Can We Help the World by Teaching ‘Entitled’ Kids?

entitled34361540It’s no secret a large number of our International school students come from families belonging to the uppermost financial echelon of their societies. As such, many of these kids are accustomed to enjoying the extreme privileges that come with such status, but without ever having taken part in the efforts required to earn those entitlements. For us as teachers, it should come as no surprise when these students expect ‘As’ in exchange for efforts that deserve ‘Cs’ at best.

While teaching in South America, I encountered entitled students for the first time. Our school was conducting a Science competition & at first sight the projects impressed me as nothing short of brilliant–skills in mathematics, industrial drawing, metal fabrication, welding, painting & carpentry were all evident in the creation of these projects. Later that year, however, small groups of these same students created and built teacher-assigned projects during school hours. I discovered they could not draw a workable diagram or nail two boards together. It was obvious they had not built the Science projects so celebrated just a few months earlier!

As we all know, domestic help is commonplace overseas: Workers clean house, wash the car, do the landscaping & prepare meals. But it’s an entirely different situation when household help create entire projects for students & even do their home work, particularly since these same children, propelled by their family name, will go into prominent business & government positions.

As International educators, we have the rare opportunity to influence these students & in essence, the future of their countries. Wow! What an opportunity! The question is, How do we reach these kids of the ‘silver spoon mentality’?

ISR invites you to share your successes with privileged students & relate how you went about motivating such students to work to their greatest potential.

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48 Responses to Can We Help the World by Teaching ‘Entitled’ Kids?

  1. Anonymous says:

    The article may be tailored towards parents, but the principles apply equally well in the classroom. eg I asked my students “Which is more important? Who you are, or what you have? Discuss”:

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  2. Anonymous says:

    Yes, I have had some success using some of the parenting skills in the article within the classroom at my school. Other attempts such as the following all failed

    * pointing out that their parents are paying a lot of money to send them a private school
    * showing a map of the world in which English is spoken
    * Telling the students they are behaving at a level of maturity far below their ability

    Teaching them to have empathy for their fellow students, their teachers, and other human beings in general, and to be less selfish & self centered, is working. Many of my students are passionate about ethics & religion, but were not the least bit interested in any of the former.

    eg I used the question in class “Which is more important? Who you are, or what you have?”

    Compare Ataturk, Mother Teresa, all of the saints and prophets with Hitler, Mussulini, Stalin & Assad. Discuss both good and bad behavior.

    It is working for many (but not all) of the students, who were previously disinterested.

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  3. Chris says:

    Good article here:

    http://www.education.com/reference/article/selfish-spoiled/

    Click on ‘view full article’ below the pages. Well worth reading.

    I’d agree with previous comments that teaching unselfishness, justice and equality are part of the solution to teaching spoilt children.

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  4. The Hippo says:

    Teaching in Gulf countries in the Middle East is not just about “entitlement” – a misleading word if ever there was one. It is also about blatant racism. When you see Gulf Arab children shouting rudely at their Nepali drivers or expecting the Filippino maid to carry their schoolbag for them or getting their Pakistani tutor to do their homework for them, then it will make you feel sick. Gulf Arabs assume that inferior races are there to do the work for them. Is there any reason for thinking that this situation is going to change? I do not think so. Schools like Doha College and the American School in Qatar have very few Qatari students.

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    • Grace says:

      Touche! You are right that racism transcends beyond entitlement. A deplorable mindset. Then these very same students study abroad and try to treat their teachers in the same way as in their countries of origin, and then the students can’t understand why the instructors in other countries will not tolerate it.

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  5. James says:

    From today’s NY TIMES College Debate
    Preparing for Citizenship, Not Just a Job
    Ellen McCulloch-Lovell, Marlboro College

    Thought it was relevant, although this op-ed is more spefically about university rather than high school students…

    You are asking the wrong question. Today’s students should not be chasing “return on investment.” They should be considering a different “R.O.I.,” over the longer term: return on the individual. That means a lifetime of skills, like learning how to learn, adapting to a changing economy and society, expressing oneself clearly, solving problems creatively, and acquiring the civic skills to contribute to our democracy.

