The Curse of Expectation

By: Armand Manoukian

I started speaking early in my life. I learned to say  “please” and “thank you” quite early as well. In preschool, I acknowledged that maybe stealing someone else’s Lego set wasn’t necessarily a good idea. I knew several fun facts by the time I was in kindergarten, namely that whales were mammals and not fish. According to my parents, I was never that crying kid on the plane either. I was well behaved and innocently clever.

And that was the worst thing to ever happen to me.

I then learned mathematics and how to read. Until around 4th grade, I was a shining beacon of intelligence in my group of peers. As I grew older, it got to me. Why was I getting B’s on Earth Science? I started so brightly! I was the only kid who could differentiate aquatic mammals and fish!

I clearly wasn’t trying hard enough. I could always do a little extra. I thought to myself, “I should be getting 100’s on every essay” and “I can speak very well in front of parents”. I was the smartest kid in my class, a class of twenty-five 5 year olds. That totally merits the expectation that I should be the smartest kid in my of class of 300 now.

That word, expectation, is the achilles heel of students everywhere. It’s an ugly thing, haunting us at every turn, telling us we should be capable to do something, when really, we aren’t.

This isn’t to demean anybody’s intelligence. In my eyes, humanity is the most intelligent it has ever been, but in the academic realm, many students crack, break, and fall into the abyss of mediocrity because the high expectations got to them. Whether from an excelling community like La Cañada, from parents, or from within, high expectations do more harm than help.

That doesn’t mean you can give up, though. Being weak is different than knowing your limits. The most important thing a student can know in high school is not that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. The most important thing to know is your limits. Test them, over and over again. But setting unrealistic expectations for yourself or letting others do it for you is a recipe for disaster.

So, to any parents reading this article: Please calm down. I’m positive that your son or daughter has their head in the right place, but getting an A in AP Lang & Comp with Mr. V is nearly impossible. It’s ok. To any students reading this article: Relax dude, you’re smart enough to get where you need to be. That’s all you need to do.  It is high time for a re-evaluation of what defines success.