thread: Teenager - Bad Grades - Leave School Early?

  1. #1
    Registered User
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    Apr 2007
    Recently treechanged to Woodend, VIC

    Teenager - Bad Grades - Leave School Early?

    I have a 14-year-old stepdaughter who normally lives with her mum in the US but came out here for eight months earlier this year because the two of them weren't getting along. She returned to the US (by mutual agreement) in August as her stay here was meant to give them some breathing space and help get her back on track at school because her grades had slipped.

    Anyhow, while she was here her grades were pretty bad too but now that she has returned to the US, they've gotten EVEN worse - all Fs apart from a D in French. While she was here, my DP and I tried to get across the message that it's OK not to know what career you want at 14 but if that's the case, it's REALLY important to keep your options open by getting as good grades as possible.

    It's frustrating because she's not a dumb kid. She's also no rocket scientist and she is never going to set the world on fire academically. But with a bit of application her teachers have all said that she could get much better grades.

    It's not just her grades, she has been drinking, smoking dope and putting herself into dangerous situations by sneaking out at night, getting into trucks with boys/men and not coming home till 4am.

    She's been grounded till she's almost rooted to the ground! But I think after 18 months of bad grades, it's pretty clear that she's just not interested in school or doing better and no amount of encouraging pep talks or warnings have made the slightest bit of difference.

    My DP is very worried so I've suggested that if she returns to Australia she has until she's 16 to get her grades up to an agreed level. That might be Cs across the board or maybe she has to get Cs in four subjects and we don't care what the rest are. Anyhow, that's for negotiation. If she says she needs extra tuition then we're happy to provide it. But she's got to make an agreement and then stick with it. If that doesn't happen then we take her out of school at 16 and put her into a TAFE course. If that's not many hours a week then she will have to get a job to take her up to 35 hours per week and she has to hand over a third of whatever she earns to pay us board.

    What do you think? I really don't think it's worth her wasting her own or her teachers time for much longer if she's going to get across the board Fs and I think a taste of the real world might do her good. Afterall, she can go back to school later once she's worked out that perhaps she doesn't want to spend the rest of her life working at KFC but this is not going to be a happy household if her and my DP spend the next three years arguing about school work.

    Sorry it was so long - would appreciate any opinions.

  2. #2

    Mar 2004

    I'm a nerd so I loved uni but if she doesn't enjoy academic learning and doesn't have an ambition that requires a degree then I see no need to stick at school.
    The world is full of happy successful people who haven't got any formal education past year 10.
    Australia has a much more generous minimum wage than the USA so it's probably a kinder place to people who are joining the workforce without qualifications.

    I once got an F for French so she's in good company :P

  3. #3
    Registered User
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    Jan 2005

    Man I just lost a long reply!

    It's not just her grades, she has been drinking, smoking dope and putting herself into dangerous situations by sneaking out at night, getting into trucks with boys/men and not coming home till 4am....
    Is this only happening in the US or was it happening here as well? Obvioulsy all of these things will be affecting her grades, as apart from anything else it sounds like she barely sleeps if she is out all night. I wish every kid who smokes dope could meet my friend "mike" and see what effect it can have one people. All of these need to be taken out of the equation if you want to put your suggested plan into action (re the agreed marks, C's or whatever)

    What do you think? I really don't think it's worth her wasting her own or her teachers time for much longer if she's going to get across the board Fs and I think a taste of the real world might do her good. Afterall, she can go back to school later once she's worked out that perhaps she doesn't want to spend the rest of her life working at KFC...
    That could work, as long as you think she's actually going to make that decision, and not decide that hey I'm getting paid now, why would I go back to school? Some people are happy in those kind of jobs. Some because they really dont want to do anything else, and others beceause they dont know what other opportunities are out there for them, or don't believe in themsleves enough to try.

    It sounds like she may have low self esteem, do you think so, after her stay with you? Her behaviours suggest it thats all. This too will affect her whole attitude to life, family school etc.

