year we have another student with some similar tendencies especially in some subjects. One day her mother told her to not use her eraser so much but just let it be a little sloppy if necessary. She told her mother that evening that it didn’t take her nearly as long to get her work done that day.
Blessings to you as you guide her days.
- October 15, 2018 at 3:05 PM #52702
Carolyn’s account of how they have worked with a perfectionist pupil illustrates well how parents and teachers together can work with children like this.
In some respects, these children need the disciplines that dawdlers and careless students need–with a twist. While a timer sometimes helps the daydreamer/dawdler focus on getting work finished step by step, a timer might also help the perfectionist by limiting his time on a particular task. If he can actually do a typical lesson well in 30 minutes, he can be limited to thirty minutes–then it’s time to move on.
Part of the idea here is that learning and life include a variety of activities. If we spend an inordinate amount of time on one or two taskes, beyond what is necessary or reasonable, we are limiting the time available for other important activities such as reading good library books or engaging in other activities at home.
- October 17, 2018 at 7:55 AM #52708
DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional. I also do not believe that every problem a person may have is a sign of mental illness that needs to be labeled and treated. It can be difficult to untangle symptoms of mental illness from the normal flaws of human nature, and hopefully this student merely has excessively high standards and needs to learn to prioritize better.
Having said that, I’d encourage you to consider the possibility that this student is struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or a similar condition. I’ve related to a few people (one quite closely) with OCD and similar issues, and what you’ve said about this student sounds very familiar. There are highly effective treatments for OCD, both with and without medication. You can read more about OCD here.
Carolyn outlines a good approach to this kind of problem in her post. One thing I’d add is that it’s important to stay calm about the situation when relating to children who are behaving in these ways. When we get all worked up about this behavior, children may interpret this as a confirmation that they were right to be anxious about this thing, since it’s making the adults anxious too.
When you’re confident that the student has done or can do an assignment well without redoing or checking over anything, you might try suggesting that she hand it in that way and see what grade she gets. This builds the student’s confidence that she can get good results without doing the extra work that she feels is necessary.
Helping children with these issues takes lots of patience and wisdom. May God’s grace be with you!
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