After posting a discussion on my banning of the statement "at least I passed", I was forced to look at something else (as brought to my attention by stolperia):
The expectation that work at any level should be completed to the best of ones ability every time is becoming harder and harder to find in daily life. It's an uphill battle to build that kind of expectation within the classroom, but that's what truly great teachers do when they stretch students and force them to excel.
That being said, and too true, why are teachers who "expect more" challenged so hard by parents? I feel like I am the only one challenging them--some parents simply won't, or refuse to because they gave up long ago.
Thank you all for your posts. I really feel like I have a strong support system here! Are there teachers that don't push? Yes. Are there teachers that do? Yes, again. I know that I probably would not have ended up in education had it not been for that one teacher that pushed me.
One thing that makes it especially hard for a teacher who sets and maintains high standards for students is that other teachers may not be doing the same. When a student brings home undeserved great grades in other classes and then runs into reality, the student and his or her parents are shocked--and angry. Obviously there is something wrong with the teacher who grades "so hard." It's difficult to stand up to the pressure of holding the line, but failing to do so means throwing in the towel and lying to students and parents. Saying that average work is excellent is a lie and no favor to anyone. However, if a teacher sets high academic standards, it is absolutely essential (and only fair) that students receive all the instruction and guidance they need to meet them. Low expectations require a lot less work for both teachers and students, but that is a road to disaster.
For some students, a teacher with high expectations is all they have to push them forward. It is a shame that many parents do not encourage their children to achieve higher goals, but it is the unfortunate truth in many places. Keep holding those higher standards. Know that you are doing what is best for the students. I often felt like I was one of the only teachers holding higher standards at my school. It was a definite struggle with parents, not to mention the students. In the end, it was worth it. Many of my students went on to achieve goals they never thought they could reach at the start of my class. Holding higher standards is the mark of a good teacher.
I have experienced this myself with both students and parents trying to negotiate me awarding my students higher grades. I refuse to give an A for a piece of work that is not outstanding, and I only give A+ for work that truly takes my breath away. I have a number of students who are capable of so much more but are just "coasting" and doing the minimum they need to get a passing grade. What is disturbing is the way that so many seem to feel entitled to an A grade just because they handed in the work on time. I remember reading an article calling this generation the "entitlement generation" because they have had everything given to them on a plate and haven't had to strive for success. Could this be another manifestation of this?
All the earlier comments are illuminating. As a society, we seem to have lowered our expectations in many different ways and in many different areas of achievement (except, perhaps, sports, which seems to matter quite a bit to many people and which arouses the enthusiasm of millions in a way that success in other fields doesn't seem to do).
I've just finished reading a work called The Great Stagnation, by Tyler Cowen. Cowen suggests that for a long time the United States has benefitted from having lots of "low-hanging fruit" (abundant land, abundant natural resources, the protection of two huge oceans, victory in World War II, dominance in the post-war world, etc.) and that this fact has meant that Americans haven't had to work as hard (especially recently) as citizens of some other countries. We may have become complacent.
If the "great stagnation" lasts much longer, perhaps people will be motivated to work harder than they sometimes do now.
Well, the apple often does not fall far from the tree. Is it an accident, do you think, that the child is unmotivated and the parent(s) support this lack of commitment? Perhaps it may be that the parents just want to take the course of least resistance—again, this is something that we find with the students.
There are no guarantees that supportive parents will have motivated children, but it's closer to the norm than students who are motivated with uncaring parents. I can say that I've seen hard-working students whose parents are not in the picture (dead, in jail, etc.) Sometimes seeing the parent's (parents') mistakes will motivate kids who refuse to end up in the same place.
Of course, irony is king in education...because intelligent thought is so often overlooked. Demanding teachers are seen as "mean" by the kids, and as unrealistic or unreasonable by parents. I find that you need to have a tough skin, keep extremely accurate records, provide students with feedback on papers, and keep communication open with parents, even if only with quick notes or emails. It demonstrates your commitment to the student's success and defends your actions in the classroom.
More and more, apathy and laziness is a family attribute where learning is concerned. Isn't it amazing that in other countries education is such a priority and our kids and many parents think it doesn't matter? Is it any wonder that U.S. testing scores are dropping so radically? Very sad.
I think that parents see a child with poor grades as a reflection on them. They think that they need to make sure that their child has good grades all the time to validate themselves as parents. When their kids get poor grades (poorer than they expect) they see it as a threat to their own self-image. Because of that, they blame the teachers and accuse them of being too hard on the kids. So I think it's an offshoot of parents' tendency to live through their kids.
So many of today's parents seem to treat their children as "best friends" instead of as their offspring. Way too many parents will defend their children even in the case of failing work and work not completed or turned in. There always seems to be an excuse, and they often pressure the teacher to make exceptions to the rules which apply to everyone else. My parents sure weren't that way, and excellence was always expected. A "C" grade always meant that I would be spending extra hours during the next term to raise my grade, and I thank God that they pushed me in this manner. More of today's parents should at least stress that mediocrity is not acceptable.
If parents will not make the effort to challenge their kids, broaden their horizons, and help them learn how to think (instead of what to think), it comes down to the teacher. Do you truly care about your students as individuals? Then you will ignore parental coercion (up to a reasonable point) and try to help the children. They, not the parents, are your responsibility. If I had had teachers who treated me as an individual instead of a statistic... well, many life lessons would have come earlier and easier.
Literaturenerd, DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOUR QUEST TO HAVE EXPECTATIONS OF STUDENTS! I agree that parents are out there expecting less and less. But this comes from a society getting lazier and lazier due to so many of the innovations of people who learned in our classrooms. A people burdened by a failing economy for a number of years doesn't help student motivation. I would argue that educators are often a last line of defense in the transmission of culture and in offering great continued expectations for the proliferation of knowledge. I think teachers of your kind are necessary and valued. I hope I am one of them too and have now found that students will come back and report how much help I have been to them and how I have changed their lives forever because I had expectations. Please keep it up.
I agree, teachers today are not supported by parents to uphold high standards. The parents and the students just want to pass. I do see the importance of realizing that all students can learn. However, all students do not learn in the same way or on the same level. A great accomplishment for one student, may be something that other students do without thinking about it. The important thing is for teachers to do the best they can to serve all students. This does require a lot of differentiated instruction at times. Meeting the needs of students everyday is sometimes a daunting task, but somebody has to do it.
I went to private school my whole life. In private school I felt that other kids' parents were horrible to the teachers merely because they paid directly for tuition. In other words, private school parents "pay in" and they want to see a successful "pay out" regardless of whether their kid deserves a good grade or not. It was very hard on my teachers to stay strong and stand up to parents who really were signing their paychecks. I respect all of the teachers who pushed me and made me go above and beyond. I would have had a much harder time in college if my high school teachers did not expect the best from me. I was already used to the pressure by the time I reached college and I was always left wondering what the other students were whining about. "Actually turn in assignments on time" *gasp*