Is It Wrong to Pressurise My Child to Study?

Okay, we left you last (presumably) disturbed over a test score of 40%.  I don’t exactly fault you.  I was there once.  I cannot deny that when I, the teacher (yes, the “Score of 40” scenario actually happened) heard of it from the student’s mother, my heart had a distinct sinking feeling all the way down to my toes and seeping out my shoes.

By that time, however, I had learned; and the sinking phenomenon was soon checked by another more energetic one rising from my toes and tingling up my spine in anticipation.  The redeeming thought was this:  so, we were beaten by that number.  We got less than half of it.  Well, what of it?  We’ll learn, anyway!  And my student and I, in those early days of teaching, turned our attention away from the number and focused on the learning.  By the end of the school year, he had learned… and his scores obligingly rose with it.

Does this sound familiar to you:  child gives a wrong answer.  You shake your head, “Why don’t you know this?  It’s so simple.”  Child shrugs, “It’s okay, what.  I got more than half correct already.  Still can pass.”

Can you figure out what this child’s problem is?  Needs more pressure? Lazy? Careless? On the surface, it appears, yes!  Let’s dig deeper.  What about this:

WHY is he lazy and careless about his work?  Would you agree that it is because he doesn’t care to learn?  One last question.

WHY doesn’t he care to learn?  Why isn’t he enthusiastic about learning and being able to give the right answers?

Finger-in-the-electric-socket experimentBy now are you wondering, “Teacher Sue, aren’t you asking a needless question?  Aren’t all children devoid of that good inclination to want to learn?”  Ahh, there we assume.  Quite simply, the answer is no.  Actually, children are naturally interested in learning.  Has it ever occurred to you that your 2-year-old is not asking questions all the time just to annoy you?  Has it ever occurred to you that there were no wicked intentions behind your 3-year-old’s finger-in-the-electric-socket experiment?  Children are naturally interested in learning!  (This, by the way, is more than just my philosophy—it is backed by research and was first stated around the 1930s by one of the most well-known early childhood theorists known today, Jean Piaget.)

Then, Teacher Sue, how do you explain that careless attitude towards learning when he grows older?  Get ready for this, it sounds like an accusation (actually, it is):  we are responsible for it, and I can prove it.  Take for instance, when the child is in Kindergarten taking his first spelling test.  Let’s say he gets 6/10.  His teacher marks his paper.  Six out of ten, only one star for you, child.  You pick him up at 6pm.

You:  “How was your test?  Got 10/10?”

“No,” he remarks cheerfully (you see, those numbers don’t mean anything to him… yet), “I got 6/10.  Teacher said I could only have one star.”

You:  “You see, I told you.  Never learn your words properly, cannot get three stars.”

He comes home and shows it to Daddy.

Daddy:  “Oh, you had a spelling test?”

Child:  “Yes.  I got 6/10.  Teacher only gave me one star.  My friend got 10/10; she got three stars.”

Daddy:  “Who ask you never study?  Must get 10/10 next time, okay?”

What are we teaching him?  Aim for the numbers.  Aim for the numbers.  Aim for the numbers.  What about the correct spelling of the words he got right?  Immaterial.  What about his accomplishments—he had more right than wrong, you know? Also immaterial.  We’re aiming for the top number.  So what does he learn?  Aim for the numbers!  Is learning the subject matter important?  Not really—as long as you get the top number, you’re fine.  But is that the whole reason we send him to school—to chase after a number for 10 to 12 years?  And, sadly enough, that will stick with him all his years of schooling (and into parenthood, I might add), unless WE change our approach.  Is it any wonder that the careless attitude is all but set in stone by the time the child is Primary 6?

So does he need more pressure?  No, not quite. What does he really need?  He needs help to change his focus from the numbers to the learning.  He needs help to begin enjoying his learning.  You’ll see!  When he starts to enjoy learning, you’ll never need to pressurise him about his studies ever again.  I’ll cover that in the next newsletter.  Stay tuned!

Thank you for reading!  And please forgive the Singlish renditions… I had to do them in Singlish to make it more true to life! ;)

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