For me, this article on one of the difficult dilemmas faced by educators today: how do we encourage high standards for students while also being sensitive to the demands placed on them by school, parents, and peers? I have had students confide in me that they feel like they are “a failure,” simply because they are not performing at the level that they want for themselves. Seeing others getting by seemingly effortlessly only adds to this feeling – when all of one’s peers project an outward air of ease without acknowledging the difficulties they are going through, it is easy to feel as though you are the only one struggling. In reality, we all have our own personal difficulties to overcome.
At the university level, there are frequently many resources for students who suffer from depression or suicidal thoughts, such as free counseling at UAF. FERPA regulations make it illegal for grades to be dispersed to parents of university students, although this can be worked around by a highly motivated parent with moderate ease. At the high school level, fear of failure and fear of not matching up to their peers are extreme challenges for many students. As an instructor, I try to acknowledge students’ value in ways that are not necessarily tied to their academic achievement, such as being generous or kind to their friends. As much as we want our students to excel academically, it is important to remember that this is not the only measure of success in life.