This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Counselor: Wade Rowatt
Listen to this session with Wade
Audio Length: 21 min.
Hi. I'm John, and I'm glad you picked up this tape [CD]. So you are having some problems in school right now. I hope my talk with Dr. Wade Rowatt will help you. He is a professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Now, we all have our problems at school, but Dr. Rowatt, what causes a person to fail? I mean, I know they can do better, but they just don't.
Dr. Rowatt: Well, John, that simple question has a very complicated answer. There are
many things that cause a person not to do well in school, but the number one reason is something inside the person. The first and most important step in doing better in school is deciding that you want to do better. You must believe that you are the major reason things happen to you and that you can do something about it, especially with God's help. Once you have decided that you want to do better in school, then many things can happen. You can begin by deciding to change yourself.
John: Why should a person want to do better in school in the first place? I know that it's
important to most parents, but teenagers don't always see a reason.
Dr. Rowatt: Well, for teenagers the most important reason for doing well in school is that
school is equipping them for life. It's for their future. If you do well in school, then you will have tools to do well in life. I just recently heard that most students who don't finish high school wind up poor or in jail. For really getting ahead in life, it takes college or special training. There are other reasons, too. One is to be a wise person. Some people rebel against their parents by doing poorly in school, but they are really just hurting themselves. You know, the Bible is filled with encouragement to pursue wisdom. For example, in Proverbs 8:10-11 we receive some instruction. Let me read it to you, John, if I can find it here. Here it is. "Receive my instruction and not silver and knowledge rather than gold. For wisdom is better than rubies and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared with it."
John: Well, what turned you on to school? Dr. Rowatt: One thing that motivated me was that I didn't want to be seen as a fool. I
remember a teacher that shared something that I am sure she read in a book. The quote goes, "A person who knows not and knows not that they know not is dangerous. Avoid them. A person who knows not and knows that they know not is a fool. Teach them. A person who knows but knows not that they know is asleep. Awaken them. A person who knows and knows that they know has wisdom. Know them." I didn't want to be the person who knows not and knows that they know not. I didn't want to be a fool. The goal is to have knowledge and to know that you have knowledge. Sometimes, it also helps in school if you can understand the difference.
John: Sometimes I know stuff, but I just can't figure out the questions on the test. Dr. Rowatt: That's common, John. There are different levels of knowledge and wisdom.
You might be able to remember something and that's knowing it at one level, but a deeper level is to understand it. And an even deeper level than that is to remember and understand things and then actually to know how to use them to solve problems.
John: What do you mean? Can you give me an example? Dr. Rowatt: Sure. For example, my young daughter can remember that a figure with three
sides is a triangle, but she does not understand much about the relationship between sides and angles and triangles. A beginning geometry student might understand that as the two sides of a triangle get longer, the third side must also get longer. Later, that student will know how to use that information on the length of the two sides to find the length of the third side as they understand mathematics more fully and can build a bridge, say. The learning process takes time. Stick with it.
John: OK. Say a person really wants to do well in school, and they are convinced of the need
for wisdom and understanding and all that stuff. Maybe they even used to do well in school. You have not told me what keeps them from doing as good as they could do now.
Dr. Rowatt: Well, I suppose there are several things that need to checked out. First of all, I
would ask if they have an acceptable study place and good study habits. Do they have a welllighted, quiet place to study? A desk, even the kitchen table when no one else is in the room, will do. And do they have a time set aside to study? Really, it would be best to have a time set aside every day. Do they have an assignment notebook where they have written down each of the assignments for each of their classes? Do they have a study calendar where long-range projects are marked and can be prepared for in advance? Do they have the necessary tools, the books, the dictionaries, the calculators, and any other materials that are needed? If they have all of these things, then the next thing to check for, of course, is self-discipline.
John: Well, what do you mean discipline? Isn't that what happens to you at school? Dr. Rowatt: John, that's external discipline. I'm talking about the ability to do what you
decide to do. Discipline is also internal control. It's the ability to sit yourself down to study and then to avoid distractions and keep studying. One way to test your discipline is the "munchy food test."
