Wife to DH (12.10.2009), Anchorage based doula , Proud mama to Autumn (09.03.2008), Sylas (04.25.2010), (06.11.2012), Calliope(04.23.2013) .
After all, there do is always more you could, always more you could study. At the highschool level, it never lets up. There is a lot of pressure here to take summer courses so they can take more AP courses during the school year. "Always 100%" could end up meaning "keep going until you have a break down."
There are other skills teens need to work on, like how to self regulate media, how to balance social life with study, how to do their own laundry and such, and while I do think that study is the primary focus, I think that getting obsessive it about can stunt other developmental issues, so the young person actually ends up LESS prepared for the next stages of life.
I'm really glad you brought this up. While I probably talked about effort and etc., I think it's also important for kids to start to figure out how effort, school, and grades fit into the bigger picture. My own DC surprised me this year by limiting her after school activities so she could have time for homework and for free-time with neighbors and friends. I think that was a good choice for her but I also would have understood if she wanted to participate in sports or other things, which would have limited time for school work to an extent. I think "best effort" is really more about the skill of prioritizing, which is subjective and varies from kid to kid.
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Yeah, I really don't like the 100% best effort thing. I like a good solid effort, but I don't want my kid to put her nose to the grindstone and only do schoolwork and frankly there's always something you can do better—write neater, go over your math answers again, read ahead in the book. It's too much. Do a good job, but don't worry about perfection. I am ALWAYS going to see something that could be improved, but when dd1 has worked hard on her Science poster or her Writing essay I think there's a point where me pointing out things she could do better has a negative effect rather than a positive effect. I do look over her work most of the time and point out any egregious errors — like she didn't quite understand the assignment, or easy to fix errors — like a spelling mistake, but beyond that if she puts forth a good effort I'm not going to continue to insist that she give 100%. Sometimes 85% is plenty. Rarely is 15% enough, though. I do expect a solid effort and then I'm happy with a B or even a C although I would take the C as a sign that I might need to work with her a bit more.
"All you fascists are bound to lose" — Woody Guthrie
I agree with this. I'd rather my daughter try a harder, more interesting science or math class than coast in the easier classes for easier A's. At the same time, if she has zero interest in math or science (right now that's where her interest lies, but for the sake of argument), I don't mind her taking less demanding science and math classes to make more time for another area of interest like lit or languages. My own high school was designed along those lines and I enjoyed it very much.
Totally! I'm one who suffered from a lot of cognitive dissonance as a kid because messages like "just do your best" created a conflict between what I felt they literally implied, which I knew I wasn't doing, and the [superior] 'results' I was getting nonetheless. I really began to distrust a lot of the messages I was being given about education because I just couldn't buy the message that "it's important to always give 100%." As an adolescent who was naturally questioning everything and trying to make my own mind up about what was important, I definitely flirted with an existential crisis concerning my education: I didn't buy what they were telling me about how important some of the stuff was, and I was almost ready to toss the whole business in the trash.
Thankfully in mid high school my dad, who was a university professor (of philosophy, which probably helped!), spent a lot of time talking with me about these issues and validated my skepticism about some of the messages I was hearing. It put a lot of the dissonance to rest for me. The point of education he said, in the big-picture sense, is to become a happy and decent human being who has integrity and can contribute meaningfully to the world. That's the broad goal that you should always be actively pursuing and "doing your best" to move towards. But that entails rationing limited time, energy and motivation to a number of different areas, only some of which are schoolwork. Sometimes working really hard at courses and credits and grades is in service of that big-picture educational goal of becoming a decent, happy and productive member of society, but sometimes it's not. Schools and other educational institutions tend to pretend that their goals are completely in sync with those greater goals, but the synchronicity is at best approximate, at worst in direct conflict. He helped me see where corners ought to be cut, so that other things could take precedence and better balance my life and my education. Hearing from him that it was good to cut corners sometimes helped me a lot.
I think there's a very important role for parents to help their kids make sense of the extent to which the drive for better grades is serving their greater goals at any given age and stage. Platitudes about always giving 100% are simplistic and at odds with that important guiding role. I don't think parents who say "always do your best" really mean that in the literal sense. And maybe most kids get that: maybe they hear the subtext, which is probably "just put forth a decent effort commensurate with the importance of the task." But for me the difference between the message and its implied subtext was frustrating and at times confusing.
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