The pressure is on when it comes to being a student. We can look at elementary, middle, and high school – and even in college. Where is this pressure coming from? Usually the pressure has come from the school system itself. Standardized tests, entrance exams, and GPA requirements, just to name a few, bring on stress and extreme pressure to some students.
Being in an Islamic school environment, I have also realized a disturbing mindset, that many, if not most, "Muslim" parents only seem to be proud of their kids when they get an A+. This ability to only be proud of kids with an A+ really rubs off in the form of stress and pressure on the kids to only want an A+ in every single one of their classes. When a kid gets anything lower, he or she ends up upset at themselves. Most importantly, kids then begin to think that making mistakes is not allowed, because it will result in their parents not being proud of them, which in their minds often translates into their parents not loving them as much.
Unfortunately, due to the common expectations of our kids growing up to be doctors, lawyers, or engineers – kids usually get to hear: "If you don't get an A+ how will you go to medical school?!"
It is very important for families to realize that no kid is perfect, and it is not always possible to get an A+ in every class, all of your life.
Education is not to be defined by a letter grade system. Teaching is a strategic task in which the audience must be known, and assessing the students can be done in many different ways than tests and exams.
Recently, many documentaries have been released which criticize the modern education system. Race to Nowhere and Waiting for Superman are just two examples. The movies focus on the lack of critical thinking in our kids and the failure of parents and school systems to let them live the lives of children. Kids who are extremely stressed about getting an A+ sometimes forget to eat. I asked a student once why she was not attending a field trip organized by the school, and she said it was because she had a standardized test to take a few days later. College is meant for college time, and when a child is in middle or high school, (s)he should not feel too "busy" or "stressed" to partake in middle and high school activities. By no means should we promote laziness or suffocate any self-motivation to do well in school, but we do need to realize that kids need to also learn life skills of society, which will not be obtained through rote practicing of standardized exam materials.
The key players in this issue are parents. Parents need to try their best to understand that getting an A+ does not guarantee a PhD. The more parents understand that learning is a process that is different, and sometimes hard, for certain kids, the better we will see our kids enjoy school, enjoy learning, and be self-motivated to do good and try their best. Because when kids are punished for trying their best, which might just be a B-, their frustration and hate will be directed towards school and learning. Along with teaching our kids study habits and memorization skills, we also need to provide for them means of understanding the different hurdles of life and society – which they will encounter regardless of being an A+ student or not.