Saturday, September 26, 2009

What holds us back

When it comes to academic excellence, I am not the most demanding of mothers. While I would love to have my kids do well in their studies, I don’t get overtly stressed when they do not, as long as I know they are doing the best they can.
But even my rather lackadaisical attitude did not quite mask the disappointment I felt when my first grader proudly displayed the 0/10 he had got in his first dictation test. I didn’t react either way, but did spend an inordinate amount of time teaching him the next set of words. After all that effort, when all he got was a 3/10, I despaired of him ever getting more than that. After all the mistakes he made were really small ones – a pair of interchanged letters, dropping a vowel, or putting in an extra one – mistakes not too easy to correct.
The next week, we still persisted with the third set of words, and he managed a 7/10, which he followed up with another 7/10, and then a third. There was a clear pattern in his tests – he always got the first six words right, then ran out of steam, and made three mistakes in the next four. The waning mental concentration was reflected in his handwriting – the first words were neatly formed, and got progressively messier, till the last words were barely legible.
That was not quite acceptable to me. I didn’t care if he made careless mistakes, but I cared that his attention span was so short. Tried making him write the words a couple of times, but to no effect.
Then, last week, quite unexpectedly, he came home with a 10/10. I could barely contain my excitement, and didn’t attempt to do so. This weeks words, too, he learnt quite effortlessly. “Mamma, I’ll get another 10/10”, he promised. But I didn’t get my hopes up.
But he did come home with yet another 10/10, and the handwriting was so neat, the teacher gave him an excellent and two stars.
Even before seeing the words for the next week, he’s informed me he is going to get full marks again. And perhaps he will – he seems to have broken the mental barrier he had imposed on himself, and there is really nothing holding him back now.
Will I be disappointed if he gets less than a 10/10 this time? Not really. I know he can do it. I know he realises the importance of doing it. And I also know that pretty soon complacency will set in, and it would take a low mark to get him to start performing on par again.
But as long as he knows he can do it, he will continue to do so.
Isn’t it the same with all of us? Most often, what holds us back is not anything external- it is merely our lack of confidence in ourself.
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dipali said...

The progression is what's so important!
Having gained confidence and mastery over the technique of learning spellings, this is one skill that is his for life!
Keep it up, little boy!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

It's so true. We're our own worst enemies!

Mystery Writing is Murder

Anonymous said...

The most important thing is that they can see progress when comparing themselves with .. themselves.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ dipali - it is the progression which is so important, isn't it? I am so proud of my little boy.

@ Elizabeth - I read a Harry Potter fan-fiction once where the boy wizard did all sorts of utterly impossible things - DD finally concluded that since he did not know what could not be done, there was nothing to hold him back. Almost the same with us, isn't it?

@ Fiona - totally agree. The only competition should be with yourself.

Watery Tart said...

I'm so proud of him! You know what this says to me... learning isn't always natural, and new skills need to be learned different ways. He had to 'learn to learn' this, and now that he has figured out THAT piece, the learning is easier, so it would take NOT trying to miss more than the occasional one or two.

And good for you for being such a patient teacher!

Elspeth Antonelli said...

Self-confidence is the best gift you can give to yourself. I'm happy for you and your son. Good for him and good for you to spend so much time helping him!


Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Tami - exactly! And there are so many lessons in that for all of us, even at our relatively advanced age.

@ Elspeth - I guess we all just bumble along. And when something like this happens, it reinforces your faith in your own good intentions.

Bubbly Bala said...

It is the neat even handwriting that I feel very happy about A 10/10 is afterall the most any child can and he's done it I was a very demanding mother and nothing but the best would do for me.and you didnt disappoint me too often.But then I did spend a lot of time with you while you did your homework and I wanted you to come back with nothing but the best All that seems like a dream now..

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Bala - When I got perfection, I wanted more. Not fair really, considering I am not exactly a perfectionist.


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