ridiculous pressure on high achievers.

(80 Posts)
OhYouBadBadKitten Mon 11-May-15 22:07:10

Just want the opportunity to rant please, without it appearing like a stealth boast, which it really isnt.
dd is in year 10. Target all a*s. Only now this doesnt seem to be good enough for some of her teachers who are putting pressure on her to aim for 100%

she has a mfl speaking thing soon. Dropped 3 marks on her last one. Her teacher has told her she should be aiming for full marks. Its batty! If she makes a single mistake she will have 'failed' their expectation. Its across several subjects and yes, she is bright, but she is a human who makes mistakes like we all do.

How on earth do I handle it? We've spent much of her life trying to rid her of the idea that she needs to be perfect and weve suddenly reached this.

Au79 Mon 11-May-15 22:27:09

But if she's getting A*, the teachers have to find some further goal for her to aim for to improve.

My dd in year 10 was made up this year when she got 100% in a test in French, even beat the native speakers in the class. She doesn't get many A* due to lack of work and admits the test was a bit lower level than some but it still gave her a boost.

I wouldn't worry too much, just be aware being told you are perfect and can quit studying now is not necessarily the best thing a good teacher should do for their best students.

ragged Mon 11-May-15 22:33:45

. interested in replies because DD is very ambitious & I don't want that to be at expense of her mental health.

AChickenCalledKorma Mon 11-May-15 22:43:39

I can see it both ways. Clearly it's ridiculous to put pressure on to the extent that a student feels like anything less than 100% is a failure. But aiming to get as close to 100% as possible might be an interesting goal for a student who really is a very high flier and at risk of coasting/losing motivation. But it would be a very clever teacher who could get that balance right.

In terms of how you handle it, I guess you just have to keep reinforcing at home that A* is bloody good and it is not remotely necessary to aim for perfection. Make sure she sees you making mistakes and life going on. And have a frank conversation with the teachers in question if you are seeing an adverse effect on her mental health.

Hakluyt Mon 11-May-15 22:48:20

Well, of course she should be aiming for 100%! That doesn't mean she's failed if she gets 97%.........

CamelHump Mon 11-May-15 22:51:53

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

CamelHump Mon 11-May-15 22:53:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TheFallenMadonna Mon 11-May-15 23:04:21

Is this her perception of her teachers'expectations? Genuinely, children will view the same situation quite differently from the teacher involved sometimes, and if she is distressed then it is worth just raising it with the teacher or her tutor to give her perspective. However, your dd improving her mark by three to get full marks isn't a world away from a weaker student improving 3 marks to hit a C. In fact, there is some evidence that it is more likely.

OhYouBadBadKitten Tue 12-May-15 06:53:21

Really interesting to read perspectives, thanks smile I think it comes back to dealing with a perfectionist child, who whilst massively matured now, used to tear everything up if she made a single mistake and us learning all sorts of strategies to deal with that Its odd that all of a sudden she is being told to aim for 100%. There is a disconnect there.
There is no way she would coast or lose motivation, not in her nature. I think she does see it is a challenge for herself and that the teachers who suggest she aim for the same might be getting it wrong.

LoloKazolo Tue 12-May-15 07:49:33

Oh dear, this was me. Skipped up three years at school and was told an A was a failure and second place was a disappointment to everyone. I, er, well. I ended up leaving school before the exams and got a job on the market and never went back to education.

I do have my own tech business now though, so it worked out fine. The real world has a lot more versions of success than school! Good enough is good enough in reality. I think for me I started getting a grip when I figured out that, outside the bizarre world of academia, it's never marks out of 100. No one has the answers and you are not actually competing against the best possible version of yourself. It's not a test of the self at all. You're competing against, you know, Bob and Laura and John, and John has a cold and Bob has never really properly understood regression to the mean anyway.

OhYouBadBadKitten Tue 12-May-15 08:05:10

That made me smile Lolo, I'm glad it worked out fine in the end.

