I recently watched this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWSZxZK6v_c) by one of my longtime favorite authors, John Green. What is astounding about this video confession, is that it perfectly sums up a lot of how I feel about the educational process in general, and about the struggles many people face when experiencing high school or college. In this video he mentions making a C- in his high school English class. Although passing, a C- in English is not a grade that I would normally attribute to an undergraduate English major, nor a bestselling author. This is not a grade that I would have expected from someone whose writing style I aspire to someday be equivalent to. This predicament speaks volumes to the struggles of many other high school and even college students in English and other reading-intensive classes. The overall message that I gathered from this video is that even if a student performs poorly for whatever reason, that person is not a lost cause. If for some reason a student is not even bothering with their school work, they should not be automatically be labeled as lazy or incompetent. Although many students struggle with “making the grade” due to lack of trying, or because they are a “poor reader”, does not mean that they should be given up on.
On that note, I find that one of the biggest problems in at least public schools that I have experienced, is that teachers and parents often make students feel as if they are a lost cause. If a student is not performing well, instead of trying to sort out a reason to why this is occurring, the student is thought to be lazy or incapable of achieving to the capacity of their peers. In high school for me, if a student so much as used their cell phone in class, they were given out of school suspension. Although I understand that, yes, cell phones are distracting, there should have been better ways to deal with the problem of abundant cell phone use than sending a student home. Teachers have so much potential to teach and inspire students through their both course material and overarching life lessons, but many of these opportunities are wasted in turning the school into a system of discipline and standardized testing.
One of the biggest problems in low socioeconomic schools is not that the students are incapable of learning, but that the students have not been provided with as strong of a foundation on basic concepts. As soon as a student of any background reaches a certain age, as early as 11 or 12, they often categorize themselves or allow themselves to be categorized into either a low achieving, average, or high achieving subset. These categorizations are then carried with them throughout middle school and high school, although as an individual they may want to achieve more or have someone believe that they have the potential to achieve more. Not all teachers treat students differently based off of these subsets, but so many do that it creates a stigma and a performance rut of which the same students fall into year after year. Like in the video mentioned earlier, college gives some of these students an opportunity to start fresh and perform better than they did in all of grade school. Gaining a fresh start either away from home or in a college environment can make a world of difference in a student’s attitude about themselves, their performance ability, and how they want others to see them. Not everyone is lucky enough to go to college however, for a variety of reasons. Many students do not even consider college as an option, because of how they perceive themselves and how they feel that teachers and peers perceive them.
More teachers should take care to help students out of “performance ruts”, and find ways to help even the lowest performing student succeed rather than giving up on them after multiple signs of failure. Failure is not always for lack of trying, just as poor reading comprehension is not always for lack of ability. If more teachers showed support for students, or had as much time to dedicate to individual performance as to creating testing materials, students would perform better and be better off psychologically as well.