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School report. Wednesday June 25, 2014

You can learn a lot from your children.

Last Friday my daughter brought home her first end of year school report from senior school.

Now, if put in a corner and forced to honestly describe my daughter I would say "she's a nice kid, moderately bright; works hard." And, if her school report had basically said that I think we would have all been happy.

Obviously nice kids who work hard are at a bit of premium these days and so her report was full of superlatives that, while gratifying to us as parents was rather embarrassing and deeply distressing to my daughter.

Because she's a realist with unrealistic expectations of herself.

Let me explain: the majority of her friends are highly academic children who effortlessly achieve higher grades than she does. She knows this perfectly well, compares herself to them and so does not think the positive comments on her report deserved. She is also the kind of child who, if there are 100 marks available in a test, will only be satisfied if she scores all 100 with an extra ten bonus points for immaculate presentation. She thinks she could have done better this year; she should have done better and is uneasy with the fulsome acknowledgement of her actual achievements for the year.

Yes, you're quite right; that kind of thinking is not the ideal recipe for mental health.
So there I am, comforting my distressed child, explaining that it's absolutely OK to be happy and proud that her teachers think so highly of her; that her teachers are judging her on her own potential and not comparing her to her more academic friends and that, actually, we're pretty happy and proud ourselves to be her parents.

And a little voice inside my head is saying "And you know exactly where she gets this from don't you? Just listen to yourself and learn that lesson too."

Quite a number of us have far higher expectations of ourselves than others do. Quite a number of us denigrate our own (often substantial) achievements by comparing ourselves to others. Quite a number of us are profoundly uneasy receiving praise and compliments as our due.

So perhaps we could learn to listen to others and not just dismiss all the good stuff. Being a nice person who works hard and always does their best is a pretty good thing to be; no matter what our own opinion of that best is. And, maybe, just maybe, we might better than we think we are.

(Well, not me – obviously: I know I'm rubbish... Oops!)

A Moodscope member.

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Anonymous Wed, Jun 25th 2014 @ 2:35pm

Your daughter could be me when I was young! I didn't have clued up parents like you and felt ashamed that I was not an academic highflier. I even hid my school report to be signed by them until the end of a summer holiday, so that they barely had time to read it before signing it and me flying out the door on the first day of the new academic year! I married into an academic family. My mother-in-law (academic) was forever dropping cruel hints about people not being very 'bright' and my husband's siblings are always sparring with each other. However, I now have my degree in therapeutic counselling at age 60, and I like to think that I can help others to restore belief in themselves and to work to their full potential. Studying for it was a hard grind, but oh so worth it, especially when I observe the behaviour of my husband's family. As a retired infant/junior school teacher I cannot for the life of me understand governments employing such incompetent education secretaries of state, during my adult years. Let's value all children, should they shine at practical, creative or academic subjects. Yes, we need 'boffins', 'arty farty' and practical, intelligent people who work diligently with their special gift which will benefit themselves, their families and this or other countries! Please God, lets get away from this horrible 'hard working families' culture and value and encourage all people to shine. We can all be 'bright'!

Anonymous Wed, Jun 25th 2014 @ 4:59pm

Dear Mary:
Your daughter sounds exactly like my oldest son. All through school, he worked so much harder than his "academic" friends who always made better grades than he. He, too, was well liked by his teachers, his classmates, his friends, their parents, etc... and I was very proud of that and all the "compliments" about him. Like your daughter, he never saw the importance of this. Any time I tried to "boost his confidence," he would reply, "You have to say that - you're my mother."
My son was in his early 20s, in college & still working hard for "top grades," when he finally realized that being a nice person & working hard was far more important than grades. He is now 30 years old, in a (career) position that he earned through hard work & his ability to get along well with everyone. No one cares what his GPA, (grade point average), was in school. In addition to his paying job, he has been asked to serve on several non-profit Boards of Directors as Chairman & is very involved in the community where he is well-liked and greatly respected. His confidence has soared.
I'm certain that your daughter will experience something similar. People are always complaining about the lack of social skills & a strong work ethic in young people today. (The ones who, effortlessly, made the higher grades were often shocked in the "real world" when things didn't come so easily.)
What I'm trying to say is that your daughter's work ethic & personality will serve her far better than being the student who made the highest grades.
To paraphrase Albert Einstein - Everyone is a genius, but you can't judge a fish by it's ability to climb a tree.

