Let’s rethink success

The short video (first link below) explains why grades aren’t everything. Not only that, the US system of grading our young people could actually be harmful in the long run.

I have always thought of this to be true, for myself as I was growing up, and as a parent, while our son was growing up.

I highly recommend you take 5 minutes to watch this:

Why perfect grades don’t matter

Another amazing video I’ve actually watched twice is this Ted Talk: Do schools kill creativity? by Sir Ken Robinson.

The story towards the end about Gillian Lynne, the choreographer of the Broadway musical Cats as well as Phantom of the Opera, is so worth listening to. It makes a brilliant point about how we must understand that intelligence shouldn’t just be viewed by grades alone.

I hope this post and the videos I’ve brought to your attention will give you something to think about, if you haven’t already, as far as parenting, how our society has placed higher values on grades than it should have and ultimately what success looks like.

We must accept all people, especially our children, for what they can offer to the world and encourage them to pursue their hearts’ desires regardless of what their grades look like. Isn’t life hard enough as it is? We can, as parents, eliminate totally unnecessary stress from their lives by not placing as much emphasis on their grades or leading them to believe that their grades are equivalent to their worth as a human being.

On a more personal note, our son got the best grades. He has always been academically intelligent. A few times my husband tried to play catch with him when he was small but he had no interest in it. He wanted to read instead. So what did we do? We bought him books, lots and lots of books. My husband and I vowed that any time he wanted us to read him a story we would do it. I admit now that there were a few times I didn’t want to read to him (he wanted to be read A LOT of stories). I tried to skip a few pages sometimes or make up a shorter version of the story but he always caught me! We did keep that vow though because we knew he loved books and learning.

We played “school” with him before he was old enough to go to school. I remember switching roles. Sometimes I would be the teacher and he’d be the student then vice-versa. He had a huge desire to learn everything he could.

I recall going to a book fair at his grade school and letting him choose what books he wanted. When he was in second grade he chose a fifth grade math book. I didn’t tell him he couldn’t have it or that it was too hard for him. He wanted it so I got it. It turned out that he took that textbook with him everywhere. He taught himself fifth grade math and worked that book from cover to cover and loved it.

In grade school they wanted him to skip not one but two grades (which we did not agree to). He had a perfect score on the state testing they did during that time which was unheard of. They placed a huge emphasis on that but we, intuitively, did not place as much emphasis on the score but looked at the overall picture of his life instead.

There was a downside to his high grades as well. He was viewed as the smart kid who was always supposed to have the answers to everything. Once he asked the teacher a question and the teacher replied, “You are in gifted and talented (a program in school which I never liked the name of) so you figure it out.” Because of his outgoing personality he was well-liked but I’m sure must have felt some pressures for standing out academically. Perfectionism and anxiety are potential problems with high academic performers. These and other reasons are why I never liked the emphasis on grades. It can be damaging both ways: whether a student struggles or excels academically. All people are special and have something wonderful to offer the world. And they don’t have to be the best at it either. The people that bring the most to the world don’t do things like everyone else. They bring their own creative spin on what they have to offer or think outside of the box.

In high school our son was awarded a full college scholarship. He became a teacher at Kaplan. At one point he taught hundreds of students online at once and had several TA’s. He then went on to coauthor a pre-med text book. He is now developing the online testing programs for which pre-med students need to learn to get into med school. He has his own house and is financially smart. He’s been traveling recently for work and has had some incredible opportunities to listen to speakers like Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Ashton Kutcher and more. I don’t write this to brag about my son, though am extremely proud of him, rather, to share it as an example of what a person can accomplish when they are allowed to pursue their passions and talents. With his type of intelligence he could have made a bigger salary or had a more “prestigious” career (according to society) like doctor or lawyer. He chose to do what he wanted to do which is to have the time to spend in other areas of his life besides work, including developing relationships and enjoying the fun things in life, working from home and contributing to society in a way that he could feel great about.

Had he a passion for sports (or dance or art or anything else) we would have happily encouraged that and know he would have succeeded in whatever field he chose as long as it brought him happiness.

I don’t claim that we are expert parents but one thing I know for sure that we did right is this: We never expected him to be anything he wasn’t.

My only wish as a parent was for him to be happy. If he had been born physically or mentally disabled or sick or anything at all, my wish would have been the same. (He was a preemie. At one point, just a few days after his birth, we were told that he may have some mental disabilities due to extra fluid on his brain which ultimately resolved miraculously on its own).

He is a happy adult now. He is also funny, compassionate, giving, thoughtful and well-adjusted. If all I ever did right in this world is to have had a small part in that (and I pray I have), I consider that to be my biggest accomplishment which has made my life worth living.

Love your kids. They grow too fast!

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May you be happy and well!

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