Giving Our Students the Sense of Entitlement and How We Can Stop

Back in the day there were five senses: sight, touch, smell, taste, and sound. Now there are six. Add entitlement. We have graciously given our students a sense of entitlement. We want them to have every advantage. We want them to succeed. Don't we?

Of course we do, but giving rather than earning will not help our students succeed. We also want our students to develop the sense of accomplishment as they reach their achievements. We all know that you appreciate what you have earned far more than what you are given. So, why are we not teaching this to our students?

A sense of entitlement leads to "you owe me" and expectations. Expecting things to be given to them or exceptions made for them.  To change our students expectations, we have to first change ours.

Start by changing your vocabulary. 
Students aren't given grades. Students earn grades. There is a poster available that expresses this sentiment. I always gave it a prominent place in my room, and there were still students who thought that they were given an "A" just because the quarter had started over. There were several that thought that they deserved an "A" (without the effort) because they had to come to school. 

They aren't given exceptions. They earn alternatives. Several students think that exceptions should be made for them. They've had a bad morning or they stayed up to late playing a game and didn't get their assignment done. Okay, so they have made some poor choices. Now, they can have a choice of solutions. Take recess time to complete the missing/incomplete assignment, or turn it in tomorrow and take a late grade (I do realize that most schools are limiting the consequences that teachers can suggest). 

Students aren't given school supplies. They borrow them.  Students begin thinking that teachers should provide all of their school supplies. They think, or say, "If you want me to do the assignment, you'll have to give me a pencil."  My response would be something like this, "Of course I want you to do the assignment. This lesson is part of your education which will give you the tools you need to succeed. However, I am not a store. I am your teacher. You can borrow a pencil, but you must return it after the assignment is finished." Getting pencils returned is a matter of chance and luck!

Help students set achievement goals. A goal is a visual reminder of what students need to achieve and the steps required to get them there.  Add dates to the goals to make them tangible. Students will remain focused on what they can see.  Dates will help them stay on a schedule. Ask them to write notes by the goals. Notes should be honest assessments of where they are on their goal schedule. When a student complains that they haven't had time to complete a project, refer them to their notes: Overslept and missed class yesterday; Forgot to bring assignment to class today; Didn't understand directions, so I sat and drew pictures on my paper. I do realize that not all students will be honest. Their version might be like this: My parents wouldn't leave work and bring me to school until noon; My little brother moved my backpack and I couldn't find it; I didn't understand the directions and the teacher wouldn't help me.  Eventually, with a little training and a little help, they will become more honest in their notations.

Stop rewarding students for what they should be doing. This seems to violate the concept of PBIS, but if we perpetuate a reward system based on what students do, rather than earn, they will continue expecting a reward that is owed to them.  I am not referring to motivation and encouragement. These are different than rewarding. Students need motivation and encouragement. That is what teachers do. But rewarding students for walking on the right side of the hallway (yes, we were actually told to do that), or coming to class on time (that too!) only communicates to the students that normally follow these 'rules' that you won't be rewarded for doing the right thing all the time. Proponents argue that we are changing behaviors. Students who don't follow rules will see how rewarding it is to follow them. I argue that we are only strengthening the students sense of entitlement. "I came to class on time. Where's my ticket? I get one every day I come to class on time."  "Hey, I'm walking on the right side of the hall! Why didn't you give me a ticket? I deserve one too!" And when the reward stops.... what happens then?

We, as professionals, should establish expectations and expect our students to meet them. We need to move our students beyond a sense of entitlement to a sense of accomplishment by challenging our students to meet our expectations.


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