Hard Work = Success? Sometimes It Feels like a Lie!

Knock knock, who is really in there? (Naomi's Photos)
Knock knock, who is really in there? (Naomi’s Photos)

It’s that time of year again at the high-school. The twelfth graders are about to take a series of final exams before graduating. And  every year there are a few students who break my heart. But this year one student seems to stand out in particular.

We’ll call him P. Like the other “heartbreaking” students before him, he “bought” the school system’s slogan “hard work = success”, worked hard, did his homework, missed very few classes and reviewed the material. Unlike those other students, he remembers vocabulary items better than most of the students in all my classes. He’s curious about words, and brings in words he encounters online. Even more remarkable, he demonstrates a more extensive world knowledge than many of the other Deaf & hard of hearing students I teach.

This week we had another Mock Exam. The topic was NASA. P. knew what NASA was. Not something to to take for granted in my classes. He remembered to use the highlight-marker the way we practiced. P told me proudly that he had remembered some of the words without using the dictionary.

Once again he got the lowest grade in his class. A barely passing grade. Lower than students who, to put it politely, are not model students at all.

Despite all the ways we work on reading comprehension, he can’t seem to integrate the information in the text well. Some things baffle him even after we discuss them in mother tongue. In the aforementioned text there was a paragraph explaining how in the past only NASA employees could work on space projects (today the situation is different). P. simply could not understand the answer to the question related to who used to pay the people who worked on space projects. We discussed it for 10 minutes afterwards and he still did not see the connection between the word “employee” and the source of the payment. I tried to give examples closer to his reality, (in mother tongue!) such as the fact that I teach him at school (I’m not his employee) vs. a private tutor who could come to his home (he is then the employer). P. still didn’t understand it. Other students did not have a problem with this question!

Every test P. looks so disappointed to see his peers get higher grades, while he barely gets a passing grade. He knows he works harder than they do. He looks at me and what can I say?!!

We just continue practicing…

2 thoughts on “Hard Work = Success? Sometimes It Feels like a Lie!”

  1. This is definitely a heatbreaking story. However, practice, practice, practice and hope for an exam that goes well. AND – give him the school grade he deserves. So this one kid will have a much higher school grade than his Bagrut grade. So what? He deserves it!

  2. Naomi,

    This kind of situation really is heartbreaking. It highlights the fact that, in the end, grades are not any kind of evaluative tool for measuring students’ individual growth, but a set of arbitrary requirements. Of course, when it comes to education, it might be beneficial to a society to be able to say that such and such an age students can or cannot do such and such a thing. But when this becomes the main point of feedback, and ends up emotional damaging our students, then I think it’s about time we look for a better way to assess our students. Both Criterion-Referenced and Norm-Referenced testing end up taking the individual out of the educational experience. Why can’t we have a better, more humane system where students like P. can dine the joy and pride in their own growth?

    So much to think about. Thank you, Naomi.


Leave a Reply to Michele Ben Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *