Education advocacy to increase 21st Century Learning and future preparedness of Fort Mill students.

  • Karen Reilly

Strong-willed Kids and Virtual School...the Ultimate Test for Parents and Teachers!




We have a strong-willed child and we are FAILING virtual school!


When our 5th grade son doesn't want to do something, including his schoolwork, HE DOESN'T WANT TO DO IT!! We are often met with DEFIANCE which becomes a battle that quickly escalates into an emotional meltdown so loud we're sure the neighborhood can hear. And usually it's his dad and I having the meltdown. 😖

. So we've tried to give him more freedom and choices but sometimes he takes advantage. He tests his limits and our patience...every day!

And this first quarter of virtual school, he has taken FULL advantage and given us and his teacher the ULTIMATE TEST!


We empowered him to sit in his room out from under our constant watchful eye to attend class and do his work in privacy with the agreement we would check his work after class before he could play games.


But after the first week, we realized we weren't doing a very good job understanding what he had to do and he wasn't doing a very good job telling us or doing it!


We have spent the entire first quarter learning to read Powershool, bird-dogging him all day to do his assignments, exchanging emails with his teacher and we STILL don't seem to have a handle on it!


And this last week of the quarter, we were alerted by a couple of his Related Arts teachers that he has failed to show up for most of the time or complete the assignments! He says his camera was just off but we are forced to accept that he could have spent this entire quarter in his room but NOT ATTENDING all of his classes! Ugh!!!🤦‍♀️


Luckily, the school has acknowledged that we should have been alerted after he missed the first couple classes so they graciously gave him an S for Satisfactory for both these classes.


We have spent the last few weekends trying to get him through missed assignments and developing his work ethic. But even when we take everything away...games and computer and friends... and make him spend Saturdays doing catch-up work, a lot of times he just sits and rolls around on the rug avoiding his reading or writing or other assignments as long as he can.

It's like PULLING TEETH! 😨

And yes...he likes his video games and that's a big part of the problem and I know we're not alone. His games are exciting and let him strategize and collaborate with his friends and engage his mind for HOURS! We have to limit them and remind him daily that school takes priority.

His older sister is begging us to "SEND HIM BACK IN!" to school but I saw these kids in our classrooms as a sub. They were there too! K-12...avoiding work, staring out the window, playing mindlessly with their fidget spinners, volunteering to go to ISS so they don't have to sit in class or pretending they have tummy aches so they can go to the office.



Teachers left me notes about them and other kids warned me that they were the "bad kids." I struggled to keep these kids at their desks and from taking over the classrooms and some even almost had me calling the principal to help me gain control. 😭


There is NOT enough training for subs or our teachers to deal with these sometimes high-energy, strong-willed kids who are also VERY imaginative, creative and funny with the potential to become future leaders.




One of our poor high school teachers I co-taught with had an entire classroom full of them told me..."We show them their grades but they just aren't motivated and some of them are just failing and we don't know what else to do."

These kids are one of the reasons so many of our EXHAUSTED and UNDERAPPRECIATED teachers are leaving the profession. They struggle to keep them engaged and off their devices in the classroom and some of them are disruptive. A lot of them blame the parents and lack of discipline and I can understand that.

And as parents we need to own some of this. Our girls were easy and compliant and didn't play video games so we weren't prepared for our son. We thought we could give him the same freedom and responsibility but he's a TOTALLY different kid and we weren't prepared for how important these games would become to him.

And the teacher is right...they aren't so motivated by grades or test scores. I'm not sure they see a lot of meaning in them. My son doesn't seem terribly phased or upset about his failing grades.

So what do we do with so many of these strong-willed, non-compliant kids like our son in our classrooms in a system that was designed around COMPLIANCE, test scores and grades? And a system designed for kids from 100 years ago being trained for Industrial Era jobs that were also designed around COMPLIANCE.

Do we just let them fail out? Send them to alternative or military school? (We’ve thought of it…TRUST ME! But just for a minute.) But I don't think you can force kids to WANT to do well in school and get good grades. So we are LETTING HIM FAIL 1st quarter because we own the failure as a family, struggling during a pandemic to understand virtual learning and all that's required from him and us as facilitators while we also try to work.


And we are grateful that his teacher and principals are being VERY patient and understanding as we try and work this out with him and figure out how to get him back on track for next quarter. The school has invited him to be a part of the Parent-Teacher conference to give him a voice in his learning plan going forward. Because the choice to participate in school and perform has to come from HIM and not us.

But when there are SO MANY STRONG-WILLED kids failing our system that we have now just brought online, is it really these kids who are failing? Or is it the system that is FAILING THEM and failing our educators and families too?

Are they really just a DISTRESS SIGNAL and an uncomfortable reminder that we have a problem in education and it’s time we RETHINK school for kids in this digital age and a world that needs creativity, imaginations, collaboration, communication and STRONG WILL.

What if we made school about unlocking the human potential in these strong-willed kids, EVERY kid, and our teachers and principals instead of forcing them all to COMPLY with what’s required to keep those test scores and grades HIGH?


What if we could get these virtual kids and ALL our kids outside and exploring their world and local communities through hands-on, collaborative service projects that could help them learn creativity, critical thinking, communication skills and empathy from giving back to a community that gives so much to them?



I wonder if we'd have so many kids like ours failing virtual school and so many teachers struggling through a computer screen to keep them engaged or in-person teachers having to leave so many warning notes to ill-prepared subs?


And… I wonder if parents like us would be struggling so much to get their kids to stay on task in their virtual classrooms without having to helicopter?


I don't know the answer to this but when we're losing the attention of so many of these kids... virtually and in our in-person classrooms...shouldn't we try and find out?

Hang in there parents, teachers and you STRONG-WILLED kids! We're ALL IN THIS TOGETHER!! 💪








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