It’s June and that means the end of the school year. Final report cards will be coming home soon and for many, this is a stressful time. Kids want to impress their parents. Parents want to ensure their children are excelling.
But let’s all just take a big deep breath, step back and gain some perspective. It’s so easy to get caught up,unwittingly, in the hamster wheel of life and we don’t stop to take stock of what is really important.
Remember the great quote of Mark Twain “Never let schooling get in the way of a great education”? The fact of the matter is, that all our children are brilliant creations of life. They are constantly growing and learning and maturing into their own wonderfulness and will be a gift to humanity. No one has ever been like them before, nor will be again.
So let’s not make the following mistakes:
- Confuse education with intelligence
- Confuse educational advancements with worthiness
Perhaps you are mature enough to see the nuanced difference, but our children often do not and the messages we send them about their school performance can establish mistaken beliefs about what it means to be valuable and worthy of love in their parents eyes.
Howard Gardner’s identification of multiple intelligences and various learning styles taught us that sitting in rows, working on 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper, doing drills and memorizing was not the way all kids are receptive to new ideas. We must go farther and realize that not all children are interested in becoming teachers and professors, academics or scholars. We may also be raising hairdressers and plumbers, tattoo artists and dog groomers. Falcon trainers and chip wagon owners.
Research on happiness shows that after earning the baseline to cover food and shelter, additional income does not make us any happier. In fact, stress and misery correlates more with the increased stressors felt by upper level executives.
So – as parents, we want to be sure our children chase their bodacious dreams. Their courage to do so comes from our constant support and cheerleading. In Adlerian psychology we call it “encouragement”, which has courage as the root word, and implies giving the child the courage to be imperfect, because we all are imperfect and life is a process of evolving and growing ourselves, while being totally fine the way we are right now. Perhaps this poem sums it up best:
“When we plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice that it is small, but we do not criticize it as “rootless and stemless.” We treat it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment required of a seed. When it first shoots up out of the earth, we don’t condemn it as immature and underdeveloped; nor do we criticize the buds for not being open when they appear. We stand in wonder at the process taking place and give the plant the care it needs at each stage of its development. The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.”
So when report cards come home, your child knows full well that they are being measured. They will be thinking “Am I good enough?” Your answers and facial expressions need to generate the message that they are already everything they need to be and a report card doesn’t say a wit about them. I have seen schools that break each concept into three states:
- I have not learned this yet
- I am learning this now
- I have learned this
We need to rethink grading, evaluations and how we position this to our young learners so they can benefit from feedback without the mistaken belief of feeling they are a failure when they don’t get all A’s, which they know is the coveted wish from most of the authority figures in their life.