His mother was as devastated as only Mothers who love hard, can be. I know that feeling well for having felt it before when Little Boy came home bottom of the class in Chinese and Math.
I thus instituted a new policy at the enrichment centre. On the weeks that the children had to do a school assigned composition, they were NOT ALLOWED to do Dr Pet's weekly assigned composition. The children were encouraged to do the school assigned composition and hand it up to Dr Pet for marking.
I didn't see any point in having children do TWO compositions in a week. More compositions a week loaded onto a busy child simply means TWO bad compositions instead of a single excellent one. Children learn NO SKILL at all from having done two bad compositions. Indeed, they pick up bad habits of poor focus, undue hurry and extreme carelessness. Children learn plenty from doing ONE excellent piece of work. They feel proud of that one masterpiece.
I also wanted to understand why some of my better writers did poorly for school compositions. I wanted to know if there was something wrong with the way I marked.
Last week, Little J passed up a composition done for school. It was A.W.F.U.L. It was singularly the most awful piece of work that I had ever seen from Little J in a while. It was a piece of work so POOR that one would have thought he had learnt nothing from me since I first taught him in December 2012. I pulled out the composition that he had done for me the week before last. The difference was so stark that I wondered if it was done by the same little boy. I failed him for the first time in months.
I expect his school teacher would too.
Little J's mother asked him why he gave such poor work. Little J shrugged nonchalantly and said "School compositions are a whole lot less interesting than Dr Pet's compositions. Dr Pet gives us pictures about princesses and warriors and pirates and aliens... and even James Bond. The school's compositions are so boring to do."
It made me sad that Little J was so selective in producing quality. He was such a good writer but he would never get anywhere if he wrote well only for me!! And so, this post is for Little J.
God gave Dr Pet a talent for teaching children English. Of course, there are nice children, and NOT nice children. There are children who focus well, and children who don't focus well. There are children who are naughty and children who aren't.
Now, do you remember that when you first came, you couldn't focus and you were ever so naughty. You were EVER so naughty! You were so naughty that it kept me awake some nights as I thought of how VERY naughty you were. You were so naughty your Mother sobbed as she spoke with me on the phone.
Imagine if I told God this "Dear God, I am NOT going to put my best effort into teaching Little J because he is so very naughty." If I hadn't put my best EFFORT into teaching you, a naughty little boy, would you today have become the good little boy you are today? Similarly, if you don't put your best EFFORT into your school compositions, they would never become interesting compositions. You have cursed your own work from the start.
God in all his perfection doesn't look for perfection from Dr Pet. He looks at the purity of heart and spirit towards my work. Like every other human on earth, Dr Pet makes mistakes. Like every other child who writes, Little J will make mistakes. I understand that... but I also know when you have not given me your best effort.
Believe me. I know.
In the book of Genesis, the difference between Cain's offering to God and Abel's offering to God lay in the notion of "best effort". Cain gave his best EFFORT to God. Abel gave LESS than his best effort.
God rejected Abel's work of his hands.
God makes it very clear that he expects our best. It doesn't matter whether it's a school assigned composition or a composition Dr Pet assigned, you are still bound to give your best effort. It is not the school's job to give interesting compositions for you to do. It is YOUR job to take the talent in writing that God gave you and make an interesting composition out of a boring topic. Just like it was my job (and your mother's) to give our best effort to make a good boy out of a naughty one like you.
And look at the WONDERFUL child you have become.
I wonder what God would say if I dared tell him that I didn't feel like teaching Little J properly because Little J was naughty. I wonder how sad Little J would feel if he learnt that we had given up without trying to help him become a good boy. I wonder... if that poor boring composition had feelings... how it would feel to know that Little J didn't even give it ONE small chance to be a good composition.
Besides, Dr Pet does give out boring topics too. All the topics planned for September will be quite quite boring indeed. I do hope you'll make them interesting for me to read.