People are quick to jump on the poverty and broken home bandwagon. They claim these are the reasons underprivileged children struggle in school. Why they have such a hard time of it “coming up.”
For example, I had a conversation with some very well-meaning colleagues of mine. Their comments went something like this.
“I know we won’t get homework back from our students because they have to take care of their brothers and sisters when they get home. So, what is the point of assigning it? We are only punishing them more because they struggle. And we give them consequences for failing to do the work.”
This dumbfounded me. Who could ever believe that logic? How could making excuses and giving breaks because of such circumstances “help” anyone? Is there even any logic in this line of thinking?
Cutting Them Slack is Holding Them Back
Overwhelmingly though, educators believe there is logic in giving a kid a break. They believe their students have hard-knock lives. They think holding kids to higher expectations almost always ends in failure.
In fact, this is an infectious line of thinking. It encourages school administrators to ask teachers not to issue assignments. In essence, this “logic” is killing the very fabric of the educational system.
The system should meet students where they are and better them. Instead, it stifles progress, only aiding in maintaining the status quo.
Thus, schools and educators are not teaching students how to overcome their circumstances. Or how to strive for excellence. They’re merely lowering the bar, cutting students off from their futures. Denying their potential. After all, completing assignments leads to better students, more invested in the process.
Refusing to assign work? Assuming students will fail anyway? That only creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Underprivileged students cannot benefit from this. Indeed, the education gap continues to widen. All the while, stable, economically advantaged students continue to thrive. Disadvantaged kids fail by default, unable to compete with their more affluent peers.
In reflecting on my colleagues’ comments, one saying rings true . . .
The road to hell is paved with good intentions!
Well-meaning educators are often the source of underprivileged student failures. These kids don’t fail because of their circumstances. They fail because of the circumstances educators have created for them.
We make excuses for underprivileged students. We hold them to lower standards. What do they learn? The system teaches them they’re owed something.
How do we overcome this problem? By teaching students how to compete with their peers, despite their obstacles.
Educators simply can’t subscribe to this belief any longer. By giving breaks, they’re denying opportunities.
Instead, they should teach their students how to recognize and seize opportunities. They should raise their expectations and teach usable life skills. And they should hold students accountable for their choices, not their circumstances.