How much is too much?

I ask myself this question a lot.  How much is too much?  When do you know you’ve pushed your students far enough?  Too far?

Today I was coaching debate, as usual.  There are six students that I coach privately on a regular basis.  Four of them are in high school, two are in middle school.  They’re all amazing kids, but there are days I worry about the younger two.  Again, great kids, well adjusted, but they’re the youngest.  And being the youngest, they’re always compared to their siblings.  Their siblings who are on Team Canada.  Their siblings who are the best in Canada.  What makes matters worse is that they debate with the same families.  So it’s literally two teams of siblings.  I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “Wow, they’re as good as their siblings” or worse “They’ll never be as good as their siblings.”

There are days that I forget they’re in middle school.  They debate the same topics as their siblings.  While they’ve never beaten their siblings, they’ve come damn close.  They won the first tournament, in the senior division.  Granted, their siblings didn’t compete, but they beat the other top teams in Saskatchewan.

They stand their own ground against the top teams.  Until something happens and I remember that they’re only middle schoolers.

When they meltdown because they’ve been told “they’ll never be as good as their sister/brother” I remember they’re only 13.  When they meltdown because they were referred to “Salim/Moumin version 2.0” I remember they’re only 13.  When they cry before a tournament I remember they’re 13.

I push them.  I admit it.  They read The Economist.  They’ve done an analysis on Jared Bremmer’s The J Curve as well as an analysis on Paul Collier’s the Bottom Billion.

They’re 13.

How much is too much?

Is expecting them to be the best they can be, too much?

How do we as teachers know when is enough, or too much?

How do we know which students thrive on pressure (such as my one debater, who is attending worlds) or hate it (like her old partner, who quit because the pressure was too much.)?

How do we know when best intentions are paving the roads to Hell?

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(Layla and Ahmereen)

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