Doing Things Right
An eighth-grade student of mine decided that he is going to be an underachiever for the last eight weeks of school. Seeing that he is already accepted to high school, he figures that it doesn’t matter whether he gets a 90 or a 70 on his science test, if his homework is in on time, or if he needs to complete that end-of-the year project with the effort and creativity he has shown throughout the past two years. "It doesn’t matter" is all he said.
It's times like these that we, as teachers have to provide careful guidance.
First, I had to agree with him a little. In reality, he doesn’t need to do those things, and in some way his thinking is not too far from the high school senior who has his college acceptance letter already. So I shared with him some words of wisdom once told to me. I explained that by doing the work now that he feels does not matter, he is preparing himself for many future challenges. Soon he'll enter high school and become one of two thousand students, he will not be able to escape the inevitable pressures and stress that high-ability students face there.
I let him know that I was disappointed by his attitude towards his work, but that it was indeed his choice. I assured him that it was alright to feel "done," as many others in his situation have felt in the past. He should be proud of his past efforts but also strive to finish on a high note. I don’t know if my message got through to him, but I hope so. These are important life lessons.
Many of you, I suspect, have found yourselves in the same situation, and hopefully that student recognized that he/she could be doing more; at the start of middle school, high school, or college. We, as educators, can only guide students in the right direction, offering suggestions and ideas along the way. The rest is up to them.
For more information regarding talking to students, check out the following:
The Essential Guide to Talking with Gifted Teens Book and CD-ROM by Jean Sunde Peterson, Ph.D.
Big Ships, Small Ships, Friendships, and Competition: Things to Consider by Petra D.T.Gyles, Bruce M. Shore, & Barry H. Schineider
This is the most recent "Bridging the Divide" column found in the pages of Teaching for High Potential.