John: The munchy food test. What's that? Dr. Rowatt: Well, take your favorite munchy food, say like popcorn or potato chips or
cookies and set out a bowl of them in front of yourself. And then discipline yourself to take only one bite every 60 seconds. Now if you can discipline yourself to take one bit every 60 seconds, say for 15 minutes, then you probably have all the self-control to sit there and study.
John: What happens when you just sit in class and can't concentrate and can't pay attention
to what's going on? School seems to go by so slowly. It's just boring.
Dr. Rowatt: Yeah. A couple of things could be happening when that is going on, John. You
could be suffering from what is commonly called an Attention Deficit Disorder. That could mean that the chemicals in your body are imbalanced to the point that you simply cannot concentrate for long periods of time. This could be helped with certain forms of medication, but you should see a psychologist and a physician about that matter. That's only a very small percentage of cases, really. More likely, something else is going on.
John: Like what? Dr. Rowatt: Well, it could be that you are under a lot of emotional stress. You can't
concentrate for very long because as soon as you are quiet, the problems begin to pop into your head. People get worried about something and can't get it off their minds. Maybe they have done something wrong or they are feeling guilty. Maybe they are afraid their parents are going to get a divorce. Maybe the other family members at home have problems such as they have been fighting with their brother or sister, or one of their parents is facing a major illness, or there are problems at dad or mom's work. There is a fear that you are going to have to move to another city perhaps. There are many family problems that could create so much emotional stress that a person just can't concentrate any more. They could even be using drugs or alcohol, or they could be victims of abuse. All of these things can really mess up school. Losing concentration is also a reaction caused by grief. If there has been a death of a family member in the last three to six months, it would certainly be likely that not having thought through all those feelings could cause the loss of concentration. It would be important that you talk with your family or with a minister or with someone who understands your grief and your losses. It doesn't have to be the death of a family member like a grandparent or an aunt or an uncle. It could just be the death of a favorite pet, or it could be the loss of a special friend. Loss is not the only reason you can't concentrate, of course. You may even be daydreaming about a date.
John: What about the loss of a girlfriend or boyfriend? How do you keep your concentration
after breaking up with somebody?
Dr. Rowatt: That's a real problem for some people, John. When they break up with a
girlfriend or boyfriend, they definitely have a grief reaction. There is another tape [CD session] in this series that you might want to pick up and listen to on that matter. But breaking up a dating relationship often does spill over into school problems. Find a time outside of school to talk out those hurt, angry feelings.
John: Well, how do I keep my concentration when I want to ask someone out and they are in
Dr. Rowatt: Tell yourself that you'll talk to them right after class or at lunch break or after
school. Then focus back on the class. Class time is for learning.
John: Well, say a person is not worried about something else. They can concentrate, but they
just can't understand the material. What is going on then?
Dr. Rowatt: Well, John, it could be several things again. The first thought that pops into my
mind is the material is too difficult. If so, what they need to do is talk with their school counselor to be placed in either different classes or with a different teacher and a different
level of difficulty. If that is not possible, then they can talk with their teacher and ask for some special help such as getting a tutor. Secondly, it could be that other people aren't doing poorly in school because the material is too difficult, but the material is too easy for them. They get bored trying to find enough challenge in that material. In the third place for some students, the material is so easy they think they can learn it without studying. They also underestimate the difficulty of the exams and, therefore, they do poorly. And the fourth place, sometimes they can't understand the material because of what is often called "learned hopelessness." That is, they believe something like "I'm not good in English," or "I never did understand math." They are basically like the little train that said, "I think I can't, I think I can't. I think I can't. I think I can't." They need to have a sense of belief in themselves, in their ability, and become the little train that "thinks they can." They reassure themselves. "I think I can. I think I can. I think I can." When they believe in themselves, they will understand more easily.
