Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

So It's Overdue? Meh.

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


Andi said...

You know it is bad when one of the KIDS recognizes the apathy...It is MOST certainly not just you.
In some selfish ways, it is comforting to me to hear that this happens at what we refer to as "private" schools as well as the public ones like where I work. Sometimes, I can fool myself into thinking that the private schools have all of the good kids, when really this apathy is everywhere. The one girl you were speaking of may change her tune when she realizes how little effort she is going to have to put forth to shine and to be on top...it's like a contagious illness that seeps into them when we are not looking. I hope not for her sake.
About the open-ended assignments- some kids really do need more specific tasks, and others might do well with a few tiny suggestions here or there, but you are right, when a kid does not know what in the world to do, why do anything?! Write a song? Really? No specific standard? Nothing by which to measure the success or failure? No rubric or guidelines of ANY kind? I think giving out of the box assessments is a wonderful thing, but kids really do need SOME kind of frame of reference...unless they have been taught songwriting techniques or something!? What educational standard is a task like that supposed to measure?
Anyway, if I had the answers, I could quit my job and travel around the world revealing the secret...but alas, I do not. I know it is up to more than the teachers- the accountability HAS to come from the PARENTS and the STUDENTS themselves for anything to be accomplished.

By the way, thanks for the sweet comments...our girls ARE the lights of our lives...even when they are being "Princess Bitchface" as you said...how often have I seen her ugly face around my own home??!!!LOL. You WILL survive 14...and then comes THE REAL FUN! I will spare you the gory details right now, in light of your own fun. :)

Also, those burgers were made from cupcakes (buns) and brownies (burger patty)- the daughter and I got them from Bakerella's site. Cute, huh? The husband had to work that evening, but he was SO surprised by them...today he told all of the other nurses at the hospital about them. He even called to ask me about the site show he could show them how they looked.
Well, good luck to you, friend. Keep up the HARD work...Teachers all over know exactly how you feel!

Blueberry said...

oh dear! i hope your student doesn't start slacking off because she knows she can still do good enough without trying!!

here at chez blueberry we have a crazy nearly 4 year old who seems to think that i'm her slave and that i will do EVERYTHING for her. she has epic tantrums daily. she told me yesterday (after she lost her dessert due to bad behavior) that if i didn't give her the ice cream she was going to scream and cry until she got it. (she really didn't care for my response, which was "alright, if that is what you think you must do. but you won't get dessert tomorrow if you do.") she hasn't yet told me she doesn't like me, but i fear it is coming soon. sigh. please tell me that at SOME point this parenting thing will become easier eventually. ;)

Arizaphale said...

Andi:Thanks for the support! I wondered about the song one myself but I haven't seen the task sheet (despite asking) and so I may be doing the other teacher a bit of a disservice. It could simply be that my own child hasn't read the sheet properly >:-(

Blueberry: Dearest, dearest Blueberry. You have the empathy of legions of sword wielding mothers!!! But I am going to tell you here and now that YES it does get easier. And then it gets harder again.....but then it gets easier...but then...

Stacy said...

Work ethic?? What is it that you speak of?? ;)

I had an almost relative growing up where her mom did a lot of her homework. She went to college on scholarship, I believe, for a natural resources degree. She struggles at making a living, and once when we were talking about our houses and such she gave me a, "it must be nice" for how my life has ended up. I wanted to rail at her about how I worked two jobs during college and worked very hard to get where I am at today. I earned it from doing it MYSELF. I was polite and didn't bring up the obvious, but I really, really wanted to do it.

Some parents just need to take a step back and actually PARENT. That is what they signed up for, right??

Arizaphale said...


Elisa said...

Bet you were glad to no that no - it isn't just you.

I do hope that the illness of which Andi speaks does not seep into her attitude!

The whole public/private school conversation is an interesting one. Where I grew up and where we are raising the kids (different places) both had much better public schools than private. Well, the behavior I am not too sure about. But in terms of class offerings, etc - the public schools totally outdid the private. The classes I took at the public school my senior year were not even offered at the nearest private high school. They only had 3 years of languages, science classes were limited and so on.

In out middle school, there is always a rubric handed out with the big projects. It's great - the kids know exactly what the teacher is looking for in the project. Sometimes I score my son's projects based on the rubric (that he often forgets to consult) before he turns it in. He looks to see where he can improve and what he's left out. It's a great way to "proof-read" his project. We review it again together after he has edited his work.
It works out great!

carrie said...

I think I love you.

Seriously. This was so beautifully said - it should be engraved and handed to every parent while they are picking up their bundle of joy in the hospital.

Parenting = hard, hard work.

And this hard work will in turn instill that hard work ethic into the children. It truly is what is missing with the last two generations...

JustJessie said...

I may need to hear this sermon a time or two during the next few weeks as Grayson and I get our homeschool groove back. Forcing him to work when he'd rather be swimming is going to take some getting used to...

Jill/Twipply Skwood said...

Oh yeah on your answer to Blueberry! It does get easier. For a few moments. Then it gets harder...

Well that's sort of gratifying in a demented sort of way, that your new student recognized the problem. I wonder if there's anything in particular she could tell you about the kids and/or the other school that might help? Is it school wide or is this a particular class going through? I could have gotten a discount on tuition for my son at the private school where I teach and maybe scholarship too, but I was kind of glad I didn't almost, sort of, in a way, because the class he would have been in was known for its difficulty (I think social stuff, but I'm not really sure).

My gal has *always* coasted through school. I remember a conference with her 2nd grade teacher (she was seven) where I complained that some of her writing was sentences long instead of paragraphs. I was like, "In first grade she was writing stories with beginnings, middles, and endings." The teacher was like, "Oh! Well I know what to expect from her now!"