ART BY TIFFANY CHAN
By ADRIAN HERNANDEZ
The “smart kid” is the most ridiculous and funny person I know and yet most people will never see that.
As the student with the highest grade in class, the notorious “smart kid” is often favored by teachers and targeted by his or her own peers—usually out of jealousy. Yet, others may see the smart kid as the person who can remarkably pass a test with a perfect grade and is always seen studying hard in school. And to many people, they are only that: the admirable class geniuses or the annoying nerds.
However, even if you have good intentions for calling someone the smart kid, the label itself negatively influences the student’s attitude toward learning as well as others’ perceptions of the student.
Most of the time, teachers and peers place higher expectations on elite students to earn better grades. Although having high expectations can push students to achieve their potential in school, they may feel especially discouraged when they do poorly in their classes. Frequently, students harass smart kids with comments like “I thought you were supposed to be smart?” when they score anything below an A or B. However, having these unrealistic goals can greatly increase the burden on smart kids to conquer their classes with perfection and instill the mentality that a mere mistake is an immense failure.
Regardless of their passing grades, smart students may be more conscious of their work and grades when their classmates point out their mistakes, either out of spite or confusion. This would, in turn, make these students more stressed about school more than they have to.
Many smart kids develop such insecurities when they are treated in such an unfair manner. For example, they may be quietly working on their assignments in class when a classmate sitting behind them says, “you’re just on that number? I thought you were smarter than that.” As smart kids are put under the spotlight because of the “smart kid” label, they may feel frustrated or insecure when others intrude on their natural learning processes. For them, the classmate’s comment may imply that “they are not good enough” when in actuality, the two students simply learn at a different pace.
Furthermore, the label of the smart kid affects these students because of how their peers act around them. As their peers wrongfully assume that all smart kids are socially awkward and have their nose in a book, they avoid interacting with them and appear surprised when they do not fit the stereotype. These character traits may apply for some bright students, just as they appear in all teenage demographics, but it is unrealistic to assume that every smart kid is exactly like the stereotype.
As a result, smart kids can also become one of the stereotypes that their peers believe to already be true: being social outcasts. Consequently, the student is more likely to be bullied. As a matter of fact, Metropolitan University professor Ulla Lundqvist explains that smart students are more vulnerable to their peers’ social abuses because they are often viewed as the “teacher’s favorite” or a “disruptive student.” Unfortunately, this isolation from other students may significantly diminish their mental state and overall motivation to learn.
Butler University graduate Anne Legithy recounts that in school, she did fit the stereotype of a smart kid because she has always loved studying and reading books; however her peers only saw her as a bookworm, and nothing else. Anne’s experience affirms that students labeled as the smart kid become socially isolated due the narrow stereotype. But if people spend more time to get to know the smart kid, then they might see other sides of the person.
People can acknowledge others’ achievements and failures, but people should try not to hold students to a higher expectation simply because of their intelligence. People should ultimately stop categorizing these students based on a label and get a real opinion of them before anything else. So next time, watch out for the smart, yet kind, funny and ridiculous kids.