Published 1/15/14 by: Kaitlin
The school district I teach in uses the term “a culture of effort” on a regular basis. It was a major selling point for me when I started teaching there in September 2011, because I don’t consider myself one of these “naturally smart” people. I worked hard for every grade I received, every school I got into, every degree I earned. I can honestly say that my effort has been the deciding factor for every opportunity or rejection I’ve encountered. So how did my culture of effort get instilled in me? I grew up in a household where effort grades were held in higher regard than actual academic grades. In middle school, my mom didn’t care if I got a C in science if my effort grade was A- or better. “Did you do your best?” was a phrase repeated at every meal, every bedtime tuck in, and during every trip to the softball field. The middle school I teach in doesn’t have effort grades, because they’re not easily measurable. I’m not completely convinced of that because homework, notes taken, and participation could be indicators of daily effort. Some of my students (if I were to give homework grades) would be at a 10% for the trimester, which started immediately after Thanksgiving. It’s this general lack of commitment to academia that is holding quite a few of my students back. They listen to my lessons, my demonstrations, and my general instructions, but they don’t follow through with doing the daily practice. The most essential part of learning is practicing skills. I often tell my students, “I didn’t wake up one day and know my multiplication tables. It was a labor of love.” To which they say, “what do you mean by labor?” Herein lies my most difficult work: motivating students to complete the practice so that they can eventually master a skill. Everything is so instantaneous for them in their personal lives, that putting in leg-work day in and day out seems ridiculous to them, and I’m not sure how to begin fixing that.
Oftentimes when I give my students feedback on rough drafts of their writing they’ll actually moan and complain to their classmates about having to fix things. It’s a nuisance to them that I told them they needed to add, elaborate or completely follow the directions. I’ve actually had to say to students, “I could just collect it the way it is, but you wouldn’t like the grade you’d receive. I’m giving you a second chance here. Take advantage.” It’s pathetic. Part of effort is showing up with the right stuff, being responsible for your things, and taking ownership of your mistakes. All of those things exhibit good daily effort. My students, and probably a lot of the students of 2014, have no interest in progressing in their daily effort levels. While society’s instantaneous nature that I alluded to may play a factor in this lazy mindset, I think a lot of it is at home culture and environment. Making excuses for your kid, blaming the teacher for lack of motivation, and bailing your kid out when he/she leaves is unprepared does not cultivate a work ethic which is essential (in my opinion) for leading a successful life. Hold your kids, students, neighbors, relatives et. al. accountable. You’re not doing them any favors by teaching them that tenacity, persistence, and the good ol’ college try aren’t necessities.