Friday, April 25, 2014

School and Flaming Hoops

One of my sons is struggling with school.  He isn't having a hard time understanding his classwork - the boy is actually brilliant.  Maybe even a bit too smart for his own britches.  He knows the minimum he can do to get by, and only does that much.  The minimum to get by, however, has been shrinking as his acceptance of lower grades and less effort continues to grow.

As a mother, I worry and scold.  We talk about potential and the need for work.  I search in vain for adequate consequences or work plans.  So far, nothing is working.  And he is not working.

As a used-to-be student, I understand.  I remember being fed up with my classes and feeling misunderstood and ignored by my teachers.  I didn't pull in my grades for my teachers, for sure.  I didn't do it for myself - I didn't really care.  I knew, however, that my mother would tan my hide if my grades were bad.  She worked at the school district office, and was friendly with all my teachers.  She never missed a parent-teacher conference.  She was constantly asking about how my classes were going.  She programmed the computers that calculated our grades, and she would bring home a copy of my report card before they were passed out at school.  I'm not sure how she distilled that school-is-important into me and my brothers, but she sure did.  I wish I knew, because I haven't been able to give that same school-is-important vibe to my children.

I asked my brothers, fellow scholars in our growing-up home, how they managed to get by in school.  Without exception, they all said the same thing.  "I figured out which hoops were essential to jump through and played the game their way."  One brother called them "flaming hoops."

And that is the rub, because my boy doesn't want to jump through the hoops.  He thinks that playing the game is childish and beneath him.  He loves to learn things, but not only does he not feel that his schooling  helps him to learn, but that it actually hinders real learning.

I think there is a lot more to learn in school than just the subject matter in the textbook.  How to jump through hoops.  How to respect authority.  How to accomplish things even when you don't want to.  How to be a finisher.  How to do hard things.  How to accept responsibility.  How to get along with difficult people.

I was so glad to find this article today, written by a teacher who honestly cares about his students.  It hits the nail right on the head about why school is important, and why we can't quit.

Some favorite segments:
You see, the main event of school is not academic learning. It never has been. It never will be...  The main event is learning how to deal with the harshness of life when it gets difficult — how to overcome problems as simple as a forgotten locker combination, to obnoxious peers, to gossip, to people doubting you, to asking for help in the face of self-doubt, to pushing yourself to concentrate when a million other thoughts and temptations are fingertips away. 
It is your resilience in conquering the main event — adversity — that truly prepares you for life after school. Because, mark my words, school is not the most challenging time you will have in life. You will face far greater challenges than these. Sure, you will have times more amazing than you can imagine, but you will also confront incomparable tragedy, frustration, and fear in the years to come.... 
But, you shouldn’t be worried about the fact that you will face great adversities. You should be worried because you’re setting yourself up to fail at overcoming them. Here’s the real reason I lose hours of sleep worrying about you: You are failing the main event of school. You are quitting.  You may not think you are quitting, but you are because quitting wears many masks. .

He goes on to detail a few ways that students - and all of us - quit doing our jobs.  It's a bad habit to get into, and it can destroy us.  Really.  It's that big of a deal.

I wonder how I can present it to my smarty-pants boy without him giving up because "none of my teachers care about me like that/"  But I'll Mom up and keep trying.  That's what we do.

Read the whole article - it's really worth it.  And then go take care of your job.  We can do this.

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