Society tells us what is right and what is wrong. In America, there are laws that make things legal or illegal. In addition to this, there are social regulations which determine what, though not illegal, is immoral and thus equally inappropriate behavior. Besides these two factors, there are the peer pressures of our individual dialogue groups which have influence on society as well. For example, religious groups determine what is appropriate for their followers. As teachers, it is important to understand the events and experiences which have shaped our own personalities and thus try to ensure that our students have the most positive experiences possible. Equally important is for a teacher to know the traumas we have faced and how they have affected us, thus allowing us to understand that similar traumas may have affected out students.
I was raised in a neighborhood where we were the only family of a different faith from the majority. When the uniqueness of the situation was discovered by fellow students, it caused many to ostracize me. In a predominantly same-minded environment, this difference was unacceptable to some. Several of my classmates would tell me that their parents would no longer allow them to associate with me because of my family's religious beliefs. I have noticed similar ostracism from native-born American children against immigrant students and vice-versa. In schools where the native-born is in the majority, differentiation is noted and mocked. In one middle school I have worked at, the majority of the student body is first or second-generation immigrants from Mexico. Consequently, the African-American or Caucasian kids are made to feel like outsiders. Having never been a part of the in group, whether because of religious differences or the personality clashes between "cool" and "uncool," I cannot say what the experiences are like for students who do not feel like outsiders. I can vouch for the uncool kids, those who feel like they do not fit in. This is an important group to identify with because these are often the kids that become depressed and, later in their school careers, tend to get into academic trouble.
Another factor in student discouragement is a student's socioeconomic standing. Growing up, I was very poor. My clothes came from thrift stores. I didn't have more than one pair of shoes. My parents didn't drive fancy or expensive cars. Kids today are still living in poverty, but it is such a different thing. I see kids who don't have coats but they are texting away on their cell phones. There are kids without health insurance who are listening to iPods. The priorities are changing. America is a material society becoming all the more so as the years progress. A six-year-old told me the other day that he wanted an iPhone for his birthday and that if he didn't have one, he wouldn't be cool. I remember in school that the kid who had gotten a new basketball for his birthday and brought it to school would be envied. Nowadays it takes expensive electronic luxuries to produce the same reaction. Students are getting more and more accustomed to getting what they want and so they have become less adept at working to achieve their goals. As a group, American students are growing lazier because they are used to getting what they want. The parents are changing as well. They have become more pal than paragon and many modern parents give their children fancy technologies and expensive gifts. They also give the students excuses. In olden days if a student got a bad grade on the test, a parent would yell at the child and tell them to study harder for next time. Modern parents tend to see a bad grade and blame the teacher who gave it. One parent accused me of hiding her child's homework so that I could give the student a zero. Parents are teaching their children that it is not hard work that will get you ahead, but blaming someone else for your failures.
I believe it is important to build up both a child's self-esteem and self-efficacy. Kathleen Berger (2010). differentiates between self-esteem and self-efficacy. Self-esteem is defined as "a person's evaluation of his or her own worth, either in specifics or overall." Self-efficacy is more concerned with how much a person believes him or herself to be capable of. Both these terms relate back…