For those of you who have been following my blog, you will probably understand why this is such a happy surprise for us. Academics has never been Andre's strength and this prize was all the more unexpected because we've been so busy moving house that I haven't been breathing down his throat as much for the final SA2. My friend Lilian pointed out that Andre seems to perform better when he's left to his own devices. Not sure if that's true but it certainly reduces the stress for both of us!
I'm unspeakably grateful for this prize, more so because I'm hoping it will motivate Andre to work harder next year - the dreaded PSLE year. I'm so not looking forward to it. If I could take a pill and fast forward time till after the exam, I would.
Recently, I ran into a friend, who's the father of Lesley-Anne's p6 classmate, Ryan. His younger son just finished the PSLE this year and he said it was probably the worst time in his life. Everyday leading up to the exam, the boy would bring home a thick wad of exam papers to be completed and both father and son would stare despairingly at the stack (father is expected to mark the papers - brings a sadistic twist to the phrase "partnering parents in education").
He said it was a nightmare, especially since his younger son is not half as motivated as his elder brother. In fact, he thought both Ryan and Lesley-Anne spoilt the market with their work ethic. As he was tearing his hair out, pleading with his second child, it dawned on him, "So THAT'S what PSLE preparation is really like!"
I sympathised with him and when he heard that Andre would be doing his PSLE next year, I'm sure he's sending sympathies my way.
We've all heard it before - the PSLE has become such a high stakes exam that the pressure to do well overwhelms everything else. No one can escape - the kids, the teachers, the parents. So intensive is the preparation for the PSLE that it leaves an indelible scar on everyone. I suspect part of the reason why IP schools are so popular is because we all remember vividly the horrors of the PSLE and want to avoid another national exam.
Ryan's dad told me that after the PSLE, he just had 2 goals for his son: to retain his self-esteem and love for learning. Coming from a school teacher, I appreciate the wisdom. It's so easy to lose both in our education system.
We were discussing how even some of the kids in the best schools, who are probably the top 2% of the cohort, still feel insecure about their own abilities. Eg, I've heard how kids from the Raffles schools feel inferior because they couldn't get into the Raffles Academy.
This is seriously screwed up. It seems like our education system constantly tells our kids that they're not good enough. I've said this before - some schools, particularly the branded ones, appear more interested in what the kids can do for the school, than vice versa. Consider this and ask yourself if this is what you really want for your child.
For a long time now, I've understood God's wisdom in giving me 2 kids with such contrasting abilities. If both my kids were intellectually gifted, I would never know what it's like to parent a child who can't always understand concepts immediately or remember things he'd just learnt. It's a lesson in humility - that our kids' giftedness is a blessing, not results of our own doing.
Please don't be mistaken, I know Andre is bright. But when you have another child who learns and absorbs ideas at the drop of a hat, it's easy to use that as a benchmark and forget that not everyone is the same.
I always take advice from parents with all gifted kids with a pinch of salt. I know they're well meaning but what works for gifted kids often doesn't work for regular kids. It's not just a simple case of reading more to improve their language, or teaching a certain method to improve their maths. It's a lot of repetition, a lot of simplification and a huge bucketload of patience - something I'm short of.
As Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
I don't quite agree with the everybody is a genius bit but I concur with the second sentence. Sometimes, I feel that Singapore and Singaporeans have such a narrow definition of success that anyone who can't climb a tree or climb it fast enough is made to feel stupid or inadequate.
Each child's needs are different - I can't emphasise this enough. I speak from experience (and mistakes) parenting 2 kids who are complete opposites of each other. While everyone else's kid may be aiming for the top 3 schools, yours may rejoice at getting into a tier 3 school.
What's important is not to let society or teachers or other parents bully you into thinking it's not ok. Because at the end of the day, some kids are fish. By constantly trying to teach them how to climb trees and scolding them for failing, we may be missing out on the fact that they are fantastic, natural-born swimmers.
I wonder about kids who say, "I must study hard so I don't let my parents down." I understand the sentiment but I think it smells of the implication that they are studying out of a sense of responsibility towards someone else and not because it is something valuable to be enjoyed. Are we a blessing to our kids or have we become a burden?
I don't know what I will be like next year. I keep telling myself that God has a place prepared somewhere for Andre, that I should not be overly kancheong. But I also know how easy it is to lose perspective when you're in the eye of the storm. If that happens, somebody nudge me, ok?
Even as we push our kids to achieve more, we need to show that we love them for who they are, not who we want them to be.
"Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him." - Psalm 127:3
PS We will be going on our family vacation so I won't be blogging here during that time. I will, however, try to blog about my holiday at my travel blog so do check in there!