Are We Breeding Mediocrity in Students?


Are there other teachers dealing with learned helplessness amongst their students?  Additionally, is it more prevalent amongst affluent students?

It seems to me that students have learned how not to demonstrate initiative, independence, persistence and ownership in their learning.  For example, students choose not to listen to or read instructions, and then expect the teacher to put in significant one-on-one time to get them oriented to the task at-hand.  

I tell my students that I will not do the work that they can and should do on their own.  If I am working harder than my students, that’s a problem.  On the other hand, students expect study guides, and, in some cases, sample replicas of the test they will take.  When I was a student, the teacher said, “Study Chapters 10-12 for a test.”  We figured out what to do and how to do it.  No study guides. No practice tests. No crib sheets.  No nothing.

I was raised to be independent, think for myself, and approach and solve problems creatively.  I also had chores.

At a point in my career, I had to tell a student that her work was sloppy.  I also told her that I was finished correcting the same mistakes on her work over and again.  I spent 20 minutes correcting a script she wrote.  It was poorly-written: lots of errors in grammar, spelling, and verb conjugation, awkward phrasing, and lack of precision in translating from English to Spanish.  I explained to the student in question that my words weren’t meant to hurt her feelings.  Additionally, she needed to know that her work was sub-par, didn’t meet expectation, and needed to step up the work quality and effort.

I think it is important to be respectful, albeit honest and direct, with students.  I strive to maintain their dignity.  That said, blowing sunshine in their face doesn’t help them; it only permits them to be mediocre.

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