MyVisionsComeFromSoup Tue 12-May-15 08:10:19

it's taken DD1 till the fourth year of her degree to realise that maybe she shouldn't be aiming for 100%, and that as over 70% is a first, her exam hasn't gone dreadfully if she "only" got 72%. The pressure she's put herself under over the years has been ridiculous, and if any of her teachers had added to that, i'd've been furious. As it was, thankfully, they have all mostly been pretty good at dealing with her.

GooseyLoosey Tue 12-May-15 08:15:08

I think sometimes it is hard for schools to know what to do with the really bright kids. It also depends on the teacher's perception of the mindset of the individual child. Some need to be pushed, some do not.

At17 I was teaching my A level English class to keep me engaged. My son is being encouraged to take up take up ancient Greek to keep him challenged in languages. If this wasn't happening, he would coast along and have no work ethic at all so it's good for him. He is also brimming over with self confidence (partly instilled by the school), so he can cope with not meeting expectations. I would approve of what your dd's school are doing for him.

Dd on the other hand is a ball of stress so she would get herself all worked up about it and regard herself as a failure if she could not meet the target set. She naturally works very hard so does not need artificial targets set for her. I would be cross if this were being done to dd.

Northernlurker Tue 12-May-15 08:15:23

I disagree with the other posters. I too have a bright child who had all A* targets. It's dreadful and potentially very damaging for them. They need to know what the rest of us are allowed to know - you don't have to be perfect, you just have to be good enough. Implying that less than 100% is a failure is irresponsible imo. I wish I had insisted school revise dd's targets downwards. Personally OP I would speak to school and point out that enlightened educators are devoting a lot of time to showing girls in particular that they shouldn't be aiming for perfection. Then I would tell them to back off. You may find this interesting

momtothree Tue 12-May-15 08:18:22

Love that line - the real world has different marker for success - so true - I have a child somewhat younger so I know the type - they hate failure! See it as a weakness I despair for her sometimes. Still hopping she`ll grow out of it.

TooManyHouseGuests Tue 12-May-15 08:22:34

Interesting, I think there is a difference between stretching children and turning them into perfectionists. I think being a perfectionist is a maladaptive trait...it's not really a good thing to be. It sounds like a system/curriculum that has a ceiling on the most able children forces them to be perfectionists because there is "no where else to go."

I feel for your DD OP, and I understand why you would be fretting. I don't have any good suggestions either.

OhYouBadBadKitten Tue 12-May-15 08:24:00

In some ways I guess it is good that she must be showing less stress in school than she used to - she must have improved in her management of it (or at least her public face) and whilst others are running round saying how stressed they are, she keeps quiet, but they don't see the dd that I do. I think you are right NL, I need to have a word with her HOY. Our goal as parents was to raise a happy well balanced child and I guess that bit of parenting isn't finished.
It was a really interesting article to read - rather like that headteacher!

Mistigri Tue 12-May-15 08:39:09

I completely agree with houseguests above. I work with two younger women, very high achievers with doctorates, whose careers risk being hampered by excessive perfectionism.

I'm glad that my DD isn't a perfectionist. She has exams this year (french school leaving diploma) and she has around 93-94% in the continuous assessment component of the marks. If any teacher dared to suggest that she should be aiming for 100% they would get a furious response from me.

Consciously aiming for perfection can result in very straightjacketed, inflexible and unimaginative work. DD recently got "only" 75% in a geography assignment (a written piece about the importance of tourism for the local economy) which didn't correspond precisely to the teacher's rather narrow expectations - to my mind it was a fine piece of discussion and analysis which went above and beyond expectations. In fact as a general observation, her least good marks this year have been when she has taken an approach to an assignment that would be, perhaps, more appropriate in a higher education or professional setting. Aiming for 100% isn't always aiming higher.

IrenetheQuaint Tue 12-May-15 08:47:30

Yes, do speak to them. If your DD needs further challenge then outside the curriculum (either broadening her understanding of subjects she's interested in or outside school altogether) would be better.

