What’s wrong with aiming for the top?

Surprising comment by teacher Jonny Griffiths, at Paston college, Norfolk in last week’s TES magazine Mr Griffiths (no relation to me) writes:

“Most of the aggravation in a teacher’s life (not counting hassle from management and the government) arises from students who lack motivation. But there is another student who can be just as draining. I am thinking of the driven, obsessed student, the one who is likely to worry themself into a premature grave in advance of their exams. Michael is a case in point. Last year, he scored a high grade A on both his maths AS level and his further maths AS level. When the results for the first module of the A2 year arrived, he had once more scored an A. “Pleased with your C3 score, Michael?” I asked. “No,” he said. “I only just got an A.”


Mr Griffiths goes on to suggest to poor Michael that his perfectionism is misplaced. “What is better: to go to Cambridge with three As and hate it or to go to Bangor with three Cs and love it?” he asks.

Er, surely it’s a daft question – why can’t Michael go to Cambridge with three As and love it? Isn’t that the attitude teachers should be encouraging in their students? What on earth is wrong with aiming for the top?

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