Tuesday, 07 October 2008
by Nurse JennaToday, I gave and graded the first exam for a new group of nursing students. Though overall they did reasonably well, many were still not happy with their grades. I always do an analysis of the exam questions to determine if a question was poorly asked, and if I think ulti mately I did not write the question well, I may add extra points to everyone’s score. I did that for one question on this exam. Despite the additional points, a couple of people still failed the test. I was approached after class by some of the students who attempted to negotiate with me. I heard about how they “needed to pass” and how “they studied really hard” and how “there were family problems.” While I did initially feel bad, the logical part of my brain prevailed. I realized, though some people may have been led to believe differently in childhood, an “A” for effort doesn’t exist in the real world.
This made me wonder if we aren’t doing our kids a disservice when we are constantly applauding their efforts, and have taken the focus completely off performance. Nowadays, every kid gets a trophy for an event, regardless of whether they have actually won or not. We celebrate graduations for every grade and make everything seem like an achievement even if nothing substantial has been accomplished. We make it seem like showing up is worthy of an award.
While certainly encouragement has to be tailored to a child’s age, (I believe you can never emotionally over-indulge an infant), I think you can distort a child’s view of themselves with constant praise as they get older. A baby throws a ball... Yeah! We all clap. The first steps are taken... Bravo! A toddler eats their vegetables... Good job! The alphabet was sung missing 10 letters... Super-duper! They tie their shoe on the wrong foot... that deserves ice cream!
The next thing you know, those kids are in nursing school thinking that because they got half the question right, they deserve some sort of credit. After all, they are accustomed to partial-credit in life, some type of gold star for trying. Unfortunately, on the job, giving someone their medication only partially correct could kill them. Trying isn’t good enough; you have to do. You don’t get to pass your exams just because you tried really hard. You don’t get promoted because you worked really hard. You have to deliver. The real world doesn’t operate on “effort.”
At what point are we actually hindering our kids by applauding effort and not results? What is an appropriate age to stop all-encompassing approval?