Don’t Let Kids Settle for a Mediocre Education: A Personal Story

A mother searching for answers for her son who has all the tools to succeed.



As a teacher, there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, that frustrates me more than seeing unused potential in a student. I have said many times that I would rather teach a lower level student who tries hard, than a brilliant student who doesn’t. It saddens me to know what a child can accomplish and what they could do if they only put their mind to it. Really saddens me to see them not work to their potential.

Tonight, as a parent, I find myself in this same predicament. I have a child who has this beautiful brain. A rational thinking, able to reason, soak everything up type of brain. This child has a natural intelligence. The ability to reason through problems, mentally do computations, patiently process anything he is given.

My frustration tonight, comes from a couple of pieces of paper in an envelope. A report card. Two pieces of paper that tell me he is basically an average student.  Right down the middle.

When he was younger, his report cards were exemplary. I was so proud of his marks and what the teachers had to say about him. He loved earning high marks, the feeling of being praised and had intrinsic motivation to do well.

Now, I am fighting with a teenage attitude towards school and towards learning. A teenage attitude where socializing with friends during class, is more important than working hard and I feel like there is nothing I can do about it, and it frustrates me.

When I read the report card, part of me wanted to throw my arms up in frustration and give up pushing him because he is obviously not pushing himself.

What can I do if he doesn’t care enough?

What can I do if he doesn’t want to help himself?

And…why doesn’t he want to push himself?

It’s quite simple. He is happy being mediocre.

My question is….why settle for mediocre, when you can be so much more?

I was telling a friend of mine tonight that I wish young people realized that the years they spend in school as a student, is such a small portion of time in their lifespan.

When you are young, you can’t wait to get out of school.

When you are older, you wish you would have tried harder those few years you were IN school.

If I could go back in time, I would do so many things differently. I would pay more attention to my teachers, try harder during class, spend more time on homework, ask for extra help when I needed it, and spend less time socializing during class and more time working on my assignments.

I would NOT let others in the class interfere with my right to learn.

I can tell my children what I would do differently if I had the chance. I can urge them to try harder. I can crab at them. I can consequence them. I can ground them.

But…would that make a difference?  Would it make them care more?  Would it make them work to be better than mediocre?

If you turn to “Google” to find answers on how to motivate a teenager to care more about school, do you know what many websites say?  They say that teenage boys have motivation.  Lots of motivation.  Lots of motivation to do…. nothing.  In fact, they work very hard to get out of doing anything. They don’t lack motivation. They have it…just in the wrong way!

It’s a common problem….more amongst boys.

But, I am not comforted in the least knowing that it is a common problem with boys. Not comforted at all.

I can’t give up on this.

I just can’t.

So….I need to regroup.

I can’t let his teenage attitude get me down. I need to cheer up. I need to think of how I’m going to approach this. I need to do my research.

I can’t throw my arms up. I can’t stop caring. On the contrary….I have to care more.

I need to talk to him.

Work with him.

Teach him.

Show him.

I need to approach this with my own children, the way I would with each and every one of my students.

We can’t settle for ordinary.

When we can be so much more.


Penny Pfaff is a grade 2/3 teacher at W. J. Baird Public School in Blenheim, Ontario. She is married with two children, Aidan (13) and Kailyn (12). She shares and writes her own insights and thoughts so her children can learn from her experiences. You can follow her blog at


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