Someone recently suggested that blogs should be about inspiration. It inspired me. In that spirit, this is what else has inspired me this week.
I don't know about you, but as a mother of school-age children, I am anxious about my children's education. I fear for my lads in the overcrowded, behaviourally-challenged state system and private school is not possible. Do I regret not having my children baptized, as now I can't get them into a Catholic school? No, I don't think so. Being an atheist converted from catholicism, my hypocrisy will only go so far. Mind you, I have been wrong about most other things that I have ever formed a strong opinion about. Like craft, for example. I used to be very anti-craft. I thought it was Fine Art's bogan cousin on a scholarship from a rural and regional area. I thought it was all Fimo earrings and appliqued wattles on windcheaters. And how wrong was I? So part of me is prepared to meet Jesus on the other side, shaking his head with a hint of a smirk that says 'I told you so' as he points me in the direction of the Inferno.
My concern had reached a peak last weekend after a very ordinary school report and being told by his teacher that my son "struggled with reading, but it was nothing to worry about" had inflamed a feeling of helplessness for my two boys. My boys are not your ordinary boy-sy lads, and I fear they could skate through a system in which, if you are not a high achiever or a naughty boy, you could potentially coast through, relatively education free.
Then a friend said "There is this video on the Internet, a speech by Ken Robinson, you HAVE to watch it." And I did. The speech is entitled " Why education kills creativity." Rather than furthering my despair, this speech gave me hope and clarity. A simple message 'play to their strengths'. Don't focus on their flaws, focus on their strengths. I dig it.
This philosophy is quite at odds with my childhood memories of education and family support. Being one of 7 children meant a rigid, nun-based education and in my belle famille mistakes were rarely left to pass unnoticed and the opportunity to take the piss was never left wanting. My mother recently joked about how I never wanted to go to ballet classes because I wouldn't get out of bed on Saturday morning. The way I remember it was being a 4 year old, all dressed up in my ballet pinks, loving myself sick, only to have the piss taken out of me so ruthlessly that I didn't ever want to don them again. My brother once kindly said that " a bikini on me would look like two rubber bands on an egg". But I'm not bitter ... much.
Any road, what I have taken from the witty Ken Robinson is this - observe your kids, see what makes them truly happy and facilitate their opportunity to revel in it as much as possible. All talents are equally important. Obvious stuff, I know, but my anxiety needed to be kicked to the curb.
I have also been reading Andrew Fuller's "Tricky Kids" which could alternatively be entitled "Out-of-Control Parents" but probably wouldn't sell as well. It is really a guide for changing parent's behaviour for better outcomes for your kids. I am inspired. Fuller promotes a simple mantra - 'Be positive and optimistic and be a fierce friend to your kids".
Note to self - Be positive and optimistic and play to your strengths. Life is more than your capacity to be 'successful' as defined by any one standardised test, institution, system or social expectation.
What's inspired you this week?
P.S. This post was not intended as a criticism of the education system or of teachers. The education this week has been all mine. What I have learned is that anxiety, my parental anxiety has clouded my judgement and has negatively effected the way I parent my children. Anxiety encourages me to focus on flaws. The problems I imagine and project onto the education system stem mostly from my fearsthat my children will not measure up within the system. The inspiration from Ken Robinson has begun to help dispense with this anxiety. The thing I hope for most for my children's education is that they find an adult or adults other than me and the luthier, a teacher or mentor who invests in them and their talents. Good teachers are the bees knees!