Rethinking the G.P.A. and what it means to be successful

Success is about being passionately good at one or two things, but students who want to get close to that 4.0 have to be prudentially balanced about every subject. In life we want independent thinking and risk-taking, but the G.P.A. system encourages students to be deferential and risk averse, giving their teachers what they want.

Creative people are good at asking new questions, but the G.P.A. rewards those who can answer other people’s questions. The modern economy rewards those who can think in ways computers can’t, but the G.P.A. rewards people who can grind away at mental tasks they find boring. People are happiest when motivated intrinsically, but the G.P.A. is the mother of all extrinsic motivations.

An article on the pitfalls of the G.P.A. system. Love that people are starting to rethink what being a “good” or “successful” student really means. I’ve seen so many kids that are “so smart” in a grades-focused academic setting graduate high school with no clue what they want to do next. Or, worse, those who graduate university, having completed the degree that their parents told them to do, and they are completely without passion or purpose for the rest of their lives.


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This is how New York schools are trying to help students learn English

Among the most significant changes is that schools must now have an English language teacher — like the woman drawing pictures at P.S. 160 — in the classroom for part of each week if even one student is learning English. In the past, students could receive English language instruction outside of the classroom, while spending the rest of their time in a regular class trying to puzzle out the words on their own.

Another shift requires schools and districts to create programs in which classes are taught in two languages. These bilingual programs will now be offered to students who are new to the public system, as long as there are enough children in one place who speak the same tongue.

An interesting article about how public schools in New York are trying to cope with the high numbers of students who are new to English. At least they’re doing something about it instead of turning a blind eye and hoping that the problem will sort itself out. Is this something Australia might have to consider for some school districts one day?


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What if students controlled their own learning?

Peter Hutton of Templestowe College in Melbourne talks about an educational model that allows students to individualise their education and share control in the running of the school.

I’m excited that people are talking about what does and doesn’t work in conventional schooling. We might be a long way from completely overhauling our approach and perceptions towards education, but at least the conversation has begun.

I’ve read comments about how this educational model might not work as well for unmotivated students who are still trying to figure out what they’re interested in, or who perhaps might need a little more structure and guidance.

I can see how that might be the case, but I also wonder if students might have a better idea of what they’re passionate about if they were given more flexibility to explore in primary school. How would it look to incorporate some of these principles in a primary school setting?


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“If I should have a daughter…” by Sarah Kay

It was what she said about raising daughters that grabbed me at first. And then she started to talk about spoken word poetry, which up till I watched this video was new to me, and even as a writer who never attempted poetry (and has no desire to), I couldn’t help but think: this is so cool. And then, I wonder if we could teach this in schools?


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Two years on: Still missed, never forgotten

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It’s been two years and there are days where something still catches in my throat when I think of you, taking me by surprise. I hope you are well, my friend. If there were a Starbucks around here, I would have a caramel macchiato in your honour, iced of course, even though it’s 16 degrees out. Here’s to you: still missed and never, ever forgotten.


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#EndMommyWars: My rambling, somewhat disorganised, confession

What is it about being a mum that makes us so judgmental of other mums? I think it’s a lot of things: personal history, upbringing, culture, pride and, most of all, insecurity. We judge others to “defend” our different positions, because heaven forbid we are not the perfect mum and I don’t remember who said there can only be one kind of perfect parent but I just know it to be true.

Ha.

I’m pathologically non-confrontational, so you will never see me roll my eyes at someone else (unless I’m really, really pissed) or argue my position with another mum. No, pretty much all my judging takes place inside my head, which is probably worse because then I’m like some kind of hypocrite or something.

There are a lot of things I don’t believe in “arguing” about, and parenting is definitely one of them. Because people get so violently defensive that it’s really not a conversation; it’s an endurance race and the first person to recognise the futility of it and back off is the loser.

A lot of people can’t agree to disagree. They feel like they really need to convince you of the validity and rightness of their position, and some of them can be so damn persistent about it. One of the most important things I learned studying Arts in university is that people can have different opinions and that’s okay.

Seriously, why can’t people agree to disagree?!

And I end up (silently) judging the other person, not so much for their differing parenting methods or whatever it is, but for their “lack of open-mindedness”.

Which, in case it wasn’t obvious, isn’t any better.

Maybe I’m also judging myself – for backing down, for giving in, for walking away from a fight because I just cannot be bothered. (I’ve been judged by my friends for that too, by the way.)

Also not okay.

So much of it is unconscious and completely arbitrary – I judge other mums based on how they look, my past experiences, what my mood is on the day, the choices that I’ve made and the insecurities that I have, my likes and dislikes, whether the sun is shining or not. Okay not that last one but my point is, (most) mothers can be such temperamental, emotional and insecure beings when it comes to their kids. Did I mention insecure?

The good news is, as you can see from the video, all it takes is awareness and getting to know / understanding the other person to make us realise what we’re doing and how silly we’re being. To borrow a line from High School Musical, we’re all in this together.

Also, here’s the other thing about judging in silence that I’ve realised – it’s always so much better because then I’m always right and there’s no one to tell me otherwise. So who’s not being accepting of other people’s opinions now?


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The family secret

I don’t remember what prompted my desire for a family motto – perhaps I read something somewhere, or it might have been from a talk I heard. But coming up with a family motto had been on my mind for several weeks when the 5yo produced this one day:

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Kung Fu Panda may or may not have had something to do with this, but I thank Po and his friends all the same because it’s perfect. It really is.

Last year was my Year of Kindness, and being kind is something that’s been very much on my mind. I’ve been working with the kid to encourage kindness and awareness of it, and even though I think the message is sinking in, I’ve also given her a heads-up: this is probably something I’ll keep reminding her of for the next 15 years.

Courage is a word we don’t hear very often these days, and it always reminds me of two things: the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, and this from the Bible.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

For me, that has always been about braving new adventures, starting new chapters, trying new things. It’s something that really strikes close to home (heart), particularly in the last couple of years, and I guess it’s also stuck with me because I’ve always found the prospect of it exciting.

Have courage.

Be kind.

If we can learn what and how it is to live out these things, then we won’t have done too badly at all.


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These powerful lyrics from Will Smith’s ‘Tell Me Why’ is kind of relevant right now

Read THR’s Actor Roundtable over breakfast this morning and something Will Smith said about Paris reminded me about his song from way back, ‘Tell Me Why’. Responding to a question about the movie Django Unchained, he said:

We can’t look at what happens in Paris [the terrorist attacks] and want to f— somebody up for that. Violence begets violence. So I just couldn’t connect to violence being the answer. Love had to be the answer.

To this day, the first verse of ‘Tell Me Why’ is one of the saddest and most powerful that I’ve ever heard:

September 11th, I woke up about 7am, West Coast time, French toast and my
Turkey bacon, taking my time, awakin’, turning my TV on
To my surprise, saw what everybody in the world saw
Me and my children, images were chillin’
My son said, “Daddy were there people in that building?”
A cold sweat, frozen with a lump in my chest
I heard his question, couldn’t bring my lips to say “Yes” to him
That night at my son’s side, he cried and prayed
For the ones who died in the World Trade
His palms to God, seeds and qualms with God
He just kept on pressin’ me, wanna know why
Then one week later our bombs were dropped
We seein’ them on CNN, they just won’t stop
The infrared images of brutal attack
He said, “Daddy now we killin’ em back”

The first time I heard it, I wasn’t a mum yet and even then I thought that loss of innocence was so heartbreaking. Now that I have a 5yo, I feel not just for what the kid represents in the song, but also for all the kids who were/are being “killed back” in response to what happened.


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