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Entitled Students: Of Course You Get A Trophy!

Entitled Students: Of Course You Get A Trophy!


Entitlement in schools has become a significant issue, impacting students, teachers, and the overall educational environment. This pervasive sense of entitlement, where students believe they deserve certain privileges or rewards without much effort, undermines the educational system and leads to bigger societal problems.

Understanding Entitlement in Schools

Entitlement in schools often comes from various factors. Modern parenting styles that focus on excessive self-esteem contribute to unrealistic expectations among students. Societal shifts towards instant gratification, driven by technology and social media, reinforce the belief that rewards should come with minimal effort.

Manifestations of Entitlement in the Classroom

Entitlement can appear in many forms within the classroom. Students might expect high grades regardless of their performance, resist constructive criticism, or challenge the teacher’s authority. These attitudes can disrupt the learning environment, making it difficult for educators to maintain standards and discipline.
For instance, some students might feel entitled to high grades simply for attending classes, regardless of their understanding or mastery of the material. Others may expect exceptions, such as extended deadlines without legitimate reasons. Such behaviors strain teacher-student relationships and set a poor example for other students.

Impact of Entitlement on Learning and Development

The impact of entitlement on learning and development is serious. Students who believe they deserve success without effort are less likely to develop essential skills such as perseverance, resilience, and critical thinking. These skills are crucial for success in school, career, and life.
Entitlement also leads to a lack of accountability. If students are not held responsible for their actions and outcomes, they may struggle to navigate challenges in the real world. This can result in difficulties in higher education and future employment, where effort, responsibility, and adaptability are very important.

Addressing the Issue of Entitlement in Schools

Addressing entitlement in schools requires a multifaceted approach involving educators, the administration, parents, and students. Teachers can play an important role by setting clear expectations, providing consistent feedback, and fostering an environment where effort and improvement are recognized and rewarded. Encouraging a growth mindset, where students understand that abilities and intelligence can be developed through hard work and dedication, can also counteract entitlement. However, teachers cannot uphold these high standards without the support of the administration.

Parents need to be involved as well. By setting realistic expectations and emphasizing the value of effort and persistence, parents can help their children develop a healthier attitude towards success and achievement. Open communication between parents and teachers is essential to ensure that both are reinforcing the same values.

Finally, students must be encouraged to take ownership of their learning. This can be facilitated through goal-setting, self-assessment, and reflection activities that help them understand the connection between effort and outcomes.
Entitlement in schools is a important issue that requires attention and action from all everyone in the educational community. By addressing the roots of entitlement and promoting a culture of effort and accountability, we can create an environment where students are better prepared for the challenges of the real world. This shift benefits individual students and contributes to a more equitable and effective educational system.

My Personal Experience with Entitled Students

During my first week of teaching, it was suggested that I become an advisor for one of the school’s clubs. When I did not immediately take on an advisory role for an organization of my choice, I was informed that I would be the school’s newspaper advisor. I thought it was weird that they couldn’t find someone with more experience to run the paper, but I would soon find out why the position remained vacant.

The role of newspaper advisor had me babysitting 50-60 teenagers from three to ten or eleven at night every other Friday night so they could finalize the paper. While the advisory role included a stipend, I made about a dollar an hour after all was said and done. The worst part about my advisory role was that students received grades for their work on the paper, but the student editors were the ones who assigned the grades, not me. I was tortured over grades that “technically” I assigned when their classmates were the ones doing the grading. The editors often assigned grades for arbitrary reasons, and I would be left to defend those grades to the students and their parents.

For example, a few days after the first report card went out, I received the following email:

To: Newspaper Advisor
From: Rolf’s Parents
Subject: Grade
Dear Ms. Morris,
Why did you give our son Rolf a C in your journalism class? Clearly, you cannot recognize the makings of a brilliant writer. When re-calculating Rolf’s grade, we came to realize that most of the weight of his grade rested upon a single writing assignment. We read Rolf’s article carefully and were impressed with what we saw. His work, which you gave a C, undoubtedly merited an A. We took it to a friend of ours who is a Global Distinguished Professor of Journalism at Some Fancy University and who formerly worked for a very prestigious newspaper. He agreed that Rolf’s article merited an A.
With this in mind, we request that you complete a grade change form for Rolf as soon as possible to give him the grade that he unquestionably deserves.
Thank you for your attention in this matter,
Rolf’s Parents

I read the article several times and did not feel it deserved an A. Perhaps the article would have earned a low B using a standard writing rubric, but definitely not an A. I asked various administrators for advice on how to handle this situation. After careful consideration, I decided to avoid the anguish of Rolf’s parents complaining to the school board about my careless handling of the grading process in my class. After Rolf had apologized for his parents’ email, I gave him the grade change they wanted. At least Rolf had manners.

But that was only the start of my newspaper miseries. The newspaper’s staff members all receive a very long “proclamation” about what is expected of them and how they will be graded. They are supposed to sign the proclamation in acknowledgment of the grading policies and such. The fact that they all signed this document that explicitly stated what they would be graded on meant nothing to them. And since I was not the one who was essentially assigning the grades, at the end of the quarter, a lot of bullshit hit the fan.

