Five Challenges of Struggling Students

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Jeremy is a 7th grader I just started working with. He has a long list of missing and incomplete assignments. He finds directions given verbally confusing, has not been using a planner since he was forced to in 5th grade, and misses details even when work is posted to the online portal. When he can’t get started, he abandons ship altogether.

“Jeremy, when you are confused, do you ask for help?” I asked.

help hand

“Not usually,” he replied quickly. “I don’t want to bother my teachers. They are really busy and have a lot of students. It’s easier to ask other kids, but they have work to do, too.” He shook his head firmly and continued, “Nope. It’s just not fair to make teachers give you extra help when they already do so much.”

Here we are in March, and how much help has Jeremy missed out on because of his trepidation about asking for it?

Problems with communicating with teachers are rampant among my students. Many with executive skill challenges (such as lack of planning, difficulties with prioritizing) also can’t seem to write emails (or even use email) or approach their teachers 1-on-1 with questions that could easily resolve wherever they are stuck.

I’ve identified the top 5 trends among all of our students that represent the greatest challenges for teens. These trends also happen to be the ones least frequently addressed sufficiently or explicitly by schools.


The ability of students to compose emails and/or communicate verbally with teachers and to feel they are being appropriate when seeking help to get back on track are important self-advocacy skills few schools teach..


Planning moves students out of operating in perpetual 9-1-1 mode. Many teens are in a constant state of stress, proceeding without a plan rom one assignment to the next. Helping teens learn the tools of planning and decision-making is critical to their future success.


Students often describe themselves as “lazy” or lacking motivation, but that’s a misnomer for potentially more complex problems. Students may simply need assistance with how to proceed or how to manage distracting social media (try getting 500 Snapchats a day!) or help with knowing where to start and what to attend to first.


Schools often expect that giving students the directive to “study hard” is sufficient but telling our kids to focus or “buckle down” isn’t remotely useful! We need to help students identify their action items, learn routines, and establish procedures for studying for different classes and instructors.


Successful shifts to middle school, high school, and college require a boost in executive skills at each change point and greater autonomy in managing self, routines, and time. Preparing students for the big moves through instruction in best practices in studying, time management, and handling distractions boosts student confidence and can ease the challenges of transition.

Knowing the challenges faced by students is only half the battle. Knowing where to find help is the key. 

Finals and APs are around the corner; transitions are in the offing! I’m feeling the angst myself as my daughter gets ready to start middle school. What can your student do this summer to make next year easier?

SOS4Students is here to help. Summer is the perfect time to camp in the woods, build a drone, or . . . learn how to take notes! Check out below all of SOS4Students’ signature offerings for summer.

We’ll help with the note taking.

Beth Samuelson


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