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Many educators debate how hard they should push their students. Should they allow students to work at their own speed and flourish naturally or should they design a rigorous curriculum that encourages them to expand their knowledge base? For most students, an academically challenging curriculum can help them succeed in the world. However, in many instances, this can cause long lasting stress and can lead to low self esteem. So within an academic setting, how hard should teachers and administrators push students? 

Understand Your Students Intellectual Capabilities
Most experts would agree that pushing a child can help his or her mind expand and give them the confidence to succeed in school. But how much is too much? After all, a teacher may want to show a particular student the steps to solving a problem. However, he or she may also want to encourage the student to try an even harder problem on his or her own. However, what happens when an educator encounters a student that may struggle with anxiety or a learning disability. According to, pushing them too hard can have an adverse effect. Students can become angry or even closed off, which can lead to struggles in school. 

Using Extracurricular Activities to Push a Student
In many cases, you can use outside influences and activities to gently encourage a student. For example, if a student puts minimal effort into his or her homework, perhaps try and encourage them in other ways. For example, many educators may reward the students with extra art time if they finish all of their homework in a particular period of time. After a particularly difficult unit, another teacher may suggest that the class attend a field trip to encourage the students to stay focused. You can also offer other types of rewards such as pizza or ice cream parties to reward students for tackling difficult concepts.

Academic Support Outside of Class
In many instances, teachers can push students more if they offer some outside support on the subject matter. For example, if you know that a particular theme is difficult for students to master, then perhaps offer support before class and even lunch. If a student knows that he or she can reach out to you regularly, the student may be more likely to tackle more difficult assignments. If a teacher or administrator is not available, then perhaps encourage the child to seek assistance at a tutoring center or with an older student. Also, encourage students to work together and support one another during and after school. 

Make Connections to Real World Scenarios
Teachers routinely hear responses such as “why do I have to learn this” or “when will I ever use this in life.” In many cases, students are not able to see a real world connection to the ideas being taught in the class. When this occurs, the student may be more likely to shut down and not truly tackle difficult assignments. In many cases, you can ask the students to research ways in which the particular concept is used in daily life. You can also show them career paths that actually rely on the information being taught. Trigonometry may be boring to most students until they realize that pilots use a lot of the basic concepts to land planes. A student may learn more information about American History if they go to a museum or other type of field trip. 

Providing Activities for Students Who Move at a Faster Rate
In most cases, a student should feel challenged in the academic environment. However, according to Pennsylvania State University, one of the reasons children misbehave is because they are occasionally bored in class. In school, students will retain information at a different rate and sometimes the ones that understand at a faster rate will disrupt the other students. If students breeze through the homework assignment quickly, develop other activities that they can do on their own. Many teachers may develop enrichment packets for the students to help them further develop certain skills. 

Pushing Students with Positive Reinforcement
In many instances, a teacher will attempt to push a student by either singling them out or pointing out their pitfalls. There are ways of challenging and encouraging a student without being negative. According to, the positive reinforcement method is more effective when trying to encourage students to succeed. For example, if a student consistently does not pass tests but manages to get a C on the latest exam, congratulate him or her on that success. Together, you may want to set additional benchmarks and thresholds for the next test, but the student should know that you are proud. On written assignments, teachers should always point out something the student did right. Highlight some of the strong attributes in the written assignment and encourage the student to keep up the good work. 

Parent Involvement is Key
When challenging a particular student, make sure to involve the parents. For example, if Johnnie struggles on a regular basis when it comes to memorizing his vocabulary words, then ask the parent if he or she can work with Johnnie at night. In most cases, parents want their children to success. If teachers work together with the parents, then they may be able to push the student further. It is important for teachers, administrators and parents to keep an open line of communication to help the student succeed.

Push Students to Understand the Content, Not Just to Prepare for a Test
Currently, there is a push for students to do well on standardized tests. In many instances, those particular tests capture a limited amount of information available. However, teachers and administrators should challenge students to learn information not covered under tests and quizzes. It is okay for teachers to prepare students for college entrance exams, such as the SAT or ACT. However, there are other forms of information that a student should learn in order for him or her to succeed in the world. 

Push Students in Areas that They Excel In
Throughout their time in school, students may struggle in certain subjects. Perhaps math may be difficult or they struggle in grammar. However, a student may be a very talented artist who can create wonderful paintings, sculptures or graphics. Teachers and administrators should work hard in order to push the students in areas where they excel. In many instances, this may lead to a student finding his or her desired career path. Encourage students to take classes or enrichment programs outside of school to fully develop their skills. Of course, we all want students to graduate and teachers should find ways to balance talent with required academics. However, encouraging students to explore their talents can help them perform better in other areas too. Other teachers or administrators can also encourage students to succeed using indirect means. For example, if you know your student struggles in math, then you may want to support them in the classroom but also take the time to attend his or her basketball or soccer game. This shows that you care about their well-being and really want them to succeed and challenge themselves in life. 

So, how hard should we push our students? Well, in general, it does depend on the type of students that are in the classroom. Students should always feel challenged in a school environment. However, if he or she feels too much pressure, it can lead to anxiety, low-self esteem or depression. Understanding your particular students in the classroom environment can help you figure out how to properly educate them.

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