    Sorry if I am telling you how to suck eggs here, I am sure a lot of this you have thought about already. I just know that as a depressed 16 year old who DID have the academics I nearly wasted it all becuase I all but convinced myself that I couldnt do it and I wasnt worth it anyway.
    It took a friend who's life was significantly worse than my own to 'tell it like it is' with some home truths about me and my life for me to take notice. So it may be that she needs to hear it from someone outside her family situation?
    Last edited by Pandora; January 4th, 2008 at 08:38 AM. : spellink

  4. #4
    Lucy in the sky with diamonds.

    Jan 2005
    Funky Town, Vic

    Be careful of the whole Youth Allowance thing, once they find out they can get that you can be in trouble.
    I'd be educating her as long as possible adn if she wants to jump in trucks with strangers, maybe give her the book on Ivan Milat....

  5. #5
    Registered User

    Aug 2006
    Perth, WA

    Sounds like she is really struggling...she's engaging in a whole lot of risk taking behaviour (especially the truck thing) that is really scary.

    I think what she needs most is people around her who believe in her and her potential. I would encourage her to stay at school as long as possible as the risk is she leaves and becomes totally aimless...which could lead to further problems.

    It would be fantastic if you could find a school that has a great mentor that she could relate to. Someone who is going to stick by her, encourage her and occasionally kick her butt into gear. I would think that what she needs most is security and protection as she isn't providing that for herself...

    I think the stats are scarier for kids who are struggling and leave school early than those who struggle but stay.

    Hope it works out.

  6. #6
    Lucy in the sky with diamonds.

    Jan 2005
    Funky Town, Vic

    I wish I had been more encouraged too, I ended up having the fight the school to stay ( I wasn't a bad student tho), they gave me "we don't think you will pass yr 12" bollocks. Never mind I was passing and used to help the English teacher with the students that still couldn't spell. The rude bustards thought I was on drugs I think (I did sleep alot in class), but I actually was very ill.

    ANYWAY - I'm not sure where you are but there are alternative high schools dotted around. They are lots smaller and the kids get far more individual attention. DD's friend goes to one after nearly dropping out in yr 8 (merciless teasing/bullying), and she is really shining now.

    Oh and get the Princess B'face book by Micheal Carr- Gregg, it's a darn good investment and terrific support. There are some tips on negotiating behaviours in ther too.

    You're a legend for taking this on Fi

  7. #7
    Registered User

    May 2006

    Does she have any idea of what she may be interested in doing when she finishes school? In my opinion, i think that if they (todays teens) know what they want to do and it is something that can be achieved through tafe or working their way up then ok let them go for it...then yr 11 and 12 are a waste of time for them. But if they still dont know, then they should stay and do yr 11 and 12 as they may need it. I dont know how much it has changd but when i did yr 12 i didnt apply for a TER as i didnt agree with the system but i was happy to do yr 11 and 12 at my own pace. I studied at a private college first but it wasnt the college course that helped me get into uni later it was the fact that i did yr 11 and 12...saves her doing it later on in life if she chooses something that needs the higher education. My 18 yr old cousin left in yr 11, not knowing what to do and is still bumming around at home, doesnt know what she wants..
    Goodluck getting through this time

  8. #8
    BellyBelly Member

    Oct 2004
    Cairns QLD

    A part of the deal if she is to return to Australia is that she cuts out the drinking & smoking. Thats not on at all. You had the issue of where to put her also if she returned. She sound like alot of trouble but I can understand your DP wantin gto make sure she gets back on the right track. I would be laying down some pretty hard rules before allowing that kind of trouble into your home. Taking school out of the mix isn't a garantee she will be happier or better behaved.

  9. #9
    Registered User

    Nov 2006
    Western Sydney

    Hi FJ,

    The rules sound really good.

    Don't know what type of school you want to send her to, but I know in Public Schools in NSW kids can look at doing VET (Vocational) or TAFE courses in year 9 and 10. If you are enrolling her this way, have a friendly chat with the careers advisor, they may be able to help you out.

  10. #10
    Registered User
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    Apr 2007
    Recently treechanged to Woodend, VIC

    Thanks for all your advice - it really does help. It's just a really difficult situation especially as DP tells me all this stuff and the conversations he's had with her but I'm on the outer saying "well, did you say this" or "how about this?" So that's quite frustrating too apart from the actual problem situation itself.