For example, I received the following email:

To: Newspaper Advisor
From: Hugh Jazzhole
Subject: My Grade
Ms. Morris,
I just saw that I received a B for my production grade. I know that I was late, and left early, but it is not fair that I should lose a letter grade because of that. By being late, I was not aware that I was breaking a rule that would affect my grade. I assumed my grade would be based on the QUALITY of my work and not attendance. No other teacher would do such a thing.
However, I understand that this is not a regular class. So I would not object to a few points being taken off. Yet according to my calculations, even if I get an A on all the other assignments, I would still receive a B for this grade because of the weighting. It is ridiculous for me to automatically receive a B because of attendance, especially because my tardiness made no difference to anyone. There are many things in this class that are unfair, yet I doubt that even real newspapers treat their employees so unfairly.
According to the official proclamation, one of the responsibilities of the advisor is to see that grades are given fairly. Simply put, I was not graded fairly. Therefore, it is your job to change my grade to something more reasonable. I expect this change to be made within the next week.
Hugh Jazzhole

I replied to Hugh with a clear outline of the parts of the proclamation that he signed (and the students themselves wrote). The lines stated that attendance is critical during production nights, and thus is a major part of their grade. While Hugh was busy stuffing his face at McDonalds, other students were working their asses off to make deadlines. I also said that as the advisor, I felt the grade was fair and would not change it. I received the following email in return:

Ms. Morris,
I have read your statements but I’m afraid I remain unconvinced that I deserve the grade I received. I will briefly outline my reasoning below. However, if after reading my email you still feel that I deserve the grade I received then I will directly appeal my grade to the administration, and if necessary the district, in accordance with the student due process procedure outlined by the district and the state.
According to the highlighted sections of the proclamation, by being on the newspaper staff I agreed to:
a. adhere to all deadlines
b. accept the grades given to me by my student editors (although the advisor has the ability to override those grades)
In response to part A: As previously mentioned, my lateness did not affect my deadlines.
In response to part B: Accepting grades from peer editors does not mean I cannot request a change in grade if I was treated unfairly, and clearly this is the case. Regardless of what the class is and who is “teaching,” students never have to accept a grade unconditionally. If students can protest a grade given in a regular class— taught by a professional teacher— then surely we can protest grades given by peers and overseen by an “advisor.”
Additionally, I would like to point out the district’s grading policy for grades 6-12, as stated in policy number 57 (refer to the link below). As mentioned in section A, “grades should ACCURATELY reflect a student’s ACHIEVEMENT, and should be a FAIR representation of a student’s PERFORMANCE.” As I mentioned in my previous email, my grade was not the result of poor performance, but instead the result of breaking the rules (i.e. improper behavior). Grades are meant to measure academics and not behavior. If a student behaves poorly (like being late), teachers do not lower grades but seek proper disciplinary action instead.
You may think I am overreacting to this situation. However, it is a very big deal. First of all, because of the weighting, this grade may determine whether or not I receive an A for the quarter. As you know, quarter grades are factored into the GPA, and in this very competitive world, one B can make a big difference.
However, grades aside, this situation touches on much bigger issues such as fairness and respect. Any impartial observer would see that the grade I received was unfair. In addition, a person would need to be blind to see the lack of respect that I have received. My parents, teachers and administrators that I’ve interviewed can testify to how much of an asset I am to the newspaper and to this school. Yet I still get punished for the slightest offense. I consider this disrespectful.
Therefore, the main reason that I am treating this situation as such a big issue is that I see it as a blatant sign of disrespect. The least you can do for the work I have put into the paper is give me the grade I deserve. If such clear signs of unfairness are ignored, I will have to take further action in this matter. Please take my grievance seriously.
Hugh Jazzhole

I was outraged by the level of insolence Hugh showed in his language towards me. I had been stewing in the words of this email for an entire weekend, and come Monday morning, I was fired up. I called Hugh into my classroom and told him that although he mentioned the fact that he felt disrespected, I could not believe the level of disrespect he showed towards a teacher. As I said this, his lips started to shake. I thought of him putting my titles of teacher and advisor in quotes, took a deep breath, and continued to rip into him. “How dare you speak to me that way? Do you really think that you will achieve your purpose and get what you want by treating me in such a way?” His lip was shaking violently, and he stuttered. “Well, do you?” I yelled. “Say something!”

Suddenly, a wad of spit came from Hugh’s mouth, and it rolled down his chin, mixing with a torrent of tears. He was so hysterical that he could not complete a sentence. “It’s just that… I mean… It’s not… I just…” I sat there and watched this little fit continue for several awkward minutes. He was embarrassing himself, snarfing, blubbering, and exploding with phlegm. I really did feel sorry for him. He was a fucking mess.

