Hi all- I am new to this forum but would love some feedback/help on the following: my 11 year old daughter is in 6th grade this year. She is a bright girl who has always been high functioning in academic areas, and has always loved learning and showing what she knows. Now she hates school and feels like a failure.
It is not social, which is what I worried about before 6th grade. She seems to have no trouble with the larger population and has both a core group of friends and a wider group of friendlies, even though she is not a particularly outgoing person. It is not being overwhelmed by the new organizational expectations (more teachers, more classes, more complicated schedule)- she seems to have conquered that pretty early in the year. The point of pressure is the curriculum itself and how her team of teachers is managing it. She is on a team that loves projects as the primary means of having students show their learning. She has always been uncomfortable with this kind of work- she is far more comfortable writing something than thinking of a way to visually depict information. She also has perfectionist tendencies- if a project calls for something artistic, she has a very hard time relaxing her standards for the artwork so that she has time to show both the content and the art (an example was a cartoon depicting an example of natural selection- after the research time and the time spent drafting the text of the captions, she still insisted on spending 6+ hours making the illustrations perfect and accurate, amid much frustration and tears).
Since the beginning of the school year, she has had six major projects in the 4 core subject areas. With the exception of a math project that did not require an artistic component and the above mentioned cartoon, she has consistently been slammed by the teachers for missing some ingredient that she didn't understand was necessary and believes is "fussy" and peripheral to the core mission of the project (and I agree with her characterization). She has expressed frustration that these projects take a huge amount of time and don't let her show what she knows (her words). In the meantime, she has not had a single, stand-alone written assignment all year, even in English Language Arts (the early part of the year had tests in all subject matters, which she aced, but there have been none of those lately).
The result is that she (i) hates school for the first time in her life; (ii) is feeling increasingly hopeless about her ability to succeed in school, which has always been one of the things she considered a superpower; (iii) is spending more and more time procrastinating about starting projects because of her anxiety about what seemingly random and meaningless thing she will be criticized about and her general frustration; and (iv) is beginning to "turn off" to her teachers generally.
I have gotten the guidance counselor involved, who seems to be very good and is helping DD with project expectations to make sure they are clear. I have also spoken to one of the teachers, and have a meeting scheduled with her entire team of teachers next week. One comment from the teacher I spoke with, regarding a presentation about the meaning of a specific word, was that it was a challenge for my daughter because she had such a strong understanding of the word and that some of her comments/material went over the heads of her classmates- in other words, she lost points for demonstrating the meaning of the word not because she didn't demonstrate it accurately, but because her peers didn't get it, even though the teacher understood it perfectly.
Does anyone else have experience with this? Am I wrong to suspect a curriculum that places such a heavy emphasis on one kind of measurement tool (projects) instead of striking a balance between that and more traditional measurements that are more accessible for certain kinds of learning styles? Is it fair to expect the teachers to balance their criticism for such things as not using a visual aid or failing to provide a display stand for a clay pot with some comment on the substance and content of the presentation? Is it appropriate to penalize a bright child for delivering a presentation at her level as opposed to the level of her classmates? I am trying not to micromanage her school experience, but it kills me to her distress and loss of confidence in an area which is really a strength for her.