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.

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?

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?

“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?

Two years on: Still missed, never forgotten

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It’s been two years and there are days when 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.

#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?

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.

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.

Can Justin Bieber make it cool for young people to talk about Jesus?

Justin Bieber is not the first celebrity to talk about Jesus, but he is one of the younger ones, and – like him or hate him – certainly one of the most influential. While the cynic in me did wonder how much of his interview with Complex magazine was coached, it was a stroke of PR genius nonetheless. You have to respect the guy for what he’s doing, even after everything else we’ve seen and heard from him. If this was “Mission: Rehabilitate Justin’s image”, they’ve hit the ball right out of the park.

As a Christian, I know it’s not easy to talk about your faith. I personally prefer the “show, not tell” approach, but sometimes, like in an interview, you’ve just got to come right out and say it I guess. Which is what Bieber did:

I just wanna honestly live like Jesus. Not be Jesus—I could never—I don’t want that to come across weird. He created a pretty awesome template of how to love people and how to be gracious and kind. If you believe it, he died for our sins. Sometimes when I don’t feel like doing something, but I know it’s right, I remember, I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t feel like going to the cross and dying so that we don’t have to feel what we should have to feel. What Jesus did when he came to the cross was basically say, “You don’t have to feel any of that stuff.” We could take out all of our insecurities, we could take away all of the hurt, all the pain, all the fear, all the trauma. That doesn’t need to be there. So all this healing that you’re trying to do, it’s unnecessary. We have the greatest healer of all and his name is Jesus Christ. And he really heals. This is it. It’s time that we all share our voice. Whatever you believe. Share it. I’m at a point where I’m not going to hold this in. – Justin Bieber

For his interview with Billboard, he went to church. Stephen Colbert talked a lot about his Catholic faith when he first took over The Late Show, which was fascinating to watch and read about. I even wrote about it for my TV column. But as much as I like the guy, he’s probably not the barometer of cool the Gen Z-ers, or even the Millennials, are looking for. Which brings me to my question: can Justin Bieber make it cool for young people to talk about Jesus?

The church gets a bad rap – and many times for good reason. I believe in God and even I don’t like Christians sometimes. To speak up about your faith takes guts when you’re standing in front of the world. Not for those who already wear a “Christian” label like pastors or those in Christian music because then you’re expected to talk about God. But for people like Colbert and Bono from U2 (who I think is amazing) and now Bieber, theirs is a completely different sphere of influence, which makes it so interesting to observe.

People shouldn’t be put off by the discussion of religion or faith – and this goes for all religions. Dialogue, not ignorance, is the way forward. If there’s one thing the world needs right now, it’s a better understanding of one another, not fear of those who are different from us. I’ll be the first to admit that the Christian church has gotten pretty good at playing the “us vs. them” card, which does no one any favours.

But I digress. While I’m definitely more of a Colbert, U2 kind of person, I have to admit that there are some things even Bono cannot do. Maybe, just maybe Bieber is the tipping point the entertainment industry needs so others too will find that it’s really okay to talk about Jesus. We’ll see.

When I heard about the terrorist attacks in Paris, my first instinct was fear

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I’ll admit: when I heard about the terrorist attacks in Paris, my first instinct was fear. Shut down, close ranks, put up (imaginary) walls around me and my loved ones, and do everything in my power to protect them. As if by doing all those things in my head, I would be able to.

Of course that was the whole point of the attacks. Mass murder, yes, but even more effective than that, it aimed to strike fear into the hearts of people all around the world. This is psychological warfare, designed to cause panic, incite distrust and paranoia, and turn people against one another.

As the news sank in, I realised that what we need to do isn’t just #prayforParis, but also for Lebanon, Syria and all the other countries that experience terrorism on a regular, oft unreported basis. Rather than close in on ourselves, we need to be more open and generous than ever, especially towards those with whom we are unfamiliar. Instead of hate, we need to show love, and not just to those who share the same cultural values, religion or skin colour. It sounds cliched, but it really is the best way forward. Love is our only hope if we’re going to stand together against evil – and win.

I have been encouraged by the strength of the Parisians and the solidarity that the world has shown in standing with them. I have also been encouraged by articles reminding us that Paris is hardly the only victim of terrorism, and it’s time we open our eyes to the magnitude of what’s been going on. I do think the world in general has a double standard when it comes to white people dying and non-white people dying, and I agree that the media has been incredibly biased in this respect, but it’s great that we’re talking about it, because that’s how awareness starts and (hopefully) ignorance ends.

If you’re praying for Paris, will you also pray for Beirut, who is still reeling from a series of coordinated suicide bombings? If you’re flying the French flag on your Facebook profile picture, will you also extend that same generosity of thought and compassion to Syrian refugees who are fleeing the very atrocities we are so vocal in condemning? Will you remember the millions of innocents, not just in the Middle East but in countries in Africa and Asia as well, who live our greatest fears every single day?

We cannot stop what has already happened, but we can choose how we react in the aftermath. Whether or not the ripples of hate continue to spread is not up to those terrorists, it is up to us. To allow fear to dictate our prejudices and bigotry is to let the terrorists win, and if there’s one thing we all agree on, it’s that we cannot let that happen.