As I and so many other seniors suffered through the college application process, I have come to appreciate truly how large of a world we live in. Better put, I’ve realized how small West Jessamine High School is in comparison. Over the past few months I have met students from across the nation, from schools that sponsor debate teams, International Baccalaureate programs, and celebrate every year as their seniors are accepted to the Ivy League. To see so many experiences out in the world is inspiring. Yet I can’t help but to ask not only how can West Jessamine reach those heights, but why isn’t West Jessamine there already? The answer might be as simple as alarming: low expectations.
What were we really told by the purchasing of iPads to improve ACT scores? Implicitly, that we were too dumb to improve on our own, and that we needed special assistance in order to meet the minimum state requirement. What are we told by extensions, retests, and bonus points? Once again, that we are too stupid to be expected to get it right the first time. The same idea applies when students are spoon-fed information as opposed to just reading the chapter.
The effect of these chronic low expectations is low performance. In other words, if you treat your students as if they are dumb, they will act the part. But if you treat your students with the respect to hold real expectations, then they will meet the bar, and who knows, maybe even exceed it. Psychologists refer to this phenomenon as the Pygmalion effect or Rosenthal effect.
West Jessamine has a wealth of intellect between its students and its faculty. Being eighth in the state is a real achievement, but imagine where West Jessamine would be if only we, the student community, were simply held to higher standards. We would have more opportunities, higher test scores, and we all would be more competitive in both the college search and in the workforce. Maybe the process of improving the school starts with respecting students enough to simply raise the bar, however counterintuitive it may seem.