By John Gardner
When I asked my high school Valedictorian son why he had chosen a particular top-tier university, he answered,
I’m tired of being the geek. I’m tired of ruining the curve. I’m tired of people getting mad at me because I do the extra credit anyway. I want to go somewhere I can be normal; where it is okay to be an achiever.
Pressure surrounds teens.
Parents push them to do better. Teachers need performance data in the ever-increasing “prove-you’re-teaching-and-they-are-learning” world of government schools. The strongest pressure, however, can come from peers.
In handing out a “pre-test”, a beginning of a semester assessment to find out where students are on a subject, a teacher was explaining to the class.
“This is NOT for a grade. This is to help me find out where to start. If you already know most of what is on this pre-test, I’ll be able to give you higher-level work.”
A student in the class spoke up,
The message was clear.
“If we look like we know stuff, they will give us more. If we all fail the pre-test, we’ll get easy stuff to do. LET’S GO!”
Here is some of the unwritten peer-pressure-code of many high schools:
Go easy on the pre-test. Save your effort for the one that counts.
Don’t ruin the curve.
If you turn it in early, you make the rest of us look bad.
If the instruction says 500 words, don’t do 501.
Just do what you have to do to get the grade your parents won’t yell about.
Don’t study at home, practice at home or do extra research at home because they’ll start expecting MORE.
The teacher will adjust the level of work to the level of the class. We vote for easy. Don’t mess it up for us.
Share your work with us…. we’ll change a few words and get away with it.
Teachers are the enemy. Don’t be a “teacher’s favorite”. The only time you should be “friendly” to a teacher is when you need something – or when you’re asking for more time, etc.
Snitches get stitches. C’mon! Who’s side are you ON?
If they give us the entire class period to take a test – take the entire time. If we get done too early, they will start on something else.
Tell your teachers what they want to hear, even if you have to make it up.
Use up the entire limit: number of times you can be tardy, number of times you can be called out before discipline, number of assignments you can miss, number of low grades that will be dropped…..and then use your puppy dog eyes and maybe even a few tears to plead for mercy, forgiveness and another chance — after the limit is hit.