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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What It Means To Really Focus On Effort

The picture was copied from HERE.

Celebrating 2nd LAST in Class for Chinese
In 2010, when Little Boy was in Primary 4, he was last in class for Chinese. He was so very LAST that  the 2nd last was way above him. In December of 2010, Little Boy spent 15 man days (8 hours) memorizing-reciting compositions that were 4 years above the normal Primary 5 textbooks in difficulty. In addition, Little Boy picked 5 good phrases from each of these compositions and wrote them inside an exercise book. On a daily basis, he would give himself Chinese spelling from a targeted list of 8 phrases. This sustained effort continued through to mid-year of Primary 5 (2011).

He was 2nd last in class in Chinese in the mid-year exams of 2011.

He came home a little sad. I hugged him and jumped around in joy... "You are SECOND last? That's WONDERFUL. You climbed 25 marks to SECOND last? Wow!" Then, I took the whole family out to celebrate his fabulous achievement.

Dissing 2nd in Level for History
Since early this year, I've done NOTHING to teach nor facilitate Little Boy's academic progress. He has had a free hand to manage his time and schedule. For a while, he had 3 CCAs, and he went to the shooting range almost everyday to get in some target practice. I observed that he wasn't working very hard at Math and at Chinese. When I commented, he said, "Mom, I know what I'm doing." I next observed no improvement in his effort to keep abreast in Chinese and Math.

He got through SA1, pulling in stellar results for Literature and History (2nd in level). He topped the class in English Language. He was quite happy with himself. The Husband nodded a pleased approval. The Daughter congratulated her brother. 

I said with as much contempt as I could muster, "Only 3rd? Why aren't you first in class?"

Little Boy was shocked. I had NEVER said such a thing to him before. He exploded and had a melt down. He cried and now that he is taller than I am, and more muscular, he picked up his office chair and flung it against the wall. The chair broke into 5 pieces.

I left him to stew.

He was still sobbing when I went to him an hour later. He was MISERABLE. I explained, "I don't really care what you've achieved. I noted that you did not put effort into Math and Chinese. You're a responsible boy but you got distracted. If you had come back 1st in class, after goofing off in Chinese and Math, I would have asked why you didn't get 1st in level. If I see you goof off, and you still manage to get me a President's Scholarship, I would ask 'Why didn't you get me the Nobel prize?' The important thing is not the actual achievement. The important thing is that you are UNDER-performing to your capability BECAUSE you goofed off. Now stop crying. I love you anyway and yes... you did really good in History, and I am happy for that."

Little Boy got my message, and he dropped out of 1 CCA... and as far as I can see, he is putting effort in all his subjects now.

Dr Pet's Enrichment
In Dr Pet's Enrichment Centre, the children have customised marking grids. The children are not assessed according to the same criteria because they all have DIFFERENT strengths and weaknesses that I wish to work on. There is no way to determine who is best. We never celebrate the best writers and we don't make children compete with each other. Our learning ethos is completely different. Instead, we stretch the children whenever they are ready. I really don't care how well a child can write because there is always scope for stretch no matter whether you are GEP or failing in mainstream. What I look at and insist on is...

(1) effort
(2) enthusiasm

With both these... results will follow... and the result will be the best that each child is capable of. The children will perform AT potential, not below. The children will also not be stressed by unreasonable expectations of their potential.

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