Toughening Up

We started a new school year this year and we have a new principal to go with it (every time I write the word “principal” I remember how in elementary school they taught us the difference between “principle” and “principal” by telling us to remember that the principal is your “pal.” But I digress). This new principal seems to be a no-nonsense sort of guy who is dead set on whipping our crop of deadbeats young people into shape.

I do have some very talented students, but I also have a lot of extremely lazy rich kids who are used to getting what they want when they want it. Up till now, this included their grades. While grade doctoring is not uncommon in Chinese schools the problem had gotten completely out of control over the past year, to the point where quite a few of my students didn’t even bother writing anything on their final exam because they were so confident that their grades did not matter, that their parents would fix everything for them. It is impossible for me as a teacher to try and motivate students who think, no, who know that no matter how poorly they perform they’ll never be held accountable. They’re teenagers, they’re not self aware enough to understand that they need to do well in spite of being rich and having connections, that their education is one thing that they can control. They can’t control their parents’ fortunes, not yet. They can’t control the economy, illness, death, or any of the remote possibilities that could take those fortunes that they so count on away from them. However, they can control their own futures and make it so that they’re not reliant on their parents money for the rest of their lives. But try telling this to a bunch of teens who know it all. Why participate in class and try to better themselves when they could just as easily sleep through the whole thing and get the same outcome as the kids who bust their asses trying?

So imagine their surprise when on the first day of school they were told that from now on there would be no more grade doctoring. Our school has entered into a dual degree program with a high school in America and in order to be affiliated with this high school our school must do things on the up and up. There can be no grade fixing, and more than that, the school is cracking down on stuff like cell phone use during class, skipping, lateness, and poor behavior. They’re so serious about this that they’ve told us teachers that if they catch us letting students get away with poor behavior then they’ll dock our salaries. How real this threat is I don’t know but it certainly gives me more authority with the students.

There was a lot of grumbling today and a lot of the students obviously have not adjusted their attitudes and still think they can coast on by doing nothing. As the semester progresses we’ll see if these kids have a rude awakening or not. My students are seniors, this is their final and most important year, something that many of them will realize too late. Hopefully this new year will see the beginning of a new, higher standards at our school.

3 thoughts on “Toughening Up

  1. “Lazy rich kids” — sounds like the students I taught during my first year in China. It was even worse for me, though, because they were college students, so grades were even more irrelevant to them.

    I’m glad your school wants to uphold higher standards in education — keep us posted on how things go!

  2. Wow, I had no idea that grade doctoring was done in China. I know it happens in universities here a little bit (ie, everyone must pass) but I don`t think it happens in highschools.

    So the new principal might be a good thing or is he trying to whip the teachers into shape too? 😛

    1. thelocaldialect

      It sounds like he’s trying to toughen us up a bit, although I think most of our teachers have had their hands tied in the past due to the fact that the kids lack motivation. Some of the teachers have it easier than others, like the Physics teacher, he only has bright motivated kids really, the non motivated ones don’t take Physics, so his job is somewhat, not easier, but his students are easier to deal with. Us English teachers have ALL the kids so we bear the brunt of it. I am glad though that he’s giving us the authority to make our kids accountable for their work, even if it means holding us more accountable as well. It is impossible to teach if the students have no reason to care whether they pass or fail.

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