Saturday, July 10, 2010

Unrealistic expectations

Some students have unrealistic expectations. In the same way that some parents lower the expectations of their students, it does also go the other way.

One sector of the school population where this is common is with students of non-english speaking backgrounds. Students can be put under extreme pressure to perform, often after going through very limited schooling. It's not just a Perth thing, it was also observed in Windle's study (2009) where students reported higher understandings of English than their assessment recognised, the students had high levels of aspiration to attend university but a very low chance of success.

In the refugee population, this is a common problem, with many having had limited schooling prior to gaining residency or refugee status. It leads to exacerbate the demands on teachers in low-socioeconomic schools (as observed by Campbell Cook and Dornen, 1995), with teachers recognising ability, but requiring inordinate amounts of work to see these students through. In talking to a care worker outside the system, they raised that other issues are also common such as sleeplessness (due to hyper awareness), distrust of authority and reluctance (or over demand) when seeking assistance.

When you consider that many of these students are not eligible for additional funding, yet require lower primary assistance within a high school environment, it is easy to see why their performance can fall below school norms. Yet these same students are averaged into "my school" results. From a school perspective these students are a real problem.

For these students to be seen as a problem is a social justice issue that needs resolving. It is a real problem when moving from a searching for excellence paradigm to a market driven approach. In a pure market driven approach, these students would be excluded from mainstream education (to preserve school results and ensure that the calibre of students at a school is maintained) and placed in segregated specialist programmes. Yet from an ESL perspective (as discussed with ESL teachers) this is detrimental to their progress as their immersion to common language is a requirement for their improvement.

As a teacher it is a frustrating problem as you need to help at-risk students, but know to do so will draw attention away from kids that have higher probabilities of success. The 'greatest good' model vs the 'rights of an individual' is in firm conflict. Couple this to the higher risk that their 'other' issues may undermine your teaching programme for these at-risk students and the opportunities for success further decrease. Reverse racism (predjudice of non-minority but equally disadvantaged groups)is common, as are claims of racism if direct assistance is withdrawn. It can be a real catch-22 situation.

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