On the back of my education discussion, one of the girls in my Care Group had something interesting to say this morning.
She was bemoaning the fact that none of her peers seem to care about assignments or exams or grades. She was explaining that she had come, this year, from another (more expensive) independent school where everybody 'tried' and the standards were high. She has been appalled by the fact that our kids are lazy and apathetic and that she is now easily top of all her subjects because she likes to do well.
"When you say to them...you haven't handed it up? They just say 'Meh'." (visualise that with a shrug)
So it's not just me then.
The thing is, if this is what it's like at a school where parents pay for an education, what must people in state schools have to deal with? Mind you, I shouldn't generalise, I'm sure at some state schools they have a more motivated clientele! How do we turn it around though? What difference can we make? I mean, there is obviously an attitude from home coming through here. It's the whole 'path of least resistence' thing. Parents want an easy life and find it uncomfortable to get their kids to 'do' anything they don't want to.
Well guess what folks? When they handed you that baby and the Flaming Sword that went with it, there was no guarantee that you wouldn't burn your fingers from time to time. That the sword would not be heavy and the child less than delighted by its radiance!
Sometimes good parenting means your kids hate you, they are not happy and they have to work at life! We have currently been putting a bit of that into practice here at Chez Arizaphale where the Baby Angel, at 14, has been falling into the old trap...."my work is not as good as I want it to be so I won't hand it up at all".
Sometimes when kids are given these 'free choice' topics they are overwhelmed. They have grand ideas and then very quickly realise they are not going to get it completed to the level they had imagined and so the wheels fall off. Here's some examples:
Science: Choose an experiment you would like to do. Design the experiment documenting the steps you took to carry it out. Write a report on the results.
Sounds great right? An experiment on ANYTHING you WANT!!!!!!!! Just like they do on TV in those science mystery programs or on forensic shows or...or....
I could do something on what happens to plants that have been exposed to radiation...or something on electronics...I LOVE electronics!!!!!
But what to choose?
As any scientist will tell you, most experiements are pretty boring on the face of it and generally hard slog. Choosing something which can be done within the time frame of say 4-5 weeks is a big ask and it means the type of experiment you can realistically do is pretty mundane. Not what the kids imagine when they first see the task and so they leave it, because they can't think of anything grand or complicated enough....and theyleave it.......and they leave it.......
Here's another one:
English: Write a song and design an album cover to go with it.
(I think this one is supposed to get them to use media skills they have been studying)
Write a song? just like that? Write A SONG?????????
Again, the excitement! The flushed faces, we love music, we listen to it non stop.....we get to WRITE A SONG!!!!!!! Do you know how difficult it is for your average Joe to write a song? The BA has a double edged sword. She is a good writer, a deep thinker and a lover of indie music. The challenge to write something exceptional is very real. Everyone is expecting it. OMG OMG The Pressuure!!!!!!!
And so nothing gets started. Deadlines go whizzing past with a satisfying sound; to paraphrase Douglas Adams. This parents, is where your Flaming Sword must parry and slice:
You will sit down and start this.
Here are three ideas....choose one.
You will not be going into town with your friend until I see this much accomplished.
And they will rail. They will kick and scream and cry and tell you 'you don't understand me'. They will promise faithfully to do it after...later...whenever....
And your life will be Hell. For awhile.
But what you are communicating to them is that it DOES matter; that it does take blood, sweat and tears sometimes; that anything worthwhile is usually not easily gained. It is these lessons that they will take into life with them; into Year11 and 12; into University or their apprenticeship or their first job.
But people! IF you say, 'never mind' or do it for them or believe their adolescent promises of 'later' and don't show them how to prioritise; that is what they will take into school with them and then into life.
Think about the long term not your immediate discomfort. Parenting was not always meant to be fun. Do your kids and society a favour and give them a WORK ETHIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Here endeth the lesson