Like an infant after a full-blown tantrum, it took him a long bunch of crazy deep breaths and mini crying spells to calm himself. I asked him if he was under a lot of pressure to get straight A’s. He nodded yes. He said that when his parents moved here from their home country, they heard that Harvard was the best school. He was three years old at the time. Since then, they have been telling him that he must get into Harvard, or he will disgrace them. I told him that that was an awful lot of pressure and that if he wrote me a sincere apology letter, I would give him his stupid A. He did write me an apology letter, and while he was mostly full of shit, I had to see the sadness in his situation. A few months later, when he received his rejection from Harvard, he sprawled out on the floor in the hallway at school and refused to leave the building. High had enough problems, and I felt satisfied with my decision to change his grade. Sometimes, when teens try to act like arrogant adults, it can be rather convincing (some are 6’3 with full beards, which doesn’t help in this matter). But then they do something like cry uncontrollably over nothing, and it reminds you that they’re just kids, and it can be very sobering. Poor Hugh.

The final newspaper odyssey I’d like to share occurred on one of the late nights when I was in charge of fifty+ teens. Things could get quite chaotic since there was only one of me, and the students were in four or five different places. One Friday night at around 11 PM, after a very long week, a girl came into the computer lab screaming that a kid was shooting a nail gun.

Later, I sent the following email:

To: Ass. Principal
From: Newspaper Advisor
Subject: Late Night Issue (nail gun)
Dear Ass. Principal,
We are having a major problem yet everyone has left the building for the night, including all the security guards. It is 11 o’clock on Friday night. I am here supervising the newspaper staff. Seymour Butts, the sports page editor, has been going into each of the classrooms and up and down the hallways shooting a makeshift nail gun. He is shooting very large nails (I have saved several of them) at the ceiling and at other students. I asked him to leave, and he started a huge argument. Then he refused to leave. He yelled at the other students in the computer lab that it is bullshit that he should have to leave and that they should all vote on whether or not he should have to leave. I told him that we were not voting on anything, that he was acting recklessly, and there was no discussion to be had. He announced, “This is fucking bullshit! Everyone should stand up to her! We don’t have to take this shit! Fuck this!” Luckily, everyone ignored him, and he finally left the building.
If we could please meet about Seymour on Monday, I would appreciate it. Not only should he be off the paper, I’m sure you’ll agree that there should be some disciplinary action taken.
J. Morris

We met with Seymour and his father the following week to discuss his behavior. Although I was there, I did not say anything, for there was no reason to. (Keep in mind that Seymour was in attendance at the meeting as well.) This is what occurred:
ASS. PRINCIPAL: Mr. Butts, as you know, we called you here today to discuss the incident that occurred at school last Friday night.
MR. BUTTS: I would hardly call it an incident.
ASS. PRINCIPAL: What your son did was very serious. He endangered many students, and while he may not have had malicious intent, he still acted very carelessly.
MR. BUTTS: I’ll agree that what Seymour did was stupid, and I have discussed it with him. But do we need to have a meeting about it?
ASS. PRINCIPAL: Mr. Butts, I am glad that you discussed this matter with your son. But disciplinary action must be taken.
MR. BUTTS: Action was taken. He was grounded this weekend.
ASS. PRINCIPAL: Again, I am glad that you are taking this incident seriously, but the school must do something to send a message, not only to Seymour but to the rest of the students and community, that this dangerous behavior will not be tolerated.
MR. BUTTS: What are we talking about exactly?
ASS. PRINCIPAL: Well normally the police would be involved in an incident involving a weapon-
MR. BUTTS: Oh, please! A weapon? A nail gun is not a weapon. Besides, he didn’t bring the nail gun in to hurt people with it. He brought it to school to work on a project.
ASS. PRINCIPAL: That may be the case, but he still put many students in danger by using it in a reckless manner.
MR. BUTTS: Listen, Seymour is a seventeen-year-old boy, and this is what they do. He wasn’t trying to hurt anyone, and he did not hurt anyone. Just give him a detention and let’s be done with this.
ASS. PRINCIPAL: Actually, we would like to suspend him from school for a few days.
MR. BUTTS: Absolutely not! If you suspend him, he will be thrown off the baseball team!
ASS. PRINCIPAL: Seymour’s actions must have serious consequences, Mr. Butts.
MR. BUTTS: That is for me, his father, to decide. You will not take the baseball team away from him. He is going to get a scholarship!
ASS. PRINCIPAL: But Mr. Butts-
MR. BUTTS: Look, my best friend’s wife is chair of the board of ed.
MR. BUTTS: Just drop the issue.
ASS. PRINCIPAL: But Mr. Butts-
MR. BUTTS: It has been handled. Give him detention if you like, but this ends here.

And it did end there. Seymour was not even given detention. It was not to be discussed again.

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Jane Morris

Jane Morris is the pen name of an ex-teacher who would really like to tell you more about herself but is worried awful administrators will come after her for spilling their dirty little secrets. Jane has taught English for over 15 years in a major American city. She received her B.A. in English and Secondary Education from a well-known university and her M.A. in Writing and Literature from an even fancier (and more expensive) university. As a professional queen of commiseration turned published author, Jane’s foremost passion in life is to make people laugh through the tears.

She has written several highly acclaimed books unpacking the reality of teaching and life inside the school system. You can view her full library of works here.