The Pressure To Be “Perfect”

Growing up, I always tried my best in school.  I found it exciting to learn new things, and in elementary school, I wanted to share how well I was doing in school with others.  As I got older, I realized that not all kids were doing as well as I was, and others were doing better.  I simply attributed this to our different abilities and strengths, but during my sophomore year of high school, I found out that was not necessarily the case.

My mom is an exceptional education teacher at the middle school level, and she has always told me, “do the best you can do, and be proud of it.”  This was pretty much my motto in high school.  I wasn’t especially strong in math and science, so sometimes my best on a test would be a C.  I would study several different ways for the same test, and spend hours quizzing myself or doing practice problems.  The day of an exam, I would go into class and do my best, but I found myself disappointed when I got the test back and had earned a B- or a C.  This lasted until I was about sixteen when I realized that some of my peers were only getting A’s because they were not being truthful and cheating on these exams.

Now, I was your typical middle schooler in copying a few math problems (homework) a time or two, but until high school I had never even thought about people taking cheating to the extreme that they did.  Call me naive, but watching some of my peers take out their cell phones to look up answers to a test, with the teacher in the room, shocked me.  Not only could they have gotten caught, which they did sometimes, but it seemed that they did not care to learn anything about the subject they were cheating in.  I didn’t understand why they couldn’t just study, many of these kids were labeled as “gifted,” but they were cheating on tests.  It didn’t make sense.

Then I thought about these student’s parents.  I had met some of these parents in passing, and heard rumors about them from other students.  The kids who were cheating to get good grades were the kids whose parents had unrealistic expectations.  If they didn’t get an A+ on an assignment, they were grounded.  The pressure to be perfect lead these extremely smart kids to resort to cheating, to ensure they weren’t punished at home for their “failure” in getting a B.  The pressure to be perfect was something that I had never experienced, and I eventually felt bad for these students who were facing this pressure.

I wonder now how many parents have unrealistic standards for their kids, and what they do to enforce these standards.  To me, it makes more sense to offer assistance to your child if possible, and help them to actually learn the material and do their best in a class.  I understand wanting what is best for your child, but not all kids are “A students”.  Some kids are simply B or C students,  after they’ve studied their behinds off and put forth a great amount of effort.  I feel that these students should be rewarded and praised for their effort, rather than forced to get a specific letter grade that is then related to their self-worth.  What do you think?  How many of you experienced the “pressure to be perfect” in school, where did this pressure come from, and how did you cope with it?


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3 Responses to The Pressure To Be “Perfect”

  1. whipp2015 says:

    This is such an interesting opinion on this article! I definitely have dealt with students around me who have given into cheating because of this said pressure to be perfect. Many students in my high school did cheat because they felt the pressure to get the best grades possible, even if that meant not getting them fairly. Many parents of my peers did put a lot of pressure on their students and yes, i do think that this effect has a negative impact on the way students participate in their schooling. Overall, just “doing your best” is not good enough for many parents. They want their students to succeed and achieve more than all of the other students. This can cause a competitive atmosphere within schools that fosters cheating.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jmroney says:

    Like middle school you, I was oblivious (and probably still am) to the aspect of others around me cheating. Honestly, I am not proud of it, but I would feel the pressure to look over at my neighbors math assignments (homework or in class work) just to see if I was on the right track. I did not personally consider this cheating, nor do I know if it would have even mattered since the work was not being done on a test. For testing, I always made sure I knew the material, even if it meant that I failed when I forgot something. I made a 20 on a test in Precalculus once, (although the highest grade was a 57 out of 100) and that was truly when I began to feel text anxiety and the pressure to cheat. Parental pressure to be perfect is somewhat mixed for me. My mom would always say to my face, just do your best, try your hardest. When progress reports or report cards came out though, she would get angry and accusatory of why I made a B on an assignment, or what happened that caused such “bad” grades (even though I never made a C on anything except math). The pressure to be perfect really takes its toll on the educational process, namely in the aspect of getting grades, or only working towards getting the grade without ever really learning the material.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jhelms94 says:

    I found your post so interesting and applicable. I was never faced with the pressure of making perfect grades, and being punished if I brought home a B or a C. My mom always told me, and still does, just to do my best and that’s all I can do. Moreover, I put pressure on myself in high school to get good grades, and would be more upset with myself if I didn’t perform as well as I wanted – rather than my mom being upset. Also, I can’t really think of anyone in my high school who had very demanding parents who would punish them or be very upset for bad grades. I think that this is due to the small town I come from and the somewhat low expectations that teachers and elders have… unfortunately. However, in college I found myself struggling and making bad grades freshman year. I continued to put even more pressure on myself, while my mom reminded me that C’s get degrees. I think the pressure I place on myself comes from the desire to leave my small town, and become successful and have more opportunities than those who don’t try so hard.

    Liked by 1 person

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