LAST MONTH, I had a chat with a friend and former musician who now teaches at one of the schools here in the region. During our conversation, he mentioned in passing one of the quandaries of teaching these days. Like other educators, he said they often feel there’s baggage involved somehow whenever they disapprove a student from graduating for the reason they had not turned in a satisfactory performance.
In short, they failed. Sometimes during such situations, those who failed would come to them crying, imploring them to just let it slide and thus allow them to graduate. Then, in rarer circumstances, it’s even a parent (or both) who would plead their ward’s case. In these cases, he said he remained firm but fair, believing if he let one slip through, it’s just like leaving the door ajar for other cases to follow. Even as I commended him on this stance, what he said right after was another matter.
Apparently, during such decisions, he insinuated they also have to be prepared to face queries and pressures from other parties, part of which was to explain to superiors their actions. It turns out to me, and controversial as it was, giving a grade apparently is not the end of all.
In our olden boomer days, we were products of the “spare the rod and spoil the child” maxim. In the schools then, the rules shaped our reality and as such, sensitivities were out the window. You either followed the rules or bore the consequences. If you failed in subjects, you either took summer classes or repeated the whole year. Then many years after that, with my firstborn, I heard that the climate had relaxed a bit. It wasn’t as strict anymore. In fact, I was quite amused that, in closing ceremonies of several nieces and nephews, I observed that, especially in Kinder, they were already giving out a lot of ribbons and awards, which I suspected meant “nobody was left behind.”
There was ‘most polite’, most punctual’, or even ‘most behaved’. We were even joking that why don’t they open up to the mundane as well, like best in haircut? Eventually, I got what was being aimed at, finally recognizing the sensitivity and self-worth of each child, or at least that was the gist of it all. Much later, a friend told me the system had relaxed a bit so much that in the elementary years, kids never got to repeat any more, as all moved on to the next level. Of course, I didn’t believe it. Till now.
Going back to the case of that graduate-to-be, I’m thinking, could it be that our departure from sparing the rod and spoiling the child kind of system somehow softened these gens? Even in the abstract, isn’t it that spoon-feeding creates a kind of entitlement? If so, does that then follow working harder or actually learning something in school is not as important anymore?
One of the greatest parenting mistakes of our time is believing we can buy our children a magical childhood. When the reality is a magical childhood is simply having the space and time to be a child.
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