Friday Fictioneers: Golems and Pygmalion

Copyright - Sean Fallon

I swim through the mass of my peers to the back row, head down. “Such a dull girl,” Mom tells me. “So unlike your sister.”

The desks around me sit empty, my dullness repulsing others. My sketchbook opens and I work on Superia, my superhero. She’s everything I’m not.

Mr. Hanover hands back tests. To my surprise, I get an A.  “Excellent work.” Mr. Hanover smiles at me in approval and notices my sketches.

“You are a very bright, talented young woman. Share that with the world.”

For the first time, I lean forward to listen.

Just a little bit.

Word Count: 100

Friday Fictioneers time! The gang is back, with Rochelle leading the way (and I mean gang, you should see the rumbles between genre writers. Badass 😉 ) So a little background to tie my story with the photo prompt. When I first saw the picture, my mind immediately went to the story of Pygmalion and Galatea. To reacquaint myself with story, I did a little research.

I typed in Galatea and one of the auto-entries came up “Galatea Effect.” Curious, I clicked on it and came across something called the “Golem Effect.” For those that may not know, the “Golem Effect” is a theoretical counterpoint to the “Pygmalion Effect.” Both effects deal with expectations and performance.

These effects come from studies, conducted by Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson, where teachers were told students were “bright” or “dull.”  The study showed that labels and preconceived notions affected how the teacher’s interacted with the students, and, in turn, affected how the students performed in class. Those labeled ended up creating self-fulfilling prophecies. They were treated in a certain way and responded to those expectations. “Dull” students underperformed, while “bright” students exhibited behaviors that lead to success.

So that’s how I arrived at my story from the picture. Hope you enjoy it! The book that covers the study is called Pygmalion in the Classroom, which I plan on checking out.

Head over to “Addicted To Purple” and check out the entries. If you’re feeling frisky, join in!

Happy Reading and Writing!

J. Milburn


16 thoughts on “Friday Fictioneers: Golems and Pygmalion

  1. I’m always for the underdog. Hooray for the “dull girl!” Hooray!

  2. a beautiful story. made me feel for the little girl and i do wish she would end up developing and sharing her talent with the world 🙂

  3. Dear Jeremy,

    When I was in high school my grades were high only in the subjects I cared about. Going into my senior year I was told by a guidance counselor that I was not college material and should consider trade school or marriage. Naturally I translated this to mean that I was a dummy. Years later I had to take an IQ test and was shocked to find that it was relatively high. I was shocked.
    I said all that to say that I related to your MC. I thought my brother was the “smart one”. Good for the teacher in your story. Bravo on a good one!



  4. Hi there. This is a sweet story with a happy ending. I just think that you should replace the question mark after sister with a period. It is obviously a comment and not a question.

  5. Having taught at a high school and then home schooled our girls through high school, I know this to be true and I’ve heard about the study as well. I think that these days the balance often tips too far the other way. Teachers don’t want to or aren’t supposed to do anything that would hurt the students’ egos. Students perform poorly, but think they did well and have high self-esteem. But as you point out so well, there are many who are squashed by either parents or teachers (or peers). Good one.


    • I agree with taking the self-esteem portion too far. I feel there can be high expectations without spoonfeeding ego boosts that actually defeat the purpose of getting students to perform at a high level.
      Positive reinforcement isn’t a bad thing, as long as it comes in the wake of actual achievement.
      Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful comment!

      • That second-to-the-last line is key, J. And encouragement is always good. Even telling someone they’re not really that good at something can be done in a way so as not to crush them, particularly if you then mention something they do well.

  6. Superia! kind of like the name. Good job on writing about the teachable moment.

  7. This is a great story! Labels bug me, but they are attached whether we like it or not. Good for the teacher for offering positive encouragement. (And the mom…seriously- not a good idea to compare siblings!)

    When my younger son was a toddler, people would approach and comment on how cute he was, or rave about his blue eyes… all while my older son stood there. I’d usually comment with something like, “thank you…I think both of my boys are handsome.” I realized what this did to my older son when one day, I commented on how pretty his green eyes looked and he shrugged and replied that his brother was the cute one. Ouch.

    • Oh, yeah, comparing siblings is not good. If one of my boys does something wrong, I don’t mention the other one at all.

      Toddlers always seem to get most of the attention, don’t they? Thanks for reading and I’m glad you liked it!

  8. Sometimes it takes a teacher like that to pull out an introvert. Scenes like this have pulled out geniuses from their hiding places many times, thank goodness. You did that a lot of justice.

  9. An inspiring tale… well done.

  10. I felt the brightness on her face ash she looked up at her teacher.

  11. Well done! Who doesn’t remember that one special teacher that saw something in them that others did not see.

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