Do we truly want to inspire and teach and lead our children? Or do we wish for everyone to "feel good" and all basically cross the finish line at the same time? This will probably be long...When I was in second grade, the same grade my son is finishing now, my teacher, Ms. Black, was very nice. She wanted all of her students to be happy and get along and help each other. She genuinely enjoyed teaching and it showed in the treatment of her students. But, alas, she was not the only decision-maker in the direction of her class and its learning. The administration needed to make sure that certain things happened throughout the school year, such as certain test scores that had to be in a certain percentile. Parents had to be kept happy and little Johnny or Suzie had to feel good about themselves. So Ms. Black had many responsibilities bearing down on her. Ms. Black was a professional teacher, so of course she was duly compensated for her efforts monetarily. This was a motivator in that, should she not meet the expectations of said administration, she would lose her position and be unable to meet her financial obligations. So, as test time rolled around, we students, ever anxious to please our beloved teacher, with whom we spent the majority of our waking hours, would studiously learn our lessons that pertained to the tests we would be taking. Since I happened to be an exceptional student, in that I consistently, even at this tender age, tested well, my contribution to the raising of the test average was pleasantly anticipated. Less well-equiped students were encouraged to study the most important parts of the test and more advanced students were encouraged to get good sleep, eat well, rest, have no stress and most of all, to be on time and present on the test day. Notes were sent home and parents were encouraged to ensure that every eligible student was present for the test taking. This was paramount to the sucess of the school. In short, we were encouraged to score as high as possible and we quite understood the importance of this event, Test Day. Now, you are probably wondering about the worms. I'm there. Ms. Black, capable teacher that she was, understood that reading was of singular importance to students of any age, and very specific scientific studies were conducted to prove the very thing. Reading must happen. Her job, her financial security, the well-being of her students rested largely upon this basic skill. So, she, being a creative teacher, designed a reading contest. For each age-appropriate book read by the student and signed off by the parent, the student would receive a colored-paper circle with their name on it in glitter. These circles would make up little worms, as we were all becoming "bookworms". Quite clever! Glitter? Multi-colored glitter? Say no more! My reading activity, already bordering on excessive, became obsessive, as the motivator of seeing my name in glitter on a circle over and over up on the wall spurred me onward. Page after page, book after book was devoured and dutifully signed off by my teacher-mother. She was quite proud of me, as being a teacher herself, it was a joy to see a plan in action and a student responding so well to the plan. Circle after circle went up on the wall and I began to outpace my fellow classmates. Far outpace them, as it turned out, and soon it became quite obvious that something was different about this particular student. Phone calls and notes were made to ensure that my reading of each book was actually happening. My integrity was questioned!! Did you actually reeead allll those books? I was making my fellow students feel badly, as their worms were noticeably shorter than mine. The beloved teacher kneeled down at my desk one day and informed me that because I was an "unusual reader" that my worm circles would now only be put up for each 10 books I read, as not to make my fellow students "feel bad" about their shorter worms. There would be a small "10" added to the bottom of each new circle. There. Problem solved. Now everyone could go back to feeling good, and the other students worms gradually began to catch up to mine. I was crushed. Here was my teacher, MY Teacher! who had completely crushed my sense of self-worth, self-esteem. What I had been achieving had been "bad", I had made others feel poorly, I had over-achieved and this was not a good way to run a class or make friends. It didn't matter that before this new arrangement my classmates had simply been in awe of my reading abilities and then went on to play four-square or tetherball as normal, with no lasting side-effects of my abnormally long worm. It didn't matter to Teacher that none of the other kids were really especially bothered by the fact that I was a quick and voracious reader. What mattered was a sense of equality. Of standing shoulder to shoulder, with no one taller than the other in any respect. Fairness, sameness and equality must be achieved! Self-esteem of others might suffer should one be found gifted above others in any subject! One might expect that I gave up and simply did what everyone else was doing, about a book or two per week, nothing spectacular or out of the ordinary. One might expect that, but one would be wrong. My passion for reading did not abate, and my determination only hardened. I would exceed my limits, I would suceed in my own mind, at least. I pressed on and read as many books as I possibly could. I still managed to gain a circle or two each week, even with the limitation of having to read ten books for each circle. The Teacher mentioned laughingly that she was tired of writing my name in glitter. She laughed! If she had only known how much a 2nd grade girl loves glitter. A favorite aunt always sent birthday and other special-occasion cards with glitter on them because she knew. Some have called me hard-headed, others have mentioned that I possess a strong personality. Me? I'm as stubborn as a mule and no one will hold me down. I guess this incident in my formative years taught me a thing or two. I learned that I could give only about 50% effort and still exceed 99% of my peers. So, why try harder? My extraordinary efforts were not rewarded nor were they wanted. My reward for finishing work early in class was to receive more work! To keep me busy, it was said. I daydreamed too much. I wasn't paying attention. Yet, I knew all the material. Did no one notice this child was bored stiff? Was not challenged by the material? Was not encouraged to reach HER potential, rather than meet the class average and move on to the next class? No. Except at test time. Raise the average score so our school is recognized and rewarded! But the rest of the time, sit still, be quiet, go with the flow, do the work and if you're done early, sit quietly more. Stand in line, walk together, raise your hand, keep your head and mind level with everyone else. After all, we have to be fair. We have to be equal. We have to give everyone self-esteem. This is a story of a little girl who was told that her best was, in fact, not good enough, that what was wanted was mediocrity, sameness, equality. So she learned to give it. A little girl who then grew up only to realize that there IS a place in this world for her best, and it is wanted now that she is grown up and has children of her own. She couldn't bear to have their best ridiculed and rejected, and taking matters into her own capable hands, she decided that the ones who loved her children best would be their teachers and their very best efforts would always be accepted, cherished and wanted. And so, I homeschool. I love. I teach. I expect the best from my children and they know that when it is given, it is wanted, loved, cherished and celebrated, just as they are. Thank you for reading. - Jade4
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