My students laughed one day when I told them that giving them a spelling test on three letter words that most of them would get a 100 on would not help them in any way become better students.
I was only partially kidding.
My point was that it was in their best interests to be pushed academically to do their best work – to reach or exceed grade-level standards – as opposed to inflate their grades by assessing them on below-grade-level tasks. Some of them groaned because it would’ve been easier and I get that reaction because they’re kids and they want to take the easy way, cutting all the corners to do the least amount of work.
Rest assured, kids, there are plenty of adults out there like this too.
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary – my go-to for any and all word questions – pride is defined as “a reasonable or justifiable self-respect.”
Since I have become an educator, I have always struggled with how little pride some of my students have. Forgetting to put your name on an assignment is careless, but not necessarily indicative of a lack of pride.
However, stained and crumpled work that looks closer to used toilet paper than a composition?
Little punctuation and even less concern for spelling?
Incomplete answers that are more indicative of rushing than they are of honest work?
Copying another students work word-for-word and turning it is as their own? Come on, at least change the word order or phrasing around a little bit!
While kids can define self-respect relatively easily, do enough of them actually understand it? I do not think so. In my previous years of teaching, I would’ve fallen back on the tired adage that kids are lazy, and this generation is the absolute worst in regards to work ethic and focus. I probably would have doubled down on that criticism and blamed the lack of modeling outside of school for their lack of concern for the quality of their work.
That still might be partially true and maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, but I’ve also come to realize that you have to meet your students where they are and work up from there. So, if they do not have a supportive environment outside of school to produce their best work, provide them with that during lunch, recess, on a free period, or after school. As a teacher, be the model you want them to emulate and be consistent.
Kids need clear, specific routines that allow them to unlock their potential. But be realistic. Although we want them to care about what they’re doing in the classroom, the reality is that not every single student is going to care equally about every single subject they take. And it makes sense since they do not need every single subject to be successful in life. I remember just taking up space in some of my math classes in high school. And in Spanish class. And in politics and religion classes in college.
Most importantly, don’t forget, they’re kids, so it’s not going to be perfect. They’re going to screw it up and they won’t get it at first.
And that’s okay.
Because they’re kids.