    Colleges and universities want graduates to thrive in their lives, to see the value of the degree. But we must enlarge and enrich our definition of “value” beyond the purely monetary. Students must be prepared for a lifetime of engagement, not for specific jobs that may change or even disappear. The need to innovate goes deeper than the job market; it reaches into how we organize our social and political interactions.

    Consider a civic scorecard: Do a college’s graduates vote regularly? Advocate causes? Participate in their children’s schools?
    Just after President Obama’s State of the Union address, the White House released a “college scorecard” on performance and value. It measures institutions according to their net cost, average amount of student debt and loan default rates weighed against the salaries of graduates with federal loans. The view is all about money.

    It’s time to refine what we mean by “value.” It’s time to ask students how well prepared they are to be the inquiring, analytical, vocal and engaged citizens our democratic system so desperately needs. Colleges and universities should be measured by how well we carry out the civic mission of higher education.

    If you want to grade higher education, here are some suggestions for a more meaningful scorecard: Do the students we educate vote regularly? Do they volunteer with a civic organization? Do they give to and advocate for their favorite causes? Do they participate in their children’s schools?

    If we measure ourselves on a “civic scale,” not only a monetary return on investment, we might find that these two correlate, along with the more illusive “pursuit of happiness.” Return on investment means not only finding a good job but finding meaning in life in service to others and the country.

    And if you really want to go to law school or get your M.D.? Do it. The world always needs good lawyers and doctors, just as we need great teachers, musicians and poets

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  6. International schools , certainly in the so-called “developing South”, provde a key mechanism of “social reproduction” for local elites to insure that their progeny gain access to reputable Western universities in order to help insure the intergenerational hand-off of power, privilege, and authority. In Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and to a lesser degree in Asia, international schools are the debutante societies of the children from entrenched elite families going back multiple generarions. Such schools provide the social and political context for initiating, maintaining, and deepening ties and networks between affluent and powerful families, while providing a high degree of insurance that elite children will head down the road of “accomplishment”. The parents, grandparents, great grand parents, etc in these families often represent the top of the social and economic hierarchy of local and national, even, regional power structures, sometimes going back to the founding of nations and colonial times. In so far as many poorer countries with international schools are also scarred with corruption, desperate income inequality, civil and political unrest and oppression, systematic human rights abuses, pervasive labor exploitation, huge concentrations of wealth, mass poverty, disease and unemployment, (all of which are a product of the larger social system and those with the wealth and power to control it) we as international educators can’t escape the reality that we are, whatever our noblest intentions, often inadvertently supporting injust regimes and societies. We do this by helping to provide the Western educational admission tickets deemed desirable by each new generation of elites. The issue for me is not whether this is the case, but rather what we as socially aware professionals can and should do about it.

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    • This doesn’t make privileged students at international schools “bad kids”. I think most of us know that they are in many respects very engaging, capable, and likeable young people, with great possibilities as individuals. What it does do, though, is make us responsible for working where we can to insure that these kids don’t simply return from their expensive Western education as young adults to continue with business as usual.

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    • James says:

      but rather what we as socially aware professionals can and should do about it.

      Such as? It gets into a hugely grey area, where doing “too much” can cost you your job (which might be fine unless you’re married or responsible for taking care of a child or children)…doing nothing leaves you morally bankrupt, where you’re basically collecting a check and condoning the status quo.

      Everyone can rationalize their positions to give themselves the comfort to go to sleep. You either have to accept certain situations, try to change them or decide fighting X number of battles still won’t win you the war, so maybe it’s better to find a different place of employment.

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    • Marmar says:

      although some of what you express is true, it constitutes a rather patronizing . condescending point of view which over-generalizes and takes a sweeping negative point of view. Try looking back home at your “elite” royalty, multi-millionaires and your corrupt politicians and where they send their kids. You will find that the teachers will have similar if not worse attitudes expressed in different ways. So stop the “Anna and the King”.

