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Friday, December 5, 2014

Not Afraid to Fail

Smelly Boy will be 15 next year in 2015. He will need to compete in B Division Shooting for 15 to  16 year olds. The thing though is that he will need to compete internally with the 16 year olds to secure a spot in the competition team. It is something of a stretch because the 16 year olds are really good. They have had one extra year to train. The other 15 year olds decided that it was a bit of a long shot so they have decided to train less. I guess they figured that it was pretty hopeless so why even try?

Smelly Boy has been training EXTRA hard... everyday, however. When I understood the situation and asked him why, this was what he said, "Mom... if I work very hard and very smart, there is still a chance I can make the team. If I don't try, I will never know. If I try and fail, too bad. I owe it to myself to try. Besides, I love shooting anyway."

So that's that. I really am proud of him. He is not afraid to fail.

I guess having conquered abject failure in primary school has developed his resilience to failure. He still remembers the time when he was close to last in class, and how the "smart ones" in his class would not even talk to him because they thought he was a loser. At that time, there was even one boy who made Smelly Boy cry by pointing at him and teasing, "You're a lazy, lazy, lazy boy..." The teasing only stopped after Smelly Boy topped the class in Science in SA1 of P4. He remembers that he climbed from 28th in class... to 8th in class... and then to 2nd through hard and smart work.

Nowadays, Smelly Boy hangs out with a clique of boys who are either student leaders or accomplished sportsmen, and they pull in good grades. The other boys poke good-natured fun at this group and call them "nerdy". This is also the same group of boys that set up an afterschool tuition clinic (just before the end of year exams)  to help the rest of the class get up to speed on selected subjects. Smelly Boy took on Physics and Biology... and resolutely would not touch History.

Smelly Boy has come a long way since the days when his peers looked down on him. So this time, he just shrugged his shoulders and got on with it. No drama about... no hope... sure cannot... forget it... sure fail one lahhhh! He will give it his best and whatever will be, will be.

I am glad my son had a chance to fail badly early in life and he has learnt not to fear failure.

The problem with a high stakes PSLE at 12 years old is that parents are afraid to allow their children to fail. In this manner, our children never learn that failure is nothing to be afraid of.

Parents sometimes misunderstand that I expel children in order to maintain a stellar track record of an A*. That is not the case. Children (and parents) are expelled for lack of effort and diligence. Till today, I have not ever scolded a child who pulls in less than stellar results, after putting in diligent and obedient effort. Some of the children that I ask to withdraw are immensely intelligent. Others that I have chosen to keep, are dyslexic. I have a couple with anxiety issues who fall apart when even somewhat stressed.

You see, my Smelly Boy is NOT immensely intelligent in the same way that Dr Pet is not immensely intelligent. He is my son. The apple does not fall far from the tree. Deep down inside, I believe that effort gets children somewhere. In the long term, this forms the character. It would be good for children to grow up unafraid of failure and believing in hard work.

Just. Give. It. Your. Best.

As long as I see effort (on the part of parent and child), I will get the child to potential. That potential may not be an A*... but I am damn bloody well going to try and get them there.

Sometimes, the most unlikely child can get that A*.

There is the fable of the tortoise and the hare. The hare who chooses to fall asleep under the tree stands no chance at all of that A*.

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