The setting of high standards and expectations is a traditional means of encouraging an individual to increase his performance. When a person reaches a certain level the authority figure would nudge the level higher to incrementally increase the proficiency in a skill or task. This has been successful in motivating people to obtain their optimal level of performance and has kept the person focused on continuing to improve.
This approach works as long as the adult does not overwhelm the youngster with too much, too soon. When the approach is done gradually and realistically the person has the ability to reach the objective, building the competence one step at a time.
Students are all unique. There are socio economic and physiological differences that contribute to early or late bloomers and relationship incidents that affect test results. Some have time management issues working too fast or too slow. Others have problems with organization, socialization or behavior. Overlying these behavioral and skill issues are different innate abilities and interest in academic areas that influence student performance.
The reality is that children develop academically, socially and emotionally at different rates and times. This is being ignored on comprehensive testing even in kindergarten. These tests take away from children’s learning time.
It is ridiculous to mandate high standards and expectations for every student of a particular chronological age where it is not the only criteria that should be considered. The educational establishment’s Common Core Standards have arbitrarily set standards for each level that might impress the uninformed although it is setting up a substantial number of students to become frustrated and develop a defeatist attitude.
The establishment of unrealistic standards and expectations for an individual is detrimental to the self-concept of individuals. No matter how hard they try, they are unable to reach this impossible goal. They begin to view themselves as losers. This experience only reinforces the person’s urge to protect himself by shutting down and not trying.
The person’s resentment to their perceived failure can be turned inward towards himself or outward towards other authority figures. Since the parent or boss seems never to be satisfied, he learns to play games like looking busy rather than focusing on completing the task at hand. Often others become perfectionists, which results in procrastinating out of fear of failure rather than tackle the deficiency and overcome it.
When extremely pressured by parents, teachers or an employer, a youngster can give up all together or have outbursts of hostility towards the authority figure. Eventually the person stops even pretending to want to reach the unrealistic expectations set for him not with or by him.
Any person’s present skill level has to be determined in the process of setting goals. The more readily attainable the goals the more likely the person will be motivated to reach them. The more the person consistently reaches his mini objectives the more he develops a “can do” rather than a “can’t do” attitude.
Through this process the individual begins to internalize the steps necessary to attain his goals. His frustration tolerance increases. He realizes that when he follows a certain sequence of behaviors he will gain the results he wants. This becomes a habit in setting all sorts of minor goals in daily life. When these check lists are completed they bolster the person’s self-competence. This allows them to stretch and expand their standards and expectations for their own future success.
These individuals understand they have to mark a path with milestones that end where they want to be. These mini objectives guide and encourage them to finish the particular task. The person himself knows if he gets to a certain point, the next juncture will require a little more focus and energy but he knows it is do-able. There is no reason to give up. He has accepted the fact that he can be independently successful.
Domenick Maglio, PhD. is a columnist carried by various newspapers, an author of several books and owner/director of Wider Horizons School, a college prep program. You can visit Dr. Maglio at www.drmaglio.blogspot.com.