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  7. Jon Cristofer Miller says:

    Here are several not-quite-random thoughts:
    1) as professionals, we are to do our best for all of our students. That sometimes brings us in conflict with their traditions… e.g., do identical essay answers mean “good memorization skills” from material reviewed before exams or merely copying during them?
    2) in international schools, we are dealing with several levels of teaching; the specific subject, its context in life outside the school, English skills, test-taking [and reading] skills,
    3) in a social context, we balance individual initiative and community obligations… and a sense of realism from our multinational experience. I went to a “tree-planting” day in China, expecting to work for several hours. In fact, each student and teacher walked to a row of holes already dug, with a tree on the ground. Our task was to pick up that tree, put it in the ground, and tamp a little dirt around it. Then, it was off to the adjacent theme park. I was furious, but said little. Instead, as I walked back to the staging area, I began to pick up the accumulated trash. A few students followed suit. Six months later, in her college “personal statement,” one student recalled that trash-picking aspect as mind-changing. She – and some others – began to understand that “volunteerism” is more than a one-shot photo opportunity
    4) a number of students did volunteer work in nearby public schools, and found it both rewarding and sobering. Seeing kids their own age in rooms with no heat and classes with no books gave them a sense of their privilege. The degree to which that sense remained is debatable, but I – for one – am glad that they experienced it, and think it will influence their future behavior.
    ### Cris Miller

    Like

    • Anonymous says:

      good for you cris!…wondering how China compares to other countries as far as students being spoiled, treating teachers with respect, etc…I’ve heard China is quite good in this respect…

      Like

  8. dfresshh says:

    Interesting ideas around entitlement, equality, etc. I think a sense of equality is one of those dominant American values, at least in theory , that many other countries do not hold. Not to say that there aren’t other holes in the values system, but this is generally a strong point in my experience abroad.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    I think we are heading into a new developmental model when it comes to entitlement in secondary age kids. Though I hesitate to say it’s “everywhere,” an overinflated sense of self-worth and a reliance on numerous unearned privileges–most of which are not even understood as privileges–seems to be making it’s way DOWN the income scale. I’ve taught the super rich abroad and now I’m seeing it in the well-off and the middle class at the school where I teach in the US.

    I think the immediacy and instant gratification of technology has somehow warped their brains into thinking they should be able to have whatever they want whenever they want it. Overly permissive parents only make matters worse. Soccer moms only make matters worse. Big shot corporate parents only make matters worse. There is such a dearth of decent parenting these days it makes me want to puke.

    We as teachers need to take entitlement into account when we grade. If the entitlement factor is of the charts, there is no earthly way a student will get an A from me even if their academic grade is flawless. This is called grading on character, and unless we want colleges and universities populated by whiny, unimaginative jerks, it’s what we all need to do.

    I think this article is tremendously appropos to this thread:

    http://shine.yahoo.com/parenting/parents-force-girl-to-hold-sign-as-punishment-for-being-disrespectful–tough-love-or-too-much–184517447.html

    Like

  10. roberto says:

    It is our duty as educators and human beings to teach our learners about equality and justice. I believe it is my job as an educator to work towards the eradication of racism, sexism, homophobia, economic inequality and environmental degradation. If you arent doing this then you are part of the problem no matter where in the world you are teaching.

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    • Gordie says:

      I agree Roberto. Many teaching contracts in certain countries, specifically forbid the teaching from undertaking this at the risk of your contract.

      Like

      • We live on a planet at the edge of ruin, and we don’t have to look far to see the human evidence of that ruin, just right outside the gates of most international schools in poorer countries. We simply do not have the luxury NOT to consider that it is part of our job to help resist injustice and create progressive change. Education has ALWAYS been about social progress. ALWAYS!!

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        • Education has NEVER been about social progress: it’s been about social control and normalization. Just about every element of social progress that has been made in education comes from people who OBJECT to the system, not who support it.

          That being said…I am one who objects.

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          • snorks says:

            Hello, sounds like you have never worked internationally before, we do not come over here and spread american democratic gospel (like that is really working out for us any ways). You are a guest and you will behave according to their customs. We educate and plant seeds/ideas of true and noble things, but that is it.

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            • It’s amazing how poorly you understood my response. I’ll spell it out for you: I have and do work internationally, and my comments were a response to a teacher who claimed that education was about social progress. Look at my response, and you will see that I am objecting to the characterization of education in that way.