    I haven't worked out how to multiquote so I will try to respond to everyone's bits and pieces!

    I don't think the risk-taking behaviour is happening that often - it didn't happen over here - but she's "only" done the stay out all night thing in the US once. I know that's once too many but I don't think it's impacting on school. Her mum has been at the end of her tether and has been very strict about not letting her out of the house.

    But to get Fs I don't think she can have been going to school very much at all. Apart from that being bad in itself, her dad asks her about school/attendance/homework every day when he calls (and he DOES call EVERY day not once a week) and she has promised him every day for the last three months that she hasn't cut any classes and she has done all her homework. So, one of the big things for me is the lying. I'm probably more angry about the lying than he is to be honest.

    So ... at the moment, I'm not sure realistically we can actually keep her in school until 18 because it looks like she's not even going. Plus, I'm not sure what the deal is here (I went to school in the UK) but if a student's getting all Fs does that mean they would have to repeat the year?

    So DP is thinking about saying that we're taking the moving to Australia option off the table until there's no Fs on your report ie. that she's actually going to classes. He hinted at this yesterday and she put the phone down on him - she doesn't think it's fair that where she lives should be determined by her grades because she's not happy at home and wants to live here.

    I said this is fine IF you actually mean it. What happens if she gets one F on her next report? And what happens when she keeps phoning you in tears between now and then after the latest blue with her mum and starts talking about how much happier she was in Australia? (This happens all the time so I don't know how well my DP's resolve will hold. And, to be honest, I think her mum's got a lot to answer for.)

    If this is about self-esteem then she certainly hides it well. She's actually a really nice kid (I know I've made her about to be a complete nightmare but all my friends who've met her have said 'wow, what a great girl. She's so mature and you can actually have a conversation with her."). TBH, sometimes she seems more mature than both her parents put together. But, I can't handle the lies either. She sat here in my living room six months ago (before she went back to the US) telling me how her friends tried to get her to drink and do drugs (pot) and how she said "nah, I don't need that stuff. I'm quite happy how I am thanks." But now this. There again, I don't think she's at the stage where she's doing it heaps so it may not be as bad as I've made it sound. You've got to allow for the fact that most kids try this stuff. I was going into pubs at 13 but I was getting straight As - plus I never got caught so was never a worry to my parents.

    So I think the plan might be this - put the ball in her court and give her a choice. Ask her whether she actually wants to improve her grades (rather than telling her she has to) or whether she wants to leave school early and do TAFE/job. That's the choice. The choice is not to theoretically stay at school but continue to get such poor grades - if that's the case then she'll have to leave (infact the school may ask her to anyway). If she takes the improving grades option then we'll ask her what it will take for her to do that - if she thinks a different type of school would help then we'll look at that. But in the meantime, actually going to school until she's 16 and NOT getting any Fs is not negotiable.

    FionaJill - I agree re getting her to make an agreement about the smoking/drinking too. But for an agreement to work, there has to be consequences if it's broken. And it seems to me that her mum has tried all the possible consequences. She's been grounded, had her phone taken off her, not allowed to use the computer for extensive periods of time and it hasn't worked. On the drugs, the only thing I can think of is that if I find drugs in her room, I will personally take her to cops myself and have her charged ie. tell her this before she comes here so she knows we're serious.

    At the moment, she does seem really keen to come back here so maybe making her lift her game as a condition to coming back is the only thing that will work.

    Ladies, thanks again for all your advice. Let me know what you think of this pretty half-arsed plan!
    Last edited by fionas; January 5th, 2008 at 08:34 AM. : taking out repetition

  11. #11
    Registered User

    Mar 2006
    soon to be somewhere exotic

    Fiona - in Qld the govt brought in "earn or learn" for kids when they hit 15/16. They must either be in FULL TIME education or FULL TIME work, no ifs or buts. There are some great schools around that don't focus on the academic side of high school (in Brisbane there is Kelvin Grove State High School and St James). A girlfriend has her son in one, he has aspergis, and is thriving at the school he is at, he does a mix of academic and vocational subjects and there is amazing support for him - my gf is an occupational psychologist so did a lot of research before picking a school. My DH went to Kelvin Grove as he had "learning issues" because of his ADD, he would have ended up at uni if his then-gf didn't get pregnant while he was in grade 11, he did start uni when he got into the army a few years later.