John: How can teenagers do all the things they have to do and still expect to make good
Dr. Rowatt: John, I'm not sure I know what you mean by that. John: Well, you have to have money. Maybe you want a car after you start dating. Then you
take a job. You have got to have some time to be around your friends and maybe you want to be in a band or play on a ball team. How can you expect to make good grades and do all those things?
Dr. Rowatt: I think I understand now. Well, basically, John, you can't. You have to set
some priorities. One study indicated that teenagers who work more than ten hours a week had a significant drop in their grades during that semester. If you have a longer job, you are probably not getting enough sleep or maybe not enough rest. You certainly won't have enough time for adequate study. You see, you really need to study 30 minutes or so on every subject and two or three hours every night if you want to your absolutely very best in school. You can't do everything.
John: But if I did that, I wouldn't have any time for my friends or for doing other stuff. Dr. Rowatt: Well, if your friends were studying, you could have time for your friends
because you could plan your times around the study time. I know there is a lot of peer pressure to play around. Sometimes especially youth who study are teased or called sissies, nerds, geeks, brains. But you know what these people are called after graduation?
John: No. What? Dr. Rowatt: They are called your boss, John. I mean those are the teens who study now and
work hard, and they are the ones who will get the better jobs later on.
John: What can you do? You can't just stay at home and have no fun and study all the time. Dr. Rowatt: No. I am not suggesting that. You set some priorities. Pick maybe one sport at
a time or one outside activity. Then have some time for a friend. If you are dating, you are not going to have a lot of time for special plans, but plan your dates around your study time, not your study time around your play time.
John: That sounds so hard and boring. Dr. Rowatt: Yeah, John, I guess it is hard. It is difficult, but remember you must decide if
you want to make better grades, you will to pay the price. You don't want to continue failing, do you? If you are satisfied with passing grades, you can probably study an hour or so every night and still have plenty of time to talk on the phone or be with your date or practice a sport or play in the band or whatever, maybe even have a job on weekends. It doesn't take a lot of time to pass if you use that time wisely and set your priorities.
John: OK. Say a person decides to use their time wisely and they set up a schedule. What if
they are already so far behind at school there is just no way they will catch up. They don't understand the material?
Dr. Rowatt: They need to ask for help. They can begin by going to each of their teachers
and telling them of their decision to try to make better grades. Then they ask the teacher: "What can I do in this class?" If the teachers know you are really trying, they will find a way to help you. You might even want to talk to your school counselor or the principal to see if you need to change classes. But do something to get a fresh start.
John: Should a person tell their parents? Dr. Rowatt: Of course. Talk to your parents. They will be willing to help you set up some
study time, hopefully. If they can't, find out if there is a place at the city library, or maybe there is a place at the church where you could study.
John: Well, what if they try but still don't understand the material? Dr. Rowatt: Well, if you really don't understand the material, find someone in your class
who does. Many high schools have a peer tutoring program where you can get some help from someone whose maybe in the National Honor Society or in the Beta Club. Or maybe there is someone the teacher could pick. If your school doesn't have such a program, ask your teacher if there is someone else in the class who could help you. Some towns have programs for special study after school. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Others will respect you later on.
John: What if you just can't catch up in a class? Dr. Rowatt: Well, maybe you can ask to drop one class and take a study hall. But then
when you are in the study hall, plan your time well and actually study for the other courses. You are going to have to make that one up later. Perhaps you can catch up in summer school. If you can't work out a plan after talking with your teacher, ask your parents to talk to the teacher or to the school counselor. Maybe even your minister of youth can help you work out a study plan.
John: Well, I have heard some kids say they wouldn't study. They wanted to drop out of
school as soon as possible and then maybe get a GED later on.