              That being said, you sound like a very, VERY jaded teacher. Or a scared one. I’ve seen you before: keep your head down, get through the job, and hope the kids learn something. That’s exactly what international education DOESN’T need.

              There is a huge difference between “behaving according to their (whose?) customs” and caving into them, which too many teachers do out of fear. The job’s not just about living in an exotic locale and making some money. It’s about imparting GLOBAL social justice values that are hardly the dominion of a particular country. It’s also about learning what they are, then giving yourself and your students choices about how to approach the world. While you can’t change very many people in this way, having some bravery about teaching lessons about the world is better than reinforcing the ideas that are not about global values. I’m not a huge fan of the “American way,” or teaching “American values” — global values and objectives are actually quite different.

              But I guess you haven’t lived abroad enough yet to get that. You have no right to comment until you demonstrate something other than timidity.

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        • Gordie says:

          I didnt come to Malaysia to undertake class war. But good luck with that. It doesn’t mean I agree with what I see around me. I have been employed as an early childhood teacher not as a social engineer.

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          • All teachers are “social engineers.” Keeping your head down does change that — it just means you’ve engineered something else. Teachers have to decide what’s most important for them to do.

            Apparently, you have decided already. “Good luck with that.”

            Like

            • snorks says:

              Teachbygoofyaccent,

              EEk! Goebbels used that same sentence, “I’ll remember you.” Teaching TOK and being involved with CAS for the last 20 years and working in 8 different countries maybe I am embittered because we dialogue everyday about differences in our cultures and my student carry their learning to real world projects in the community. I taught little ones for 2 years and when I did so I focused on getting them to read, shapes, and count and had very little time to be on a soap box about real world issues.

              every post is so negative, be a lover not a fighter!

              Like

            • John says:

              if you teach my children the curriculum your school advertises I will be satisfied, I chose your school based on the skills and content that are listed in its curriculum. I will teach my children manners, and will share with them the ideals that I think are important ( and let them decide if they want to adopt them for their own) you are a busy person and are tasked with helping my kids learn a lot of things. If I wanted them not to be independent thinkers, I would have sent them to a military school, or a church school. thank you.

              Like

    • John says:

      It is not my duty to eradicate behaviors I disagree with in anyone. How do you plan to get rid of economic inequality? You are working in a prime example of economic inequality if you are in a private international school. At best our students will learn to think for themselves, and base their decisions on what they have learned from us. Utopia of equality and justice doesn’t exist, the real world is not a feel good, warm fuzzy place. Can it be better? yes, and our students will figure that out provided we teach them to use their brains.

      Like

  11. John Vagabond says:

    There are at least two groups of ‘entitled students’ The first are those who treat the educator like a rather superior maid and expect them to simply comply with their wishes irrespective of ability. The others are those who genuinely work hard and use tutors to enhance their understanding regardless of cost.It goes against the western educational grain, but tutored kids just do better.

    Like

    • Stormin Norman says:

      In mhy experience tutored kids are the ones who are to lazy to do their own homework, and do not pay attention in class so they have no idea what is going on.

      Like

  12. Regina Ali says:

    I have been having many doubts about teaching privileged children. I also thought by introducing the idea of being a “global citizen” via the Student Council would be indirectly opening up their world to democracy and student voice. However, many are not even aware of such concepts, as they have never seen their parents vote, that is if the parents are around. There are so many things these 10 year old are not clued into, but how can they be when the emphasis is on having holidays anywhere and everywhere in the world and getting good grades to take over daddy’s company. Even those parents who work for the UN, will go over dead bodies to attain what they want for their children. Of course, that is what all parents want, but there are fair ways of doing things.
    I have come to the conclusion I would rather close the equity gap from the bottom. As Jim Collins implies, we all need to find our own bus, going in the right direction.

    Like

  13. James says:

    Where the heck did that statistic about 86% of international or IB students doing volunteer work come from?

    Well, for one thing, in International Baccalaureate, CAS is a graduation REQUIREMENT, so it’s not really volunteering in the true sense of the word, as they have to turn in assignments and reflections related to their CAS projects.

