What Do the Three Legs of a Tripod Have to Do With Academics

by Carol Chandler-Wood

During my years of working with students, I have often been asked, “Why are there so many students in need of extra help with their academics after school?  Are teachers and schools doing a poor job?  Is the county curriculum lacking in quality?  My answer to each time to these questions is always the same. No. Having worked with literally thousands of students over 31 years in public education, corporate training, and in a tutorial environment, I can with complete confidence state that many students do not reach their academic potential due to poor study priority, habits, and attitudes.

Children are not born knowing how to study effectively and efficiently.  Effective study skills involve techniques that must be taught, applied, and then utilized consistently by students.   Because of the heavy emphasis in school curriculum on math, English, social studies, science, and technology, there is little time for schools to incorporate a true, comprehensive study skills curriculum into a student’s course schedule.  Elements of study skills that are necessary for a student to reach his or her academic potential include good note taking skills, memorization techniques, reading strategies, organization, goal setting, test taking techniques, and textbook usage skills just to name a few areas. 

I often refer to the three legs of a tripod when describing to a parent what is necessary to enable a student to regain a sense of control over his or her academic situation.  One leg of the tripod represents current course work.  Every student needs to stay current with school course work so he or she can earn good grades and form a solid foundation in which to build future knowledge upon.  The second leg of the tripod represents previously taught material.  In order to a student to be successful today, he or she must master the material presented in school during earlier months or school years.  The third leg of the tripod represents sound study skills.  This is often the leg of the tripod that students neglect or forget about!  With effective and efficient study skills, once a student has caught up in previously taught material and become proficient with current course material, if they have sound study strategies in place, it is likely they will be able to work independently on their academics without the assistance of a tutor or others.  If the third leg of the tripod is neglected or forgotten, it is probable that students will find themselves in the same situation year after year, requiring the assistance of tutoring and other after school help to make it through their course work.  In other words, if only two legs of the tripod are in place, the tripod will fall over.  Not only that, but a student will not reach his or her FULL academic potential until study skill strategies have been taught, applied and utilized!

If you are the parent of a child who is struggling with course work, seems to need recurrent assistance, grades are one or two letters lower than usual, or is not reaching his or her academic potential, provide them the tools necessary to solve their academic and study skill deficiencies now and making sure all three legs of the tripod are stable.  This will enable the student to stand up strong academically so the tripod doesn’t tumble over and neither will they!