Silvia A Wed, Jun 25th 2014 @ 5:46pm

Mary, I appreciated your post, your honesty.
I have a friend. She was considered academic and quite intelligent. But she was never the best student in her class. She told me that from an earlier age she noticed that this was a privilege to be intelligent and she was so grateful that she was not as dull as the others but an easy going person. Later she moved to other schools and university and her quest for something she didn't know prevented her to dedicate as much as her colleagues so she was just regular. When she finally found this community she looked for so long, they were artists, and although she was regular in many areas she had no talent. She lived among poor people and among rich people. Now, in her middle age she think her mother helped her more than she imagined. First, her mother always said no matter what you choose to do in your life, you must choose something you like. Money, recognition is not the most important thing but to do what you do with conviction. Second, not the best students who have the best grades are those who are more successful in life. Despite not achieving what so many people thought of her, I can tell you that she is satisfied with her life. We were talking recently and now she can reflect about life in a deeper way, and more and more she confirms what her mother said. And she adds: there are much more in life than the career or the intellect, the character, the love and happiness one spread, the good one makes to others. And more: she noticed that the best intellects she met in her life, who had the highest character were the very people who encourage others to give their best in what they are or simply value them for what they are.

Anonymous, I so much appreciated your comment, too. I was hesitant to post this but as I read yours, I think we have similar point of view. Congratulations for your degree. Hope to have a blog of yours in the future ; )

Theresa NZ Wed, Jun 25th 2014 @ 5:47pm

Mary you are amazing and I love reading your blogs. Your daughter sounds amazing too. Yes, we need to accept praise and say 'thank you'.

Silvia A Wed, Jun 25th 2014 @ 5:53pm

Anonymous June 25, 2014 4:59 pm, I didn't see your post. It is not with happiness I see so many intellectually gifted people be such an inconvenience for others in their life.

Anonymous Wed, Jun 25th 2014 @ 8:18pm

Mary I love all your posts but this one in particular made my heart go out to you and your daughter and your last comment made me chuckle and realise that I wanted to respond to you. The education system has an insidious way of making children feel inferior and making parents fearful that they are letting their children down one way or another. You and your daughter are inspirations for us - proof that tenacity, being grounded and having a healthy scepticism for other people's judgements are more valuable skills than academic success. Bless you both.

Mary Wed, Jun 25th 2014 @ 10:27pm

Brilliantly put. thank you. and congratulations on your degree!

Mary Wed, Jun 25th 2014 @ 10:30pm

Thank you for your encouraging comments. I know that whatever job my daughter has, she will give it her best efforts. I loved your Albert Einstein quotation and am delighted to hear that your son has found (real) success in life.

Mary Wed, Jun 25th 2014 @ 10:38pm

Thank you so much. I'm glad that last comment made you chuckle; a friend of mine who read it has threatened to spank me (!!!) if she ever hears me saying something so negative about myself again.... She wasn't quite sure it was a joke, you see! (It was, of course). So pleased you like the posts; I enjoy writing them and fine them very therapeutic.

Mary Wed, Jun 25th 2014 @ 10:40pm

Thank you Theresa! (see - I'm learning!)

Anonymous Thu, Jun 26th 2014 @ 12:55am

I was the one who wrote this post. I'm not exactly sure what you mean?
I hope I didn't write anything "wrong" or which was misinterpreted...

Silvia A Thu, Jun 26th 2014 @ 1:44am

You talked about your son.You mentioned his "academic" friends who always made better grades than he. I said that I see so many "academic" people causing problems and sadness to those around them, (quite the opposite of the harmony of your son).

Is it clearer now?

Anonymous Thu, Jun 26th 2014 @ 10:54pm

Thanks, Silvia. I didn't understand what you meant about being an "inconvenience for others." Perhaps I was unclear. Socially, my son was sort of the "leader" of his group of friends.

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