Steady Decline in Student Resilience

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by goldenapple86, Sep 12, 2017.

  1. goldenapple86

    goldenapple86 New Member

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    Hi Everyone,

    Ok, this is a long post, but I have a lot on my mind. I teach 9th grade English and am currently in my 5th year. With each passing year, I am seeing a steady decline in academic resilience and emotional stability amongst students. I should note that I've only taught in school classified as Title I (low income, high risk students). I don't know if it's different in other districts...

    What used to be simple expectations have turned into problems. Parents and students are constantly complaining about something, and it's causing teachers to lower their expectations as they just don't feel like dealing with the hassle. It's extremely frustrating for me as I feel that having expectations (both academic and behavioral) should be a given--especially when students reach the high school level. This, coupled with the severe apathy/resistance to rise to higher academic standards, has caused me to consider leaving K-12 Education altogether and try my hand at teaching the college level.

    Then, I read this article Psychology Today entitled, "Declining Student Resilience: A Serious Problem for College." It basically explains that an overwhelming amount of students are entering college unprepared for the rigor and the possibility of struggling. Less resilient and needy students have shaped the landscape for faculty in that they are expected to do more handholding, lower their academic standards, and not challenge students too much.

    This is actually frightening. It's seeping into colleges and I assume the workplace as well. Students want more for doing less and have emotional breakdowns when they don't get their way. Let me share a conversation between one of my students and his guidance counselor. She sent me this transcript to not only reiterate that I'm doing my job correctly, but illustrate what the counselors are experiencing more frequently.

    Student: Man, I don't like Mrs. Dawson. I hate her teaching style. I want to switch classes.
    Counselor: Ok, let's take this step by step. What concerns you as a student in regard to her teaching style?
    Student: She gives us too much work.
    Counselor: Ok. How much is "too much" in your opinion?
    Student: She always has us writing in class and gives too many new vocabulary words to study. Counselor: What is "too many?"
    Student: 10 words week.
    Counselor: Well writing is supposed to occur in an English class and building your vocabulary will strengthen your writing. This is not sounding like too much to ask.
    Student: She gives way too many notes and assigns too much reading.
    Counselor: Well again, you're in a high school English class and it's very typical to take notes when learning new concepts. This is not a poor reflection of the teacher. And just as well, you are expected to read outside of the classroom. This is part of the English curriculum. Taking notes and reading are all typical components of an English course. Reading also helps to improve your vocabulary.
    Student: We didn't take this many notes in junior high.
    Counselor: Why yes, of course. You're not in junior high anymore. You're in high school. So, the work level may be more rigorous than you're used to. I can offer you strategies to help you. Are you interested? Student: No. I think she grades way too hard and is unfair.
    Counselor: Can you be more specific about the grading practices that you feel are unfair?
    Students: She's petty. She takes off points for grammar and spelling.
    Counselor: [takes a deep breath] It's...an...English...class. She's not pointing out errors to make you feel bad. She's correcting you in order to improve your writing. You are being grading for accuracy and mastery; not just completion.
    Students: Well no other teachers do this.
    Counselor: We're not talking about other teachers. We're talking about this teacher. And so far, what you're explaining does not sound unreasonable. They are typical expectations of an English class. Students: She's just too strict.
    Counselor: Ok, in what way?
    Student: She marks us tardy and sends us to the office for dress code.
    Counselor: This is the SCHOOL policy--not her policy. As students, you're expected to get to class on time and obey dress code.
    Student: Other teachers don't get us in trouble for being late.
    Counselor: Well that's a shame because it's a school rule. If everyone followed the rules, then there would be less confusion.
    Student: She corrects us when we're acting up.
    Counselor: Ok, well this is also normal. Students should not misbehave in class.
    Student: So you're taking her side over mine?
    Counselor: I'm not taking sides. I want you to understand that everything you've pointed out are just typical high school level expectations. They are not "issues," per se. I think you may just be struggling with understanding how a high school course is supposed to run. Did you get a syllabus for this class?
    Student: Yes
    Counselor: Did you read it and review it in class?
    Student: Yes
    Counselor: Did she explain how her class runs and outline her expectations?
    Student: Yes
    Counselor: So, none of this is a surprise then. Right?
    Student: No, I just think she's a teacher that's doing too much.
    Counselor: Well, from what you've explained, she's not. She has standards in her classroom, and quite frankly, all teachers should have standards in their classroom. It's what's best for students and will best prepare you for college.
    Student: So, you're not going to change my class?
    Counselor: What you've explained does not warrant a class change. What I want to do is offer you strategies so that you feel less overwhelmed and more confident in your ability to succeed. Also, learning to adjust to different teaching styles is going to be important for you as all teachers are unique.
    Student: *Becomes hysterical and storms out of the office*

    Here's the clincher: This student is in my HONORS CLASS!

    This blows my mind. The student is taking umbrage with having to do work and follow rules. Then, breaks down the second he can't get his way and when he encounters someone who doesn't buy his excuses. This is the mentality of a vast majority of our students. No wonder it's seeping into colleges. How do we stop this? Does it start in the middle schools? Is it because teachers are either afraid or just don't feel like dealing with parent intimidation (therefore lowering the bar in their classes)? Is it a lack of backbone on the part of school administrators? How do we get secondary teachers to be more consistent in keeping standards, not giving in to parent intimidation, and not giving into grade inflation? Thoughts?
     
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  3. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Sep 12, 2017

    Hmm. That's a doozy. Sadly, it's a doozy I heard in a similar style YESTERDAY AND TODAY.

