After an incident with one of my students yesterday it made me think about a training day we had at school a few years ago. We were asked: If your child had failed their music exam, what would you say to them. There were several options, a few “nice” options, of how the exam was unfair and there must have been a mistake etc. The option I chose was “On the day you weren’t good enough!” Okay, it was in my pre mummy days, but I think I’d still say the same. I wouldn’t put it quite as bluntly as that, and I would strongly point out that with work I’m sure they would be good enough, but I think it’s important that children know that on occasions we don’t quite get it right.
Yesterday I watched as a usually very strong A level student had a meltdown as she struggled in a resit exam because she couldn’t get it right. She was used to being top of the class and simply couldn’t cope with the thought of getting it wrong. More and more I am surprised at how pupils are scared to get it wrong. This fear puts a huge brick wall in their learning as they are too afraid to take a risk and try, they would rather put nothing. At one point last year I banned my Year 7 class from asking questions for the first 10 minutes of an exercise, to try and encourage them to think for themselves. Even if it was wrong, I don’t mind that, I simply want them to lose the fear of getting it wrong.
Whilst these are minor incidents, the bigger picture is what starts to worry me. As we get older nearly all of us encounter failure at some point. The rejection from the university of our choice, the job we didn’t get, the boy who didn’t fancy us back. All of these failures make us stronger and give us character. We learn how to deal with things going wrong and we become better for it.
In todays world we try to protect our children from feeling hurt and upset, but are we doing them any favours? There is the introduction of non-competitive sports day (don’t get me started, that’s a whole other issue) and I heard today that a primary head doesn’t allow childrens’ party invitations to be handed out unless the whole class is invited. Whilst in a sugar coated world this all sounds lovely, it isn’t reality and at some point our children are going to grow up and real life will hit them like a truck if we don’t prepare them for it. I’ve watched some of my pupils go out onto work placements (for jobs they were genuinely interested in doing) and been back within a few days because the reality of doing a “proper” job with a “proper” boss who will give them a bollocking if they’re not doing it right was too hard to take.
In life, we will come across people who don’t like us (I don’t like everyone I’ve ever met) and they won’t invite us to their party. It is important we teach our kids that despite this they are still fabulous and very much loved but on some very rare occasions they just might not make the grade!