    Is there anything that interests her? Anything that is a bit "out there" because maybe you could find out about maybe her doing a part-time TAFE course in something she likes.

    In my "real" life I'm a Project Manager yet I've got an urge to learn how to fabricate parts for cars, like new panels etc, so with my DH's help, I'm starting to learn all about restoring cars and making up bits for them, I'm about to rope in our amazing mechanic (who does things like restoring cars, modifies cars for racing etc) to see if I could maybe be workshop dogs-body on weekends for him. DH & I are also restoring an old car. I was a science/maths head in school and got the marks to go to uni but didn't want to - so I went travelling around the world for nearly 6 years, but I'm upto degree number 2 (science) now (ok I didn't finish degree number 1 - IT - but I came close) and I'm 38 this year.

    I think you are totally and utterly amazing to take on what could be an incredible challenge, just remember throughout it all, that you need quality time with your DH and your SDD.

  12. #12
    Lucy in the sky with diamonds.

    Jan 2005
    Funky Town, Vic

    I'd like her to be in school for at least a year when she comes out here - she needs to make some friends and a support circle. Such a big move...
    Don't forget she will be the COOL new girl at school, and it might be a whole different story out here.

    REally - get that book and give it to your partner too, it gives a brilliant insight into teen brains!

  13. #13
    Registered User
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    Apr 2007
    Recently treechanged to Woodend, VIC

    I will Lulu - it's on my To Buy list.

    TBH, she hasn't shown an interest in ANYTHING at all. We have had so many discussions with her about this. We are clutching at straws - she sometimes says she would like to travel so we jumped on that and said "great, you could do a hospitality/hotel management course" and use that as a basis for travelling the world and earn money at the same time. But it would be really great if you had a foreign language and if you do well in French, we MAY take you there in the next few years on holiday. Hence, the stellar performance in French where she excelled herself by getting a D rather than an F!

    She used to be interested in the circus so was going to Circus Oz stuff while she was here - we thought fantastic, there are actually uni courses in circus management so that could be a great career for her. Then lost interest! Then she went to gymnastics - went three times and got bored.

    Right now if she came home and said she had a burning ambition to be a pole dancer we'd say FANTASTIC DARL and rush out and get her a pole for her room so she could practice!

    Lulu, the problem is that she has already lived here for 8 months earlier this year and her grades were marginally better but not much. She was VERY cool at school which was part of the problem. She told us her grades were bad because "right now, I'm concentrating on socialising and getting used to Australian culture."

    I think the best thing to do is to say to her that we need to be able to trust her and if and when she lives here there are certain things that are non-negotiable and other things that we can discuss and come to an agreement on. So actually attending school (without cutting classes) is non-negotiable, as is NOT sneaking out at night, drinking, smoking. So if she does any of those things when in America then she doesn't come over here for another 6 months from the date of the wrongdoing. Because we need to see that she can stick by the rules. Other things will be negotiable ie. if she wants to leave school at 16 then she can as long as she is at TAFE or working. And if she tells us that she wants to improve her grades then she will have to tell us very specifically how she is going to do this - ie. why they are currently bad and what help she needs to get them up whether that's a different type of school or extra tutoring etc. My partner was even considering taking VCE at the same time for some moral support!

    Bleeding teenagers. And did I mention that when she was last out here there was some teenage drama about boys which ended with me having eggs thrown at my bedroom window at midnight scaring the life out of me? When I was 32 weeks pregnant. It's terrific being a stepmum!

  14. #14
    Lucy in the sky with diamonds.

    Jan 2005
    Funky Town, Vic

    She told us her grades were bad because "right now, I'm concentrating on socialising and getting used to Australian culture."

    HA HA HA HA! - I should have known!!! They are slippery little suckers aren't they??
    Look it sounds like she knows you aren't going to cut her any slack, I suppose you just gotta keep the screws on when she gets here...