    Have you read or seen anything by Angela Duckworth? Just to give your students a minor break from the curriculum and to possibly set up some long-term growth, perhaps you can present them with the Grit Test. You can use it as a gateway for students to read and write about how they can improve their own self-control and conscientiousness.
     
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  4. AlwaysAttend

    AlwaysAttend Enthusiast

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    Sep 12, 2017

    Learned helplessness is learned behavior. I've seen plenty of parents AND teachers foster it. The best thing grades 2-8 teachers can do is to remove themselves as much as possible and let kids struggle.
     
  5. Backroads

    Backroads Enthusiast

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    This makes me feel pretty good, particularly the grade 2 part (my grade). I have a handful of helpless handraisers this year and today I was almost feeling too mean.

    One in particular is a smart kid, right on grade level, above in some areas. Could do just fine. Feigns helplessness. We think it's because his little brother is severely disabled, so Kiddo also wants to be helpless. The good part is Mom is one of the lunch ladies, right 'round the corner from my classroom. I don't want to rely on Mom, but she is a handy resource to just... have on hand.
     
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  6. AlwaysAttend

    AlwaysAttend Enthusiast

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    We all struggle with it. Mine was caving rather than let a student struggle during questioning. I have to resist the urge to change the question or calling on someone else.
     
  7. SageScience

    SageScience Companion

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    Similarly, I was relying on the coach (right around the corner) to help me out with his athletes. Boy, did that work wonders.
     
  8. rpan

    rpan Comrade

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    I teach the advanced class and the "mainstream" classes. I usually find that students in the advanced class have less resilience than my other students. They are so used to succeeding that when they get a bum grade they lose their mind and don't know what to do with themselves. The whole world as they know it comes to an end. Then I get concerned emails from parents because their kid got a bum grade and therefore their kid is going to fail at life. Or I ask a kid a question and they can't answer and next thing I know they are seeing me after the lesson in tears. It's very tiresome having to constantly reassure these kids that it's just one bad grade or one question they can't answer, and that having an off day is allowed.
    My other students don't seem to have that issue with self confidence. They fail they try again and try harder. They don't see failure as the end of the world and they can pick themselves up no problem.
     
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  9. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    I have noticed the same thing, rpan. Kids who were advanced at lower grades thought that was how it would be forever and with little effort. They didn't experience struggling because the regular curriculum was sort of common knowledge stuff to them. Once they met new topics, they thought something was wrong with them and didn't know how to cope, got frustrated easily, and gave up. When kids complained, "I don't get it" within two minutes of receiving an assignment, I always used to answer, "Good because you're not supposed to get it right away. You have to work at it." That was in 3rd and 5th grades. They didn't like it, but most got the point.
     
  10. mathmagic

    mathmagic Connoisseur

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    This is why I have posters with the quotes:
    "Without struggle, there is no progress."
    and
    "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
    and start the year with the Week of Inspirational Math from Youcubed.org, which is all about students developing an understanding of the importance (along with the actual science behind it) of struggle, mistakes, and learning from those...I use it as a baseline talking point throughout the year.

    I also make sure that I model myself working through problems: I prefer to show transparency in my teaching, when some others might just always act with kids like they are always 100% set and feel 100% confident. When they see an adult that is working through the same kind of "productive struggle" that they need to be working through, it feels much more authentic to them.

    Not just about letting them struggle, it's about helping them authentically see the importance of struggle, and how solving those problems will need to occur throughout their life, no matter how old they are.
     
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  11. Backroads

    Backroads Enthusiast

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    I personally trying hard to change my language to emphasize hard work and effort.

    Apparently some consider it a cultural thing. America loves talent, sometimes to the point we don't have another strategy.
     
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  12. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I have noticed the same trend. I find it incredibly frustrating.

    I am the parent of a preschooler whose dominant personality trait seems to be the need to be independent. I have tried to foster that whenever possible. I will always help if asked, but I don't usually jump right in and do things myself. I give my kid a chance to do it first and maybe model it if I need to. Of course there are some things that are beyond the ability of a three-year-old and I'm mindful of that. Even so, I let my kid do whatever part of the activity might be age-appropriate even if the entire activity is not. If we are cooking dinner, my kid can help pour things and stir, but I'll obviously take the hot things out of the oven.

    I employ the same method at school. "Never do for a kid what he can do for himself." I am all about the Socratic method of teaching, which basically means that I ask a lot of questions that help a student guide himself toward the right answer. Some students find this irritating, or maybe they think I'm being mean (they're wrong) or intentionally not answering their question (they're right). Regardless, I feel that it's my professional and moral responsibility as an educator to give my students not the right answers but the right tools to help them figure out the right answers. I consider myself successful when I have become obsolete to them.
     
  13. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    This is so tricky because we don't award grades for effort and hard work (or, in my opinion, we shouldn't). There is such a precarious balance between hard work and actual results. I also think that many students confuse bad habits with hard work, like they looked at the page for 15 minutes and so that means that they worked hard, or they stayed up all night cramming for a test. Hard work needs to produce successful results, otherwise it's meaningless.
     
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  14. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    This is what I feel as well. Many of the students hate it, as do some of the parents. They equate "help" with "just give me the answer", something that just doesn't happen in my class.
     
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  15. Backroads

    Backroads Enthusiast

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    Yeah, we had that other thread where parents seemed to be actively training their daughter to just demand the answer.
     
  16. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    Oh wow. That transcript sounds like something many of my students would say as well! But, I'm in elementary school, so maybe it's better if they start with high expectations sooner rather than later. Still, it's a rough transition for some of them from their previous years, which had a lot of fluff. We write a lot in my class.
     

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