Dr. Rowatt: John, I have heard that kind of hopeless talk, too. People who drop out see that
as one of the biggest mistakes they ever made in their life. In some states, teens can lose their driving license if they drop out of school. Yes, you can get a GED certificate after you are 18
years old, but you see you have to go back and learn the material that you were going to learn in school, anyway. So you learn it now or learn it later. And, of course, if you learn it later, you are the one who is going to pay the price in the meantime. Now, if you know someone who has dropped out, encourage him/her to return to school or take GED classes. You know, John, people who finish high school earn an average of $200,000 in their lifetime more than those drop-outs earn. Those who finish college will earn even more. Some say college is needed to keep your salary up with inflation.
John: Man, that's a lot of money. And I guess that makes sense, but it still seems awful hard. Dr. Rowatt: John, I didn't promise it would be easy. No one ever said that. But if you make
up your mind that you want to do better, formulate good study habits, eliminate pressures by talking with your family or counselor, and then make some time management decisions about how you are going to balance extracurricular activities such as dating, friends, and your study time. I think you can go to your teachers and counselors and work out an effective plan for making better grades.
John: Even when I want to try, I usually end up just giving up. Dr. Rowatt: Well, John, you might find yourself giving up. It's hard to motivate yourself. I
found that one way of motivating myself is to set up a reward system. Do something you enjoy after each study time. Or ask your parents, grandparents, or someone if they will give you a reward if you will bring your grades up. For example, I know one teenager whose parents will let him use the car as long as he maintains a C average. I know one family that gives extra allowance for A's and B's. Whatever freedoms you get, tie them to the responsibility of pulling up your grades. The reward system really helps. Remember to be patient, too. It takes time to become a better student.
John: But what if I do all of this and my grades are still failing? Dr. Rowatt: Well, then that is a sign that probably you have some other major problem.
You may have a medical problem such as vision or hearing or memory. You may be severely depressed. The family problems and other stresses we mentioned earlier may be so great that you need professional help from a professional counselor. Also, you will find it easier to be motivated to study if you have a sense of calling or a sense of vocation.
John: Now, what do you mean a calling? Dr. Rowatt: Well, by that I mean if you know what you want to do with your life and feel
that God has given you a gift to do that, then you will be more highly motivated to do well in school. Living for ourselves and for fun soon leads us into meaninglessness and depression. We must dedicate ourselves to something. We must give freely of ourselves in pursuit of a calling. The calling is God's calling to us. For example, some people know they want they want to be ministers. Others that they want to do something in music or art or athletics. Whatever you do, if you do it for Jesus' sake, you will have more reward and more motivation. In Matthew's Gospel, I believe it is Chapter 16, verse 25, we are told "For whoever will save his own life will lose it. Whosoever will lose his life for my sake will find it." So you see, John, losing your life for Christ's sake might mean pursuing a vocation that
you feel is a calling from God. God has given you the gifts that you have and God has given them to you for a purpose.
John: Now, did you know all of that when you were in school? Dr. Rowatt: No, John, I must confess that I did not. It wasn't until college that I began to
sense a calling. I can say that after I got a sense of direction, then studying was much easier. The calling helped my grades to go up.
John: That sounds encouraging. Now, let me summarize what you have been saying. First, I
need to formulate good study habits. Second, I need to eliminate pressures. Third, I need to make some time management decisions about how I am going to balance my extracurricular activities. Finally, I need to know my calling.
Dr. Rowatt: Right. That's right, John. John: Well, thanks for talking with me today, Dr. Rowatt. Dr. Rowatt: I'm glad we could talk together, too. I would encourage our friend listening to
this tape [CD] to go talk to someone, also. Perhaps he/she can talk to a youth minister or the pastor at the church where he found this tape [CD]. Maybe he can see his teachers or counselor, but he needs to see someone to begin to work out a plan. Let's pray together, OK. God, I give you thanks for this young person who cares enough about grades to listen to this tape [CD session]. It's no fun to fail, God. I pray that you will support this person. Give strength to all who listen that they might be aware that their grades can be better. And I pray, God, that you will be with the person who helps them by giving them these tapes [CDs]. Together may they work out a plan that will help this young person. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
Back to Top of Page
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.