Friday, August 17, 2012

Challenge Them to Learn

Last week M-girl had a substitute ballet teacher. As I peered through the window in between chapters of the book I was reading, I noticed that the sub was doing things a bit differently than her regular teacher, but I really didn't think much of it at the time. Of course, I quit ballet at the ripe old age of three, so I'm not exactly an expert.

When class was over, I asked M-girl how it was having a sub. She looked up from changing into her street shoes, and replied in a subdued tone, It was fine.

No sooner had we shut ourselves into our car than her real feelings emerged.

Mom, it was horrible! she said. She didn't teach us anything. She seemed like a very nice person, but she was too nice to be a teacher. She wouldn't correct us at all!

As both a mom, and a homeschool teacher I was surprised and pleased by this outburst from my 8 year old daughter. Further discussion revealed that M-girl, suspicious that the sub was overly praising the students, began to purposely do the dance steps wrong - and was never corrected.


Contrary to what some adults might think, she wasn't relieved at the lack of pressure...she was outraged. I think she really felt insulted that the sub was underestimating her abilities, and liberally handing out worthless praise.

I couldn't resist jumping on the opportunity to point out that my hubby and I demand their best from her and her siblings, because to do less would indeed be cheating them of the opportunity to find out what they are capable of. She agreed, in her worked up, angry state of mind.

I'm not kidding myself. I know that there will be plenty of battles ahead with my children. My hubby and I will have to be tough sometimes, and push them to meet marks that they see no need of reaching. We'll do it because we love them, and we want them to reach their individual potentials.

It was really nice to have my daughter express so clearly her desire to learn and to be challenged to do better. It can be easy for parents fail their kids with the best of intentions. It's natural to want to shelter our children from the setbacks that true challenges entail. It's becoming all to common these days to hand out trophies and prizes to children just for participating, instead of allowing them to experience the sense of achievement that only hard work and practice can bring. Empty praises mean nothing, and kids are smart enough to pick up on that. Rewards that come too easily don't feel truly earned.

So thank you substitute ballet teacher. You are a nice lady, and I owe you one. I just won't be putting my daughter in your class again. She is a girl who wants to learn.

linking to:  Pour Your Heart Out

17 comments:

  1. It's so true that kids need limits, and they need to know when they've earned something and when it's being handed to them. Your daughter is already smart enough to know the difference.

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    1. It's easy to underestimate kids and what they're capable of. They are very discerning and can spot insincerity a mile away!

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  2. I remember being the same way as your daughter when I was younger! :) I always infuriated when others (especially adults who didn't know me) would underestimate what I was capable of! Good for your daughter for expecting more out of those who are meant to teach her (and major props to you and her regular ballet teacher for showing her what that means)!!

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    1. I remember feeling that way sometimes too. I suppose it's easy to look at a child attempting to do something, and just think that they're so cute that you shouldn't correct their mistakes. That really doesn't help them in the end though.

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  3. Your girl is amazingly smart and cute :)

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    1. Thanks! She does make me proud sometimes!

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  4. You must be very proud of the strong, confident young lady you are raising. Not only does she want to learn but she is articulate enough to express what bothered her about her substitute ballet teacher.

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    1. I am proud of her. I was really surprised that she was so emphatic about her dislike of the sub's teaching methods. I think she might have surprised herself too.

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  5. Excellent! That is so wonderful that she was able to see that for herself and demand more out of what she is learning! I think that is why I despise most childrens activities is that gold star being handed out to everyone just for participating. I won't have that around my home. Kudos to you and your husband for training your children the right way! :)

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    1. My husband and I try really hard to seek out worthwhile activities for our kids to join. We don't have the time or resources to waste on fluff. I guess her reaction is a testament to the quality of instruction that she's used too.

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  6. Awesome! Thanks for being so real--and so spot-on. Sometimes the best way to love our kids is to be tough and push them. Too often this is overlooked in the pursuit of being "nice". Loved this post!

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    1. Thanks Meredith! It's hard sometimes to be the parent and demand real effort from kids, but it's better in the long run. They get more satisfaction out of well earned praise than rewards that come too easily.

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  7. Your daughter sounds like a smart girl! Putting her teacher to the test by intentionally doing it wrong! I'm impressed.

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    1. Yes, that was pretty clever of her. Knowing her she probably found the idea in a book.

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  8. That is so awesome!! Hopefuly she always has that attitude. I had a professor in college that after the tests would review them and if people just said boo practically he would give them (and everyone else) credit for that answer. Made me so mad as I studied and got it right in the first place, it wasn't fair and I didn't want to try anymore.

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    1. That is so irritating to see people skating by without any effort, when you're actually working for the same goal.

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  9. What a proud mama moment to hear her say that!

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