To the Kid who Doesn’t Want to go Back to School

I hear ya! I’m not a fan of early mornings or homework either.

But when it comes down to it, school is not about the bell schedules or even the grades.

‘Um, what!?’, you gasp.


School is a Microcosm of Our Society

Your school represents a small city, a way of learning how to navigate the bigger world around us. Social norms (standing in line, pleasantries, forming groups) are learned behaviors. The ability to challenge yourself and challenge others is a skill, one that school is helping you learn. This Social-Emotional Learning piece of becoming a well-rounded adult in our society is at the heart of your six-hour school day.

Think about public schools, charter schools, independent schools, home school, self-instruction, and private tutors — these all present a different way to learn the material. There are so many ways to learn and so many teaching styles to learn from. It’s why even the state allows parents to choose the way they want their children taught and who to teach them.

Going to School is Really about Self-Discovery

Going to School is more than just learning math and reading and then taking a test to see how well you understood those subjects (or, in reality, how well you take a test).

Going to School is about expression, social norms, working together, developing your EQ (Emotional Quotient), challenging yourself, challenging others to see a concept in a new way, inspiration, inspiring others, grit – seeing failure not as the end but, rather, as part of your success story, discovering new talents, fostering independence, and using education as a ticket to stability and security.

You can learn anything from any book. Heck, you can learn anything from YouTube!

But going to school allows you to learn about yourself.

So I get it. There are lots of not-so-great things about going to school. But I urge you to consider looking at school in this new way. It can be an adventure, a journey of self-discovery. And who knows what you may find during that quest.

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Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit providing wraparound academic, behavior and advocacy support services for struggling students in southern California. Learn More at

Gifted Students and The Fear of Failure

once upon a timeLast year, I started tutoring a gifted middle school student named Naomi*, a sweet-natured, lovely, young tween who was doing excellent in all of her subjects, except for writing. Now, it was not that Naomi was a bad student with poor grades or poor behavior. In fact, Naomi was getting by in English class but just not acing her tests and receiving B’s instead of A’s on her papers. I was called in as academic support simply because she didn’t like writing.

What’s the Problem with Not Liking Something?

Not liking writing was not a problem for Naomi but, rather, her teacher and her mom. Together, they each encouraged Naomi to “find her voice” through the written word but despite all of this encouragement, Naomi was still not living up to her potential. I could see after just one session that she clearly had the capability to do better but for some reason purposely chose not to. Why? Well, because when Naomi didn’t like something, she quit.

The problem doesn’t lie with disliking a class or an activity. We all have our preferences. Rather, the problem lies with how we address disliking a class or activity, especially when it’s something that we have to do, like school.

Gifted Students Often Give Up When Things Get Difficult

Gifted or high achieving students often have low self-esteem because they tend to be perfectionists. Many things come naturally to these students and when something suddenly doesn’t, they have to make a choice: power through or give up.

Oftentimes, they initially give up. If they give up enough times, they’ve unintentionally created a pattern of quitting, which leads to low confidence and low self-esteem — thinking that they can only be good at the things that they’re naturally good at and not the things that they must work hard for.

It’s also a question of failure. The student may reason that there’s a greater chance of failure if they embark on the journey of working hard on a subject matter that is not necessarily easy, like all of the rest of their classes. Will the risk be worth it?

Help Students See that Working Hard for Something is Worth It

The fact of the matter is that no one can be good at everything. It’s impossible. What’s funny about working with my logical and reasonable gifted students is that logic and reason doesn’t help them overcome their fear of failure. Logic and reason would tell you to take the easy way out. Grit would tell you to shoot for the stars, without a guarantee.

Also, for many students this may be the first time in their life that school is hard. Presented with this new challenge they have to decide to put more effort into something that may not reap the same reward. And that’s scary!

Now Naomi Wants to be a Writer

Even though Naomi presented with a dislike of writing, her real issue was that she was scared of failing because most everything had come so easily to her before this class. Once we got to the root of the problem, I began to help her see the value in working hard at something even though there was no guarantee of easy success.

Naomi did the work. She practiced. Her confidence slowly improved. And Just last week, she informed that she wants to be a professional writer. It’s clear that Naomi’s not scared of trying new things anymore.

*Not student’s real name

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them: “To be a part of a student’s ‘ah ha’ moment is the best feeling in the world because I know I’m helping that student build foundational confidence that will lead to a successful path, not just in school but throughout life!”