The pressure is on. Over the next few months, the academic fate of many students who are appearing their exams will be decided. Are we helping or making it worse? As teachers and parents, we need to reflect on the kind of support we are giving our children when they are under pressure to perform well.
Under Pressure: When You Can’t Think or Write
As I sat down to write this article (under a lot of pressure, undoubtedly), my mind just went blank. Remember, I was under a lot of pressure before I even sat down. It was like being a student all over again, sitting in the exam hall, thinking what to write. What is it with stress, pressure and performance! Does pressure or stress really affect our performance? Obviously it does, since I still haven’t come up with this very important question of pressure and performance.
Its exam time again! The most important time of the year, at least for the students and the teachers. As a teacher, this is the most dreaded time of the year, yet the most awaited. At the beginning of each year, I start having sleepless nights, anxiety and stress, since my teaching will be put into test during the next few weeks. Over the years I have come to accept the fact that nothing really happens the way I want. The supposedly good students fall under pressure, the supposedly bad students outshine under no pressure. And this has made me realise that pressure or expectations plays a major role in a student’s performance.
Let’s face it; we are all humans, even our students. We have all been there and we know how it feels when we see disappointment or joy writ on the faces of our parents or teachers. Are our expectations pressuring them too much that they buckle under the pressure of our great expectations?
Some people can take expectations and work it to their advantage, whereas for others it becomes a form of emotional blackmail that hampers their development. Over expectations can be very disastrous when not handled well. But for the optimist it can propel them to heights of greatness.
I had a student once, who was the topper in class 11. He was so good that we took it for granted that he would surely make it to our expectations. He was supposed to be our shining star. But when the results eventually came out, our expectation turned into disappointment. I still haven’t recovered from that disappointment. When I reflect back on what might have gone wrong, it’s very puzzling. But one thing is clear; he could not handle the pressure that he was in.
Then there is this case of another child who was below average. He was the most well behaved boy, the most decent student and loved by all the students and teachers as well. He never missed a class, unless it was extremely urgent. He was always so attentive in class. But he was very poor in his studies. Nobody expected much from him. In fact, he was so poor that the teachers silently thought that it would not be too surprising if he failed. Instead, if he passed, that would be considered a miracle. We did not pressure him because we knew his capacity. He was guided in the best possible way but there were no great expectations. Eventually, when the results were declared he got through. We still call him our miracle boy. I still glow out of happiness when I think about him.
As an educator, with several years of experience, I have come to the realisation that over expectation can at times have a very negative impact. Sometimes it’s best for the students to have a relaxed environment and enjoy the learning process. Of course that’s not always true with each individual. Some people bring out their best when they are motivated through the expectations of parents, teachers or peers. But we should know their capacity and their levels of IQ before we push them to give their best.
Understanding each individual student is a difficult task especially for large classrooms. And there is always room for committing mistakes. We should just trust our instincts and push where necessary or step back and give room when needed.
This write-up is a product of my own experience and not some research work carried out by me or anyone else. So it should not be taken as the whole truth. But I believe many of us have had similar experiences and will agree with me to a certain extent. It may also help us to think twice when we start expecting too much from someone because ultimately, we are all humans and not some kind of beings with super powers. So the next time your student or child prepares to face an exam, let’s try to sit back more comfortably, relax and most importantly pray for them.
“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. Tetso College is a Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email: firstname.lastname@example.org”