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- What Happens When the Teacher is the Bully? - November 28, 2016
- If A Rose Can Grow in Concrete, You Can Find A Flower in the Desert - November 21, 2016
- It Ain’t What They Call You. It’s What You Answer To - April 26, 2016
- Imposter Syndrome Among High School Students - April 20, 2016
- How to Survive the Last Semester of the School Year with Your Sanity Intact! - January 12, 2016
- Controversy: Addressing Challenging Topics in Your High School English Class - January 8, 2016
- High School Classroom Management 101: Building Relationships - October 8, 2014
- Doing the Differentiation Dance - June 17, 2014
For the sake of this article, we will call him Jarvis. Jarvis is a current junior at a math/science magnet high school in Georgia where he has the second-highest GPA in the entire building. Not his grade. The building. Out of 2,275 students, there is the only person who has a higher GPA than he does and she is a freshman. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, he also scored a 31 out of 34 on his ACT (on a day when he had strep throat), and after being ill-pleased with his first set of SAT scores, spent every day for weeks, after completing his homework, of course, studying for the next test on which he scored 2200 out of 2400. Did I mention that he plays soccer, is a member of The National Honor Society, The BETA Club, SGA, volunteers to feed the homeless and hungry with his cousin’s ministry at least 3-4 times a semester, and he’s a genuinely nice, caring, and humble person? Yeah. Look up “badass” in the dictionary and you’re likely to find him listed among the definitions, next to Shonda Rhimes. But, there’s a problem.
As one of my former students, we have developed a pretty close relationship. His mother passed away before he got to high school and through our interactions in and out of class, he gravitated to me and truly become one of my children. One day we were talking about where he was thinking about applying to school and I was suggesting some Ivy Leagues along with those that might appeal to him because of his interests in engineering. He got quiet and looked down. “What’s wrong Jarvis?” He remained still for a few more seconds and then remarked, “What if I don’t GET into college?” I rolled my eyes and just looked at him before I responded. “Seriously Jarvis. We’re back at this again?” See, this wasn’t the first time I’d encountered his insecurity about his academic future. It had been a running theme since the year he was in my honors 9th Grade Literature class sporting a pure, not impacted by extra credit, (because I didn’t give any) 99 average. If you compliment Jarvis on his fine academic achievements and remark what an intelligent young man he is he will almost always respond, “I’m not smart. I just work hard” and then he will proceed to name all of the other students in the building who he perceives to be better than him.
Did I mention he has the second-highest GPA in the building? But that’s just part of the problem. The bigger issue is that he’s not the only one. In fact, he’s one of no less than a dozen or so high-achieving students who will tell you a myriad of reasons why they don’t deserve the accolades they receive. When asked why they will say “because I’m really not that smart.” And as much as I want to fuss at them and shake them and tell them how ridiculous they sound, I can’t. Because I understand exactly what they’re talking about. But that’s a story for a different article.