    Many, many high school in the US and around the world REQUIRE their students to do community service/volunteer projects. That, of course, doesn’t mean that there aren’t thousands of unselfish/altruistic/philanthropic kids out there, there are…but a LARGE number of those students are also using their volunteer activities to create backstories to pad their university applications or to demonstrate leadership abilities in their entrance/admissions essays. Not to mention the fact that many students are receiving scholarships or financial rewards for doing it, as well as having articles written about them in the newspaper.

    It’s very hard to gauge if someone is doing it for the right reason. After all, when you volunteer or help another person, you actually feel a “natural high” or endorphin rush. We feel better about ourselves, body chemistry-wise.

    Like

    • weedonald says:

      James…..regardless of the motivation to help others (and the ideal is that is is internally motivated out of a sense of generosity and caring) and irrespective of who organizes it, it is a vital aspect of modern education. Many kids don’t want to help others at first but they ¨grow¨into the experience for the most part and often come away with a deeper sense of how the other half live. That isn’t such a bad thing…especially when we are talking about so-called ¨entitled¨kids. The numbers come from the US Dept. of Ed. website, but are simply estimates about worldwide student participation. CAS is a great idea and a statement of principles. Why should a kid get an IB diploma but never contribute to the betterment of society as a whole? IB HL and SL graduates are supposed to be our future leaders…..what better way to prepare them, to be caring people than to help them learn to care through CAS. Similarly, the idea of making such service a universal requirement for graduation is a formal way to entrench service to others as a fundamental part of one’s overall education.
      Looking at many of today’s politicians and leaders, one gets the feeling that they didn’t care much for others. We need many more Mandela’s and no more Milosevics!

      Like

  14. Chabin says:

    Many of these students don’t even begin to think of equality and the oneness of humanity until they leave their countries to go to university. Their parents and all around them whom they meet just contribute to this feeling of “entitlement”. This is why I like to maintain contact through social media with them when they get out into the somewhat “realer” world of Europe, North America and Australia. That’s when they start to question life and appreciate that I’m still interested in them even though I’m no longer paid to be so. I think some of the students I taught 12 years ago have gained more respect for my “wisdom” than they could conceive of when they were in middle and high school. You can only teach by your example: the way you speak to and deal with the maids, cleaners and drivers and other foreign workers distained by many in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. There is no education where there is no love.

    Like

  15. Gordie says:

    If you work in countries where children think it is Ok to treat a domestic worker with disrespect, then that is a different type of entitlement to children from first world families and societies. I see it here in Malaysia. Many of my students have respect for teachers, their family members, elders etc. But when it comes to their maids, they see them as very very human beings. Sometimes I see them yelling at their maid and even slapping them and these are 7 year old children. That is a sense of entitlement that we, from egalitarian (or societies that strive for) communities find odd. Trying to encourage empathy and compassion for others within lessons can be difficult.

    Like

    • Stormin Norman says:

      You have some terrible students

      Like

      • Gordie says:

        Actually they are sweet kids who have been brought up by parents and grandparents as little princes and princesses. When I ask them to thank their maid for carrying them to the classroom door they look confused but say thank you, for my benefit. Are we doing this for our benefit knowing we are not changing culture norms?

        Like

        • What are you doing if you aren’t changing “cultural norms?”
          Are you just trying to justify keeping silent by calling them “sweet kids” and moving on? Someone who has learned to treat another person with disrespect is not “sweet” whatever their background. There is a problem in even thinking to say such a thing.

          Like

          • Gordie says:

            I agree with you. My role as an early childhood teacher in Malaysia is that of any early childhood teacher across the globe. When you take a job in another country, are you going there like the Mormons to try and change their culture? Are you there to collect a pay packet? Changing their cultural norms is just another form of imperialism. Would you go to Saudi to teach and speak out against homophobia or sexism? I can lead by example but I also need to remember that I am a guest in another country.

            Like

            • John says:

              Well put Gordie. We can expect the students to conform to our way of looking at things while they are in our classroom, but must remember that they are not likely to do that when they are back in their homes. In the mid east the parents see teachers as just workers maybe a little bit above domestic help, but certainly below them as rich and powerful as they think they are. We are not there to turn them into socialists, capitalists, etc. We are there to teach them how to think, not what to think. Yes some empathy is appropriate, but to many of them it is only on their level or those above them that they will empathize with.

