Steffanie Rivers

*I read a banner on the front of a school building last week that read “this high school is academically acceptable.” And while I agree that praise is a good form of motivation, since when is just being “acceptable” something to be proud of? That’s like coming in last in a track meet and still getting a medal just for showing up; that’s akin to a child bringing home a report card full of “C’s” and then boasting because everyone else in the class earned “D’s.” If I was the principal of that school I would respectfully decline to hang that banner, lest the faculty and students start to believe there was no need to try harder.

Underachievement – or just plain laziness – has become the accepted norm these days. Men don’t bother to remove their hats when they enter a room; more people prefer to wear jeans to church instead of their Sunday best and some educators would rather cheat on standardized tests or lower the standards than to break a mental sweat and challenge their students to perform better. And we wonder why some people expect a pat on the back for the simplest things such as providing for their own children or showing up to work everyday on time.

A family member recently adopted four siblings between the ages of 4 and 15 (from an underachieving mother, but that’s another story for another day). And while the eldest was one of the smartest in her school – a big fish in a small pond – when she transferred to a bigger school district where nobody knew her and she had to prove herself all over again the teen realized what her adopted mother had been telling her, that she didn’t know everything.

Psychologists confirm that when children are challenged to perform they are more likely to meet or exceed our expectations. And if you are a parent or have ever worked with children or young adults you know it’s impossible to lead where you won’t go or teach what you don’t know. So could it be that the people who are in charge are the lazy underachievers?  As much as we want children to ‘do as we say, not as we do’ the truth is most women become their mothers, men their fathers and our teachers have a lasting impression on our lives. If you are fortunate enough to be a parent, teacher or part of a child’s life start by being the best you can be and then expect the best from those around you. Don’t live with excuses. Live with great expectations.