I speak as someone who has A*s and Firsts all the way and have found that real life requires an entirely different set of skills and a lot of resilience.

Georgethesecond Tue 12-May-15 09:00:51

I have one of these, and I was one of these. I just say that to get 11 A stars is nice, but you don't actually need it. The oxford offers in our immediate circle have gone to candidates with 8, which helps. I also add that to get them all you need hard work AND luck, which you may or may not get.

tenderbuttons Tue 12-May-15 09:35:20

NL that's a really interesting article, thank you for the link. We're not at that stage yet, but are now looking at secondary schools, and the one that seems on paper to be the best fit for DD, is renowned for being a hothouse, and I am increasingly getting cold feet about it.

And Irene, yes I think that resilience is exactly it. And that comes from failing, picking yourself up, trying again with a different strategy, and perhaps a lot of bright children don't have the chance to do that. It's what toomanyhouseguests said, that if they don't get stretched, perfectionism is the maladaptation.

I think we are almost out of it now, but DD had a phase where, if she couldn't get the answer to a sum by just looking at it and the correct figure popping into her head, she had no idea what to do next, and so she panicked and cried. Harder stuff earlier would have nipped that in the bud.

MyVisionsComeFromSoup Tue 12-May-15 09:39:24

we "helped" DD during primary by making her have tennis lessons - she was absolutely dreadful, the rest of her class weren't much better, BUT they all had a whale of a time, and DD began to realise you could try really hard, be rubbish and still have fun.

NotCitrus Tue 12-May-15 09:53:19

Surely with languages it's easy to extend the high achievers - give them a book or web links in said language and tell them to have a go. Percentages aren't going to be a good measure of the difference between the highest achievers.

howabout Tue 12-May-15 10:41:02

Really interesting thoughts. I was an unchallenged high achiever at the local comp and really struggled to adjust when I got to Uni and found others as bright as me. If I had been pushed more or given more opportunities to push myself at school I think my self-confidence and reliance would have been better. I used to manage successive cohorts of graduate trainees and in the workplace perfectionism can be a real problem - people need to be able to understand and apply the 80/20 rule and also it generally hampers team working.

I now have 2 dd both at the top of their year in all subjects. The first is very self driven and self critical and the other is a lazy coaster. Last round of parents nights I found myself saying to the same Maths teacher - dd 1 got 97% but got all questions wrong in one area so has a gap in her knowledge, dd2 got 97% and it is great that she is now gaining in confidence and actually challenging herself. In this case it was the driven one that needed to be told it is ok to admit you don't know something and the lazy one has thrived from not being pushed.

However in English where there are no right answers dd1 really thinks she is no good at it and dd2 thinks given that her understanding of text is great and her storytelling is fantastic she need not bother with spelling and grammar. I was asking the English teacher to lay off dd1 and tell dd2 to get her dictionary out.

So I think it can be right to push but I think it has to be done sensitively.

Best thing I did for perfectionist dd1 was to enrol in sports lessons just for fun! All went wrong when the instructor got the competition bug though.

Mistigri Tue 12-May-15 13:37:02

Challenging bright children doesn't necessarily have to be about turning a 97% into a 100% though.

Pushing children to strive for 100% can easily result in a child who produces correct, but formulaic, answers or who refuses to take risks. I'd rather have a creative child who sometimes gives slightly left field answers than one who just churns out work that ticks all the right boxes.

Plus, in mfl, perfectionism is for many teenagers a huge barrier to actually saying anything, ever. DD has pretty good Spanish - we just had an exchange student here and a casual listener might think DD was fluent. If you listen carefully though it's clear that she uses lots of non-verbal gestures and even the odd French word where she's short of vocabulary. It doesn't hinder communication though because she focuses on what she can say rather than what she can't. In contrast many of the other students in her year are still paralysed by a fear of getting it wrong as soon as they move away from very formulaic exchanges.

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