When parental pressure promotes perfectionism and pariah’s in the playground

Th excellent Secret Teacher column in The Guardian gets me thinking again... As teachers, how can we help children achieve without feeling unrealistic pressure? And what should we do when we see unrealistic pressure coming from other angles?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

So, the latest Secret Teacher column in The Guardian's Teacher Network is on the pressure that parents place on teachers - and their children - in order to get the best marks or get into the best high schools.

We have all been privy to the negative social and emotional impact on students who are forced to attend afternoon + weekend + holiday tutoring in place of socialising and down time. Suddenly the quotation from The Shining comes to mind: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.

The effects of this pressure, however, reach far beyond the children of those parents. All of the competitive conversations had by those parents driven to put unrealistic pressure on their child to achieve access into selective or private high schools are heard and re-performed by those children in the playground. What may seem as inane schoolyard gossip can make pariahs out of the poorer or less academic students. As the article says, former friends can be "swatted aside" under the stress of the expectations.

“… research shows that the academic pressure to fulfil potential put on children from such a young age can lead to huge self-esteem problems in their teenage years, when striving for perfectionism does not deliver the goods.” As teachers, how can we help children achieve without feeling unrealistic pressure?

It is important for teachers to role model resilience to students - providing an alternative script in dealing with stress and painting additional life options by engaging classes in discussions about what is valued and hoped for. We teach for a greater range of reasons than just pure academic results, so we need to share those reasons a bit more.