John grabbed a coffee and slumped into a seat in the staffroom. “It does my head in”, he muttered to himself. Sam heard him and went over to join him. “Which one is it now? Is Casey giving you a hard time again?”
“You won’t believe it, but it’s Sasha.”
“You know, Sasha Chinn.”
“What?!”, exclaimed Sam. “But you’re always saying she’s the star of the class! Surely she’s not acting up?”
“No, but we had an assessed task today. It’s the last one. I knew I’d have to keep a close eye on Wayne and Pete, but then I turned around and saw that she was very obviously copying Sinder’s work. When I went over to have a closer look she had copied loads. It’s so difficult in that room because all the kids are so crammed in. I asked her to stay after and she denied it all. Then when I pressed her she burst into tears and pleaded with me to let it through anyway. The problem is that she missed one earlier in the year so we haven’t got much wriggle-room. And she didn’t do so well on one of the others.”
The end of break bell went and John pulled himself up to go to his next lesson. Sasha was waiting for him by his classroom door. “Sir, you’ve GOT to give me an A on that piece of work!” “Look Sasha, I can’t even count it as one of your assessments.” “PLEASE, Sir, PLEASE.” John sighed. “Sasha, I honestly don’t know what has got into you. You’ve always been a good student. You are perfectly capable of getting an A without copying. The other students would be over the moon to have some of the marks you’ve got. What is your problem?” Sasha burst into tears and fled.
The end of the day couldn’t come soon enough for John. He caught up with Sam again as they were in the car park.
“Sam, I can’t get my head around Sasha’s behaviour. It’s bizarre the way she’s so desperate to get an A in absolutely everything.” “Oh, I blame the parents”, Sam said. “Obviously too pushy. I expect poor Sasha feels squashed between a rock and a hard place.”
Well, maybe it’s pushy parents but it is more likely to be coming from within Sasha. The Achiever (Three) personality is a surprisingly insecure one. Whilst they project a confident, ‘can-do’ persona, they are constantly looking for reassurance. Their driver is a sense of inadequacy, that whatever they do it is never enough. Their coping strategy is to find areas where they can get accolades. This may be getting good grades, excelling in performance of some kind….or something mundane like winning a nettle eating competition! Their relentless need to be ‘best’ can be perplexing or even irritating to those around them. At the same time in these days of targets their insecurity can also be unwittingly exploited by teachers and schools who are stretching to reach them. They are extremely sensitive to criticism.
The job of the adults in their lives is to not unwittingly consume the student’s desperation for good grades and accolades by feeding their insecurity. Paradoxically too much praise can also be counter-productive as it has the effect of ‘raising the bar’: image already tends to be all-important. We can help them to set realistic targets for themselves and reassure them. It is important to affirm them for who they are, not just for what they do. The Achiever personality has a strong aversion to any form of failure. Helping them to understand that acknowledging failure can be a valuable part of the learning process will help them to face it rather than retreat into the temptation towards deceit or ‘spin’.
We do not need to worry about pushing them; they will always push themselves. Pushing them is likely to make them burn out. Feeling valued, reassured and supported will bring out the best in them.