“Knowledge will bring you the opportunity to make a difference.” – Claire Fagan
I love that advert for a major stationer, where Andy Williams sings ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ as parents escort their children around aisles teeming with paper, pens, books and other essential tools of learning. After 6 weeks (or 104 days in the US, according to the theme from ‘Phineas and Ferb’), parents have had enough of dealing with their first priority – family – and now want to pass babysitting duty back to their kids’ teachers. Tomorrow (subject to one of those Teacher Training Days that always appear to occur just after a week off), millions of kids will excitedly don their school clothes and trot quickly off to school.
That enthusiasm lasts 24 hours, by the way.
On a serious note, just as for us goal-achievement-failures who start a new project every New Year/Birthday/1st of the month/end of term/start of term, tomorrow is a great day to start teaching your children not only that education is important, but also that not all education is important. (Eh?)
We, as parents, have tendency to demand that our children excel in every single subject they study. If they have eight As and two Cs, we demand to know why they are failing in RE and Drama. The strange thing is that the reality of the UK education system is that we take 12-14 subjects at 16, and narrow that down to 3 or 4 at 18 – then down to one, or for the particularly clever, two subjects at University.
There is no question that we should encourage our kids to do their best in everything they do. But we should allow them the leeway that we allow ourselves and acknowledge that Einstein probably wasn’t a great biologist, Sir David Attenborough isn’t famous for being an expert on woodwork, and David Beckham is not the greatest English scholar ever known to man.
And our kids will generally be great at one or two things, good at some more, and rubbish at others.
They should, as early as possible, be encouraged to discover their strengths and to focus on those, while also managing any weaknesses and finding ways to deal with them.
I was absolutely overjoyed many years ago when my son, who was at the time an undiagnosed dyslexic, was asked to read something out at the primary school ‘graduation’, another American import to the UK we could do without. Did he read it? No. He learned it, and spoke without reference to the card in front of him. Word perfect. He can read, but at his own speed. He has since qualified in a field he loves – farming (not hereditary, I assure you) and is an absolute star mimic. He is happy.
But imagine the potential for someone who can learn quotes by rote and then has to speak in public. He is already well ahead when it comes to learning Public Speaking, something a lot of people dread and yet something they will all have to do at some time in their lives. He has a self-taught life skill because of a challenge.
At the same time, I am also the proud uncle of some kids who have done exceptionally well in their exams, this year. Learning suits some, but not every talent is necessarily served by the state’s syllabus.
Encourage your kids to learn well, to do the best they can, but to focus more of their time on the things that will matter to them. Utilise the Three Resolutions to instil within them the discipline to do what needs to be done to become competent in their chosen vocations so that they can serve their chosen clients to the best of their ability.
Instead of creating well-educated but exceptionally bored professional drones.
For more on the Three Resolutions, get the book at Amazon here.