Sunday, November 1, 2009

Try your best? Scratch that

These two weeks are Andre's SA2 exams and frankly, I'm exhausted. The PSLE has taken the wind out of my sails and I find myself suffering from a serious case of exam overdose. So what has happened is that revisions with Andre had been left even later than the usual last minute preparations, which is getting everyone at home hot and bothered (except Lesley-Anne who's still basking in post-PSLE bliss).

Amidst the fluster however, I'm finding a silver lining. For some reason, Andre has suddenly decided to put his best foot forward and appears very motivated to do well in these exams. When I was going through some of his math assessment books and just thinking out loud that he wouldn't have time to complete some of the papers, he actually suggested, to my utter astonishment, that he do two in a day so he could finish them.

The week before his composition exam, he was even more out of character. When I asked him to do an English paper, he offered to write a composition instead. My jaw literally dropped. If you've been following my blog, you will know that he dislikes writing compositions more than anything. For the past week, he has been doing 2 or more pieces of extra work for me everyday (on top of school, tuition and piano lesson), without whining or complaining.

I'm not sure what caused the change of heart. I want to believe that he's slowly growing up and realising that his studies are important, although I suspect a big part of it is due simply to his competitive nature spurring him to perform well. I do know he was very gratified to read all the positive comments about his composition that I posted, so maybe that's the impetus.

But here's the rub: I don't know if he will get the results he wants and it's getting harder to gauge what is a "good" result. I hear this cliche all the time: "Just try your best! As long as you've tried your best, doesn't matter what your result is." I'm guilty of using it too.

Over time, I've realised that this statement is superfluous and I think kids get tired of hearing it. What exactly is your best? People say it all the time but they don't really think about it. It's impossible to quantify what someone's "best" is. Does not working consistently throughout the year mean it's not your best? Does having one careless mistake too many mean you didn't try your best? The fact is nobody puts in their 100% effort 100% of the time, everyday of the year (just ask yourself how many times you had an extended lunch hour at work).

What happens is that parents start to equate "best" with results. They spout maxims like "as long as they try your best", but when the child comes home with a 70/100 paper, they immediately conclude that the child has NOT tried her best. So essentially, some of these parents who say "just try your best!" are exactly the same as the parents who say "you must get Band 1!" At least the latter are more upfront about it.

I've come to terms to reality. I've stopped asking my kids to try their ambiguous best and instead, focus on whether they are applying a reasonable amount of effort in their studies. The fact that Andre has shown an inclination to work for his exams is cause for celebration in itself, I'm trying not to confuse the matter by tying it to his actual grades. I want to look longer term and enourage him to remain motivated and enjoy learning. When we say it's the effort that matters, not the result, let's really mean it.


hlin said...

Well said! Hope Andre does well in SA2! Good Luck!

monlim said...

Thanks HLin!

Veronica_L said...

Nice to see that Andre's picking up just in time!! Go Andre! If he keeps it up, I'm sure he'll score reasonably, and this pre-exam zeal is a good thing, without considering his results. You should be happy.

peace~ said...

Hi Monlim,

Good luck to Andre.

I am starting to worry for my gg P6 PSLE next year after witness the stress parents who had P6 children gone through. Not too sure whether to proceed with the DSA, her SA2 result is not good enough, not exceeding 80%, btw she is a GEP.

J Toh

monlim said...

Thanks Veronica! Yes, I'm glad he appears to be "waking" up :P

J Toh: You commented on my other post, right? I replied to that. Don't worry too much about her not hitting 80%, many GEP kids don't manage that. I'm sure the teachers will still encourage her to go for DSA, don't write it off yet, you have a year to plan for it :)

Elan said...

Best of luck to Andre for his SA2.
You're right, the most important thing is that he has discovered a love for learning or at least is learning to apply himself and seems enjoying it.


Lynn said...

Hi Monica,

I enjoyed reading your blog. I have a 9 old son too. Your sharing on parenting and education has given me lots of encouragement :)

monlim said...

Lynn: That's great to hear! Thanks for reading :)

Anonymous said...

Wah, Monica, you can start a Monica Fan Club! Just sell anything lah, hmm... like Hedgehog greeting cards, whatever. I'm sure many of us who benefit from your blog and enjoying it so much will sure support you.


monlim said...

SC: LOL! I've been looking for hedgehog greeting cards for years myself :P Thanks for your support, means a lot :)

elan said...

check this out then;


monlim said...

Elan: AIYOH, SO CUTE!!! Thanks for the link!

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