As a high school teacher, I get a unique look into the future of this nation, and sometimes it is scary! Please understand that I do teach some wonderful kids who are really going to make a positive impact on the world around them, but they have much to counterbalance that. The kids I teach are primarily the advanced kids, so even though English is a core requirement in 10th grade, my class is optional, and many do not make it. Some of these kids feel that just by their being admitted into my course and by their taking up space in my classroom, they should automatically receive high grades. Since they are smart, it is obviously my job to place little magic A’s into every possible place in my gradebook. Why should they even be required to do any work? They think I owe them this.
I feel it is my job to get them ready for life after high school: the “real world” as not seen on MTV. The fact that I expect them not only to do work, but to do it well annoys them. My theory is to always aim as high as possible so that even if you don’t make it all the way, you’ll still land somewhere above everyone else.
This last Thursday was our last day of school, and I already had the grades in and finalized when I went in for my last day on Friday. I opened my email to find this message from a student who had done mediocre work on his best days in my class:
“I couldn’t get one point to get a C for the semester? really?”
My reply: “I’m pretty sure you had the entire semester to work that out for yourself. I don’t give handouts. I just plug in the numbers students earn. If you are not happy with the results, that’s on you, not me.”
(BTW- A C requires a 70% and he had a 68.35%, so apparently his math is not much better than his English.)
He took his communication one step farther with me and replied, “I worked hard the entire time, if i knew my hard work wouldn’t get me one point that i needed, i would have dropped your class when everyone else did. I didn’t think you were that heartless.”
(Don’t even get me started on the butchering of grammar and mechanics in this email to his English II Honors teacher)
This came from the kid who apparently bragged on Facebook about getting a 38% on his research paper in my class, and thought it was funny.
I have some choice words for him, which I obviously cannot use in any response to him, and I will just let him stew over this all summer and not respond at all. Now, I know I am right, but the scary part is that I think he truly believes that he is right, and I am wrong. Any mature adult, and quite honestly, many of my students, and probably even my two Australian shepherds, know better and see that I would be doing him no favors by “giving” him a grade he did not earn, and would, in fact, only be adding to his delusions of grandeur (I’ve been wanting a place to use this phrase often quoted in Star Wars); however, this does not make me feel much better because this thinking seems to be gaining popularity.
Apparently this young man has a couple of older brothers who subscribe to a similar philosophy, which leads this trail straight back to the parents. Now, they have not chimed in on this matter, and I doubt they will. I understand they are quite hands-off with their kids and leave them alone quite often while they travel, leaving them (the parents) feeling guilty and giving in to whatever whims their children have. Of course, I have also had parents attack me for similar situations, twisting it into being my fault that “Johnny” got an F after he didn’t turn in any of his work, etc.
As to the “heartless” comment in the last email message, tell that to the young ladies who confided in me about abuse, deaths of loved ones, health issues, and situations of poverty, who all thanked me for being there for them and hugged me on our last day together. Oh, and a few of them only pulled off D’s in my class too, but they understood that I helped them as much as I could and the rest was on them. They took responsibility, and in the end, they still saw that I cared about and for them. After all, it’s hard to be heartless and be a teacher. We don’t do it for the money, the benefits, the job security, or the recognition, because there isn’t much to be had in any of those areas these days. Being an effective teacher takes the know how to deliver tough love.
If you are a parent, please think about what you want your child to be like when he or she grows older. What legacy do you want to leave behind? Is the idea of entitlement one you want to plant on your child? “really?”