This post was originally published here. I’d like to also add that since I wrote it, I have come across the video below, “Animal School” by Raising Small Souls. As a parent and teacher, it makes me further consider whether our good intentions to help our children grow can bring unintended negative effects as we push and push–and what can unfold when we instead patiently pull.
“What I’m saying is, when we treat grades and scores and accolades and awards as the purpose of childhood, all in furtherance of some hoped-for admission to a tiny number of colleges or entrance to a small number of careers, that that’s too narrow a definition of success for our kids.” (Julie Lythcott-Haims‘ TED Talk)
This quote comes to mind as I review my 6 year-old’s first academic report from the first month of school. I look at the paper and wonder what I should with it (besides discussing it with my daughter, as per the instructions at the bottom).
Should I high-five her or take her out for a treat because she has high scores in literacy? If we did that, what exactly would we be celebrating? The scores or the literacy? And if we celebrated scores when she has only ever read or written because she loves reading and writing, would she start loving the scores more than the reading and writing?
Should I have her stop writing so many stories after school to make way for more math practice because her scores aren’t quite as high there? If we did that, what exactly would we achieve? Raised math scores? Lowered writing scores? A sense of pressure associated with mathematics?
All these thoughts swirled as I obediently reviewed the report with her, when suddenly, she stopped me and asked, “Why are you telling me all these numbers?”
It made me stop and wonder, why was I? Was I conveying the idea portrayed in educator Edna Sackson’s comic below?
So far, scores don’t mean anything at all to her. She simply sees herself as a reader, writer, mathematician, scientist, thinker, and artist. Why should I should I get in the way of that by pushing her, when there is already such a strong intrinsic pull toward learning? As Edna also so eloquently shared years ago,
“School is often about push. Push to succeed. Push to get high grades. Push to achieve. Push to fit in. Push to participate. Push to comply. Push to work harder.
But the above might not be the most motivating ways to engage students and promote learning…
Learning is about pull. A strong provocation that awakens curiosity. A powerful central idea that excites interest. Essential questions that draw students into meaningful learning. Learning experiences that encourage wondering, exploring, creating and collaborating. Opportunities to construct meaning and transfer learning to other contexts.”
Don’t get me wrong. I do appreciate the report and I deeply appreciate all her teacher’s efforts in conveying her progress. The comments regarding her behavior were especially valuable in our discussion. And had her numbers conveyed concerning trends (ie, consistently low scores and signs of significant struggling), I would be anxious to be aware in order to work with the teacher for interventions and support.
But for now, she learns because of her intrinsic love of learning. And I’m happy to continue to provide opportunities at home (and hear about those that occur at school) that continue to help pull that interest and enthusiasm.
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Thanks for this post! Good food for thought.
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