by MLHS Principal Kevin Wilaby
This article appeared in the January/February Crusader Newsletter.
Education is a difficult endeavor. It involves people, who are unique in every way, working together in order to maximize the development of knowledge, skills, and the ability to think critically, independently, and creatively. Consider the following challenges that education takes on every school year.
Number 1: Every school looks for ways to increase student test scores. Some provide specific opportunities for students to receive help in preparing for the ACT and SAT. Others review test objectives associated with ACT and SAT and look for ways to include the objectives in the curriculum. Schools provide rigorous curriculum options that challenge students to grow in skill and knowledge. Schools adopt programs that provide students with extra study time and work to increase the access students have to teachers. However, students have different abilities and talents and each one is able to choose their level of engagement with the curriculum and the teacher. They determine the effort that they will put in, and what their response to challenging situations, such as a disappointing grade or criticism from their peers, will be.
Number 2: In general, there is an increasing perspective in society that suggests that grades of ‘A’ are the expected level of achievement for students. Parents may believe that this is what their children are capable of achieving. Although this seems like a good thing, set the bar high and students will achieve it, what happens when students fall short of earning the ‘A’? How will the student or the parent respond to a lower grade? Are students prepared or able to receive a lower grade and not have it negatively impact their attitude, effort, and sense of personal worth? School work, homework, tests, and projects are given grades. Students have differing levels of motivation and ability. The idea that every student should be an ‘A’ or nearly a straight ‘A’ student is unrealistic. In the 1960’s the average high school grade given was a ‘C’ and that was acceptable. Today, a report card that averages to a grade of ‘C’ is seldom acceptable and usually a source of frustration.
Students definitely feel the pressure to achieve high grades and are often disappointed or frustrated when they do not receive an ‘A’. Whether this pressure comes from within themselves or from outside sources, such as college admissions requirements or the expectations of their parents, this pressure can become overwhelming. Some studies of students indicate that students report the pursuit of top grades as a source of anxiety for them.
Number 3: We live in a day in which school violence has become a great concern. Schools spend a significant amount of resources trying to ensure student safety. Schools work with consultants, educate students, teachers, and staff on safety procedures, and conduct drills in order to be as prepared as possible for the event that no one wants to have happen. Even though these events are infrequent, whenever and wherever one does occur, it tends to create a national sense of fearfulness because of the often unpredictable nature of the violence.
There are numerous studies that indicate that we are living in a time of increasing anxiety and mental illness. Many ideas exist that try to explain why this is occurring. Some blame technology and social media. Others point to the pace of life and how difficult it is to truly find down time in order to rejuvenate. High school students deal with numerous expectations that are placed on them by parents, coaches, teachers, and themselves. They balance a full day of classes with a full evening of practices and rehearsals, and then there is still homework to do and tests to study for. Many of them are chasing the high test score and the great grades. When adversity strikes, there is no margin in their lives to allow them to deal with the challenge in a healthy way for them.
No single or simple solution exists. However, there should be concern for our students, our children and their overall well-being. Perhaps we should help them understand that there is greater value in hard work than in the high test score or top grade. Take time to discuss their personal sense of their own safety in the world today. What scares them? What reassures them? How can parents, teachers and adults provide this reassurance? Is their life too fast paced? Do we need to make decisions on their behalf or in collaboration with them that will provide space in their lives so they can relax and enjoy being a teenager? What expectations do students believe are being placed upon them by the adults in their lives and what expectations are they putting on themselves? This combination of expectations could prove to be overwhelming, as students strive to not disappoint anyone.
Although God expects perfection, He understands that this was not and is not possible for anyone. So, He placed the expectation of perfection on Jesus, who met every expectation perfectly, and would become the perfect, unblemished, sacrifice for every expectation that we have failed to uphold. The gift of His righteousness is ours because of Jesus. God doesn’t heap His wrath on us every time we fail. He loves, forgives, restores, and renews us for Jesus’ sake and gives us the gift of eternal life. Perhaps our children, and students, need to experience more of God’s love through us in order to grasp that all is well with them today and eternally.