              Like

  16. trav45 says:

    Right, because no US/European/Australian rich kids ever feel entitled…

    Like

  17. weedonald says:

    There are too many irrational generalizations on this blog;

    1)This entitlement in now universal….a vastly exaggerated statement. Most kids today, with few exceptions, simply want to get an education and a decent job so they can support themselves and their families one day….nothing entitled about that!
    2) ¨greed and selfishness….unfortunately… is universal¨ You mean it can be found everywhere and so is ubiquitous but not dominant. How about the 86% of HS students who do CAS or volunteer work and show generosity, compassion and caring for others?

    We need to resist pressure to fix or award easy grades (put on us by some students,administrators and parents), and we need to reinforce principles of fairness, honest effort and a win-win, collaborative and cooperative approach to life…that is what education is really all about.

    Like

  18. Sam says:

    I agree with Grace. This entitlement in now universal, in most schools in most countries the teacher is a second class person, the teachers fear the students, and the students laugh at the teachers very often.

    Like

    • I disagree. The students’ entitlement vis-a-vis teacher treatment is similar, but the general understanding of the world elite students have is totally different. That requires a different set of lesson to teach.

      Like

  19. Grace says:

    You do not need to work overseas to find large groups of students who have the “entitlement” mentality. This pervasive attitude today is largely attributable to the students’ parents from the ME baby boomer generation. It is everywhere, and in every culture, although perhaps it is more pronounced in a culture that is not your own. Entitlement is fuelled by greed and selfishness, and unfortunately that is universal.

    Like

  20. dfresshh says:

    These elite students could be the future leaders of their countries.
    We could help to influence them with ideas like scientific process, rule by law, etc. An interesting question for me is how locals react to us as international teachers of the elite versus the more do goodin’ Peace Corps types. For whom do they have more respect?…As long as we aren’t bribed or bullied into bowing down to the wealth & prestige of the students we teach, important life lessons on earning good grades with good work can be imparted…Also important is, renumeration aside, what is a better more fulfilling job, one at a higher or lower status school? Where are students better behaved, having more respect for teachers, etc.?…another excellent interesting blog topic, hopefully inciting all sorts of conflicting responses…

    Like

  21. no lunches for me says:

    What i find most distressing is that in some cases the teachers of the privileged are living hand to mouth themselves. I wear second hand clothes and they wear designer. I think they sense this, too.

    Like

  22. hathor says:

    it’s not for us to judge who is ‘entitled’ and who is not. Our duty as teachers is to provide high quality education for all the kids we teach, wherever we teach them, including good principles to live by. What happens in their future is in the crystal ball ……. nothing we can control and we don’t know who will be rich, poor or in-between. All we can do is offer a quality foundation for their future ….

    Like

    • I think that we do not need to “judge” privileged students, but we do need to measure them and determine what they need to learn that is unique. I teach at a school that is mostly composed of such kids, and I’ve found I’ve had to impart a greater understanding of the world than I did with my middle-class students in the United States. I’ve also had to conduct more classes that introduce empathy, something that privileged kids in the Middle East seem to have a paucity of. For example, I taught a lesson plan comparing slavery with domestic service in their countries…and many kids were pretty shocked to discover how similar they were, even though they had decried slavery when we learned about it as a historical phenomenon.

      I also think privileged kids do not have the same ambitions that middle-class kids have: where are they going to “rise?” Establishing good work habits, a better understanding of how to collaborate and respect one’s peers, and reinforcing independence has been an ongoing struggle, but rewarding when it works for my students. They don’t need that in their sheltered worlds, but they do if they want to go to college abroad. THAT is what makes them think about their situation, as well as how to change it for the better of themselves and the people around them.

      It’s not enough to offer a “high-quality education” to this population of students, because the education they need to be better human beings is different, and I would argue, far more important.

      Like

  23. rimbaud001 says:

    In Music, once kids see their friends on stage they ask to join rock band, after that, if they do not practice or do not show up to practice, then no more, out

    happens everywhere, except in asia where us teachers have to ask parents to put breaks on extra curricular activities

    if they see the teacher loves what they teach, it goes a long way

    Like

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