    Seriously, it's hard to know what you want to do, I worry they pressure the kids into choosing a career too early. DD says - "how the hell can I know what I want when I haven't experienced anything?", and I agree with her.
    You might want to catch up with Sushee - I remember her eldest wanted to leave school totally and I'm sure she came up with some plan.
    Actually I'd like to hear how it panned out myself.
    I try to find the thread.

  15. #15
    Registered User
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    Apr 2007
    Recently treechanged to Woodend, VIC

    Yep, I absolutely agree Lulu - it's nuts that we try to pressure kids into working out career stuff this early BUT when you're faced with a kid who has completely no idea what she wants to do, has no hobbies or passions that she is putting effort into AND is getting Fs, then I think the choice is either a) work out what you're interested in and we'll support you whatever that is or b) get your grades up so you will at least be keeping your options open until you decide what you want to do. If she was getting reasonable grades and didn't have a clue what she was going to do, we wouldn't care - we'd just let her work it out in her own time.

    My and my DP are at opposite ends of the spectrum education and career plan-wise so we know that there's horses for courses. He has been nuts about trains since he was 6 and spent most of his teenage years photographing them and taking trips. He COMPLETELY messed around at school getting As for English and Es for EVERYTHING else. BUT he knew he wanted to be a train driver so he knew his grades didn't matter and he always told his parents this. Sure enough he has been on the railways since he was 17 and still loves it, because it's his passion.

    Me on the other hand always got straight As but had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. Went to uni, still no clue. Did a few jobs after uni, still not much clue until I eventually decided maybe communication/PR was the go.

    So we all have different ways of getting there and I'm cool with that!

    Yes, they are slippery suckers aren't they!

    Interested to hear about Sushee's plan.

  16. #16
    Lucy in the sky with diamonds.

    Jan 2005
    Funky Town, Vic

    Yeah, I do know what it's like , got an 18yr SDD too!

    No hobbies, no sports, no interests, wanted to leave school. I was so totally against it, but she ended up running off to her bf's. She gave us the old "I want to be a haridresser' routine. Left school, did nothing for nearly a YEAR. It was excruciating to watch.
    She says she was handing in her resume everywhere and that was it. the resume would have only consisted of her name, address ph number for pete's sake. Her school grades were terrible so no good putting her report in.
    well finally (after whining about how c'link were on her back to find a job, and how she actually had to pay to go to TAFE), she started in the Deli at Coles.
    She's doing well thank god. The only thing I could do was keep reminding her she if she wanted shiny things she has to make the money to pay for them...

    *steps on soapbox*

    This is why parents need to round their children out and encourage hobbies and passions. When I look back at my own friends, myself and all the kids I used to work with at C'link the things that strikes me is the ones with no education often have so hobbies or sports anything to belong to either. So if they don't like school they have nothing else to do. Literally.

    *off soapbox now*

    You gotta keep the little buggers busy......

  17. #17
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    Apr 2007
    Recently treechanged to Woodend, VIC

    Just an update. Well, SD is still in the US but has gone from all Fs and a D to now tracking As and Cs. Yippee! We are so pleased and have sent her some treats to congratulate her. We don't know if this is because her dad told her that she couldn't come back unless her grades improved or because her mum has been so strict on her. Whatever - it's working. Maybe she's just worked out that life is much simpler if you just do your best at school and hand in homework. No hassle from teachers, no hassle from parents.

    She definitely wants to return in June/July but we're yet to see whether her mum will oppose this. Serving her with papers shortly.

    So glad that things are becoming clearer and just hope that she continues making an effort at school while she's here. At least now we know she CAN do the work so it's not an ability problem. And hopefully now she sees that she can get good grades that will motivate her much better than any pep talks that we can give her.

    Keep your fingers crossed for us.

  18. #18
    Registered User

    Jul 2007

    Wow Fiona, like others have said, you're a legend for taking this on... The news sounds promising, hopefully she can keep it up - for her sake and yours!
    I've completely forgotten what i was going to say, but many and i hope things work out for the best.


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