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The student news site of Ritenour High School.

Ritenour Live

The student news site of Ritenour High School.

Ritenour Live

Expectation overload

High expectations can propel students to achievements, but they come at a cost
Expectation+overload
Klayton Wilkinson

Expectations are inanimate values that can be used in an attempt to make a person ‘better’. Yet, high expectations feel like a punishment for countless high school students. 

While general expectations can be beneficial to keep a defined structure, heightened expectations create new fears and take a mental toll on students. This causes a struggle within the mind and the physical being when a student believes they are lesser than others or feels like they are not meeting expectations. 

There are an array of expectations that a student may have to deal with throughout their academic journey. Some of these expectations include needing to get and maintain straight A’s, needing to strive for perfection, and not believing that they are allowed to make mistakes before they get to succeed.

 These beliefs are instilled into students’ minds in various ways: parents, teachers, and the students themselves are all reasons students may think they have to be exceptional in every aspect of their lives. 

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The majority of current studies only discuss the benefits of having high expectations. Some of the benefits that are discussed include improved academic performance, a boost in student belonging, and driving student success. 

These benefits are all hooked to the idea of high expectations being a significant factor in success. Studies refrain from discussing the potential damages.

In a school setting, academic success is applauded by teachers, principals, and other administrators. This celebration creates high expectations for some learners who are told they are “smarter” than their peers. 

Some parents also expect the most from their kids, which turns into a daunting task for students to handle.

They never know if what they are doing is good enough, and this has an impact. 

 

High Expectations Lead To Mental Health Issues

High expectations can directly tie to mental health issues. The American Psychological Association conducted research that found that parental expectations have been linked to student perfectionism which damages mental health. 

Assistant Professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science said in an American Psychiatric Association article that “Perfectionism is a pressing societal concern. It contributes to several mental health difficulties and is increasing, with more young people reporting unrealistic expectations for themselves and others, and pressure to be perfect than ever before.”

With more unnecessary expectations it changes one’s perception of how well things should be executed. 

Senior Katie Kurtz believes that she lives with the expectations of being an extraordinary kid with good grades and even better mannerisms. 

These expectations were given to her by her parents, some intentionally, while others were indirect expectations they had, but did not say out loud. Kurtz has always strived to be exemplary with her grades and other activities her whole life. However, those implemented expectations have created a mental struggle that she has yet to learn how to cope with. 

“Having such high expectations set for me as a kid made me develop a serious fear of failure,” Kurtz said. 

This fear of failure is a universal phobia among students who have grown up with high expectations. Making a mistake should be considered a natural human behavior, yet when a person is told they have to be exceptional it changes the concept of a mistake. This is what happened to Kurtz. She fears the idea of mistakes because it is automatically perceived as failure by her. Realistically, the mistakes she could potentially make are a part of life.

“I still have that mindset that I need to be perfect,” Kurtz says “The stress alone is eating away at my mental health.” 

According to the Institute of Educational Advancement, about 20% of gifted children actually have legitimate problems due to their perfectionism. 

“After I got a bad score on the first essay I wrote in College Composition it completely knocked me down,” said Kurtz “After the first two essays I never thought that my work was good after that, I always doubted that it fit my teacher’s expectations and even asking her to look over it didn’t help the process.”

 

Setting Expectations Early

School settings have traditionally tried to implement high expectations onto their students. 

Whether they intend to do so or not, the expectations, which some students describe later on as unrealistic, can have negative effects. 

In elementary and middle school in the Ritenour School District, selected students were enrolled in the gifted program, which was called “Project Challenge.”

 Ritenour, and other districts across the country, screen students who do significantly better in their class than their peers and see if they can get nominated into the Project Challenge group. Once they are tested into the program, they have a designated Project Challenge class to push their intelligence.

Maureen Hoeft is a Project Challenge teacher at both Ritenour Middle School and Hoech Middle School. Hoeft believes that the program provides many benefits for the students.

“I think the Ritenour gifted program has worked hard to offer equitable services to our students, with a really strong screening process, which we created over the past couple of years and continue to improve,” Hoeft said.

The idea of Project Challenge is beneficial for students in need of further challenges when their original class becomes too simple for them. However, Hoeft can also see the side that can take a toll on a student with the gifted label.

“(Children labeled gifted students) have felt entitled, like they deserved special treatment or recognition, or like they had extra pressure on them to be perfect,” Hoeft said. 

Not only have the instructors taken notice of these effects, but students who formerly participated in the program have taken notice as well. Senior Ayden Simino believes that while he was able to create friendships through the class and get great experiences at the time, there were not any lasting benefits.   

“I would just do it differently, and probably set boundaries to what I feel like I can control and what I can’t so that way I don’t get burnt out,” Simino said.

While the gifted program can create friendships, challenges, and new experiences it has also created a sense of burnout in the future of students’ schooling. The Project Challenge program itself is not the stem of burnout, but the advanced pathway continues into high school with college credit, AP, and honors courses. All of these can push people to strive for excellence due to high expectations, which causes the negative effects of these programs and courses to outweigh the benefits.

 

Keeping Expectations Within Reason

While expectations can create positive outcomes, it is important to keep said expectations within reason. Keeping student and child expectations at a uniform, realistic level will allow more positive outcomes to occur. When they are unreasonably high, students will succumb to pressure and it reduces the chance to achieve the standards the world desires. 

Seeing as Kurtz and Simino have both had to submit to those pressures in their battle of dealing with the expectations given to them it is not uncommon for students with the gifted label. 

In an article on Education Corner about the advantages and disadvantages of gifted learning, author Becton Loveless says that having expectations that were too high for children can stifle the academic growth of teenagers. 

“It is important to remember that a student may have varying strengths,” Loveless said. “A child may also expect they can accomplish tasks easily because they have been told they are gifted and beat up on themselves if they have difficulty.” 

Life involves making mistakes and having labels as gifted, an overachiever, and mature for their age will create a divide when a student begins to struggle with issues of higher intensity. They are unaware they can struggle if what they believe makes them gifted is other things being easy.

Although there can be negative consequences of gifted education, these programs are trying to understand them and update the curriculum to make it less potentially harmful.

“I expect my gifted students to be teenagers (or pre-teens) who are trying to figure out life, just the same as anyone else.” says Hoeft “ It’s possible that the gifted class creates stress because the assignments can be challenging sometimes.  They have to work with others, take risks, and create things.  But we do our best to not give our students extra work — just different work.”

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About the Contributors
Hallie Thornburgh, Staff Reporter
Hallie is in her first year on the Pepper Box staff. She joined Pepper Box because Stein was her favorite teacher and he said she would be a good writer for the paper. In addition to working on the school newspaper, she also runs long distance in track, goes to baseball games, and cooks food. In the future, Hallie would like to go off to college and strive for a job in forensics.
Klayton Wilkinson, Staff Reporter
Klayton Wilkinson is in his first year on the Pepper Box staff. He joined Pepper Box because he was invited by Stein. In addition to working on the school newspaper, he alsos spend much time drawing, and being outside. In the future, Klayton would like to become a mechanical/ aerospace engineer and put something awesome sauce into space.

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