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?