After reading an excellent article discussing the danger of praising children on their smarts, my husband and I ended up discussing our own method for raising our daughter, Thea. After a while, I commented, that I hope I am not one of those teacher mom’s that is hard for her teachers to deal with. The one that is too over-involved because they believe to the core that their child is smart, funny, articulate, and creative (not gifted, just normal smart). My husband was kind enough to let me know that he would help me control myself but then posed an excellent question; what if our daughter is just like me?
Most people would jump for joy if their children turned out just like them. And sure, there are many qualities that I wish I could just pass on to Thea. I have a pretty good sense of sarcasm and humor, I love abundantly and loudly. I am honest to a fault (surprise!) and I work very hard at my goals. I am a nurturer, a believer in people, and a devoted friend, wife, sister, and daughter. These are all fine qualities that I know Thea will have as well. However, there are things that I hope she misses out on from me and instead takes after my husband.
You see, I am an overachiever.
Ever since grade school where my mother was told I needed to apply myself, I have had a very twisted view of education for myself. Not only is it something to master, but it must be conquered, slayed, and nullified for me to be pleased. I went through college working full-time and taking 18 or more credits every semester. I was that student that always raised their hand, always had an answer, or even worse an opinion. I was past the point of really caring whether others liked me or not, I was there to get a good grade – an A – and nothing else. And I did. I ended up graduating Summa Cum Laude with a 4.0 GPA. No one was prouder than myself. I thought I had done it, I was on top of the world with my diploma and my drive. My family was just thrilled that this maniacal journey was over. See no one really cares what your GPA is once you graduate. They had explained this to me before, but still I was relentless. I pushed myself so hard that I had a panic attack before leaving for my honeymoon because of a science exam. I worked and worked, always trying to get it just right, making it perfect, and for what? A diploma?
So when I think of qualities for my daughter to inherit, being an overachiever is not something I wish for her. In fact I don’t wish it on anyone. Instead, I hope for her to have fun with learning, to realize that grades are not the end all, that the award is truly the learning journey and not the end result. I carry this hope for my students as well. I want them to experience school as a place to explore and gain knowledge, not to join a race to the top, always pushing for better grades and more rewards. I want to stop the insanity before it becomes so infested in their soul that they end up like me; pushing themselves to perfection and forgetting to enjoy the journey. What luxury it is to get an education, isn’t it about time we teach our students to enjoy the ride?
Which qualities do you wish your children or students get or do not get? What would you change?