Reflections: Motivation. Potential. Imposing.

God, please get me through the lessons. I need compassion for the kids. Let this day be a good one.”

It was one of those days that you need prayers to get through certain challenges. After last week’s encounter with P, I was disheartened and wasn’t quite sure if I could do a good job.

Ms H got me to work with P again and this time, on shapes. P smiled at me upon seeing me. I felt assured. She’s all right with me. I guided her on her work, being extra mindful that I needed to be gentle with her and to respect her answers. Today. she was more cooperative and when I tried to tell her gently to try again, she was less resistant. She was having little successes for the first few questions and it was the last page. I read the instructions to her and she did the work by herself. Come on! Get it right. Come on! When she finally got all the questions for that page right, my heart leapt for joy! I really wanted to shout! You’ve got it right! Well done!!!!

Pride was written ALL OVER P’s face and in a very shy and quiet tone, “Can you tell Ms H that I got it correct?”

Of course! When P got the praise from the teacher, she was beaming and automatically went to look for her earlier unfinished work and did it, by herself! For the next few part of the lesson, P was all attentive.

She was motivated. Period.

During writing, I was helping a child with his work when I noticed a boy, CO sulking at his table. Going over, I asked him what was wrong. “I wanted to write my own story, but I can’t!”

You see, before that, Ms H was telling him that there was a need to beef up his story and that he needed to change this and that. Perhaps, in the end, he was thinking that he was actually writing a story that Ms H wanted but not what he desired.

I left the school, thinking about this for the longest time. YOu see, Ms H had a set of objectives for the lesson. As teachers, we all have SIOs to achieve. In our earnest attempt to do that, have we, as teachers, imposed our perspectives or views on our students? Have we allowed them to develop their potential or have we done the reverse?

Then I thought about myself, my own education.

I was hopeless in my primary school years and was eligible for a place in the 7 extended class until the principal decided to give our class a chance to ‘transfer’ to Primary 6 (yes, I was not promoted). That was indeed a saving grace and on to the next phase I went.

I did well in secondary school though, well enough to choose any stream that I wanted for Secondary 3. I was especially interested in Home Econs (HE) and Art and excelled in the practical aspect of HE. My teacher would have the other girls taste my cooking and baking and praised me for my design and workmanship for sewing.

But, I didn’t receive that kind of encouragement fom my mom. My mom had never touched my food that was brought back from my HE class, commenting that there was a weird smell to it (Oh! Perhaps only once. It was Chicken Macaroni soup). I thought there was something wrong with my cooking and baking and that had been my belief since then. So, when it came to choosing the stream for Secondary 3, I knew Home Econs was not an option. Besides, there was a stigma attached to that stream – only those who cannot excel go there. But you know what? Whenever my friends came out from their HE class, with their containers of cooked food in their hands, I would just admire them from where I was, sitting fixed in the chair with the teacher rambling on and on.

I continued to think of my cooking as bad and since mom would not be eating or anyone else for that matter, I would just ‘anyhow’ cook, as long as the food was edible. But there was one incident which I clearly remember. My brother was discharged from hospital from a car accident and as no one was at home, I decided to cook a good meal for him. I did a beef steak and some sides to accompany and his response? This is good! To hear a praise from my brother is like getting a camel to go through the eye of the needle. My brother NEVER praised me and I was shocked when I heard that. Maybe, my cooking CAN BE good after all!

 I wonder what my path would be if my mom had been more encouraging and allowed me to pursue what I wanted ( she should really learn from Ken).  I did well in swimming when I was younger and the coach told my mom that I could be real good in long-distance swim. My mom, after that swimming test, stopped me from attending. Her reason? I needed to concentrate on my studies (my studies actually got worse after that; I was in Primary 2).

What’s my point with all these?

As an educator, I question myself if I had done my job to motivate my students, to allow them to discover their interest and to help them develop their potential. Was I too concerned with completing the curriculum that I ignored whatever talents that were manifested and failed to develop them?

As a mother in the future, would I dictate what my children would learn just so that they could be successful, in MY own terms?

I am not angry with my mom, just to set the records straight. I believe she had her children’s interest at heart and she wanted them to be successful. Success, to her, is to have education and then a job. Her notion of success is very much in alignment with what the society advocates. Aren’t our values influenced by what the society preaches, in one way or another?

Recent conversations with Ken have set me thinking about what we are doing in terms of education. I’m glad that over the years, the ministry has made a lot of changes, acknowledging that children have different abilities and talents and thus making provisions for the development of these abilities . There is still a long way to go but at least we are taking steps to achieve that.

I remember a missionary friend who homeschools her 3 children. On her second kid, she told me, “If the kid is in our mainstream school, she would have failed and be terribly miserable.” This eight-year-old kid has difficulty recognising words and thus reading. But, I tell you, she is a natural in performing arts. An amazing performer she is and I’m glad she is not under the system.

What would you do to develop your children’s potential? Would you be overly concerned about academic achievement?