From Inside School Research by Sarah D. Sparks:
There's a fine line between being persistent in asking for help and being pushy and entitled, but a new study suggests middle-class kids find occasionally annoying the teacher still pays off in the long run.

In more than two years' worth of observations at elementary schools, as well as interviews with teachers, students, and parents in grades 3 and 5, sociologist Jessica McCrory Calarco of Indiana University Bloomington analyzed how children of different backgrounds managed constantly shifting teacher expectations. She found few classrooms lay out clear procedures for when and how students should ask questions or request help.

Rather, from one day and class to another, Calarco observed teachers shifting between the poles of "it's important to ask if you don't know" to "figure it out for yourself." Even during quizzes or in-class assignments, teachers differed in the amount of explanation they were willing to give, and students who pressed or negotiated for more help often received it.

"In situations where teachers felt pressed for time, or when they felt students were not listening or were not reading the directions first, they were more likely to say, 'figure it out for yourself.' However, they did not explicitly explain why they were making this distinction," Calarco said. "These cues put the weight on students to figure out what the teachers wanted."

"The Inconsistent Curriculum," which previewed at last week's American Sociological Association conference in New York City, followed up on Calarco's ongoing research, which I reported last year. That research found middle-class parents trained their children to be "squeaky wheels," seeking help rather than waiting for others to offer help, as working-class students were more prone to do.

And here again, students from working-class backgrounds typically came to different conclusions about how to negotiate for help in different environments than did students from middle-class backgrounds, Calarco found. "Middle-class parents were explicitly telling their children to go to the teacher and ask for help, to 'not take no for an answer,'" she said.

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