Wednesday September 26, 2012
School’s in session
The writer’s unfortunate experience with school makes her understand her priorities on her kids’ education.
IN my last column, I talked about my younger daughter Lauren having a hard time starting school. I also said that I thought the bad spell would last for a while (my estimate was months), judging by how bad the separation anxiety was, and it was BAD.
It just shows how little I know; she was okay by day four. Four days. That was all it took.
Frankly, she made me feel a little silly for making a big deal about how heart-wrenching it was for me to see her go through such a hard time. I became the drama queen instead of her.
Why can’t she rant and rage for at least two weeks, and lend a little legitimacy to my previous column? Noooo, she had to go and be sensible and get her head around school in four short days. I am mortified. Children are so ungrateful these days.
I have to admit, now that both kids seem happy in school, I can breathe easier.
I remember hating school a lot when I was little. It was such a sterile place, with teachers that did not seem to care very much about the students.
Of course, there were 50 of us crammed into one class, with just one teacher who was probably trying her best to hold things together.
We were segregated into groups A, B and C; A being the “clever” group, B for “borderline” and C for “dumb”. I kid you not.
During the 11 years that I spent in the school system, kids were routinely categorised and pigeon-holed. If you were smart from day one, you would probably be labelled as such throughout your academic life, unless you somehow lost your grip on the ability to get straight As midway, at which point your teachers would dismiss you in disappointment. “Whatever happened to XXX? She had such a bright future! She’s turned stupid all of a sudden.”
Something like that happened to me. Somewhere between Forms Two and Three, I lost all interest in my studies. Things came to a head in Form Four when I slacked through Physics and History the ENTIRE year, not listening to a single thing my teachers said in class. How I got through the year-end examinations, I’ll never know.
By the time SPM rolled around, I knew I was a goner. At that point, I had missed not only a year of Physics but two. It was amazing how easily kids could slip through the cracks in the school system; I wasn’t listening in class for two years, yet my teacher could not detect anything because I dutifully filled in my lab books, and handed in homework when it was due. The system wasn’t able to catch that I did not understand a single thing I wrote.
My SPM results were way below expectations. According to my track record, I was a shoo-in for straight As. I only got two As – for English and Mathematics.
My experience with school has given me a clear idea where my priorities should be when it comes to my kids.
While academic excellence would be a bonus, the main thing I hope for is that they enjoy school. I hope that they love their teachers and vice versa, because effective teaching really is about a relationship between student and teacher that is filled with mutual respect and understanding.
I hope that they make good friends, because I remember the only thing that got me through the bad days in class were my handful of best friends.
I make it a point to talk to my daughters, and not just about lessons, but about what they did in school that made them happy that day.
With Angelica, it was often about learning a funny rhyme from a friend, or admiring a new piece of stationery someone had brought to school.
Occasionally, she would come back with new knock-knock jokes, or a new game she learnt. Lauren’s definition of a perfect day so far has been about getting a chocolate bun during snack time, being given stickers and getting a double portion of fruits at lunch.
After all, how much of what we learned academically in school do we use in our daily life now?
n Elaine Dong thinks our education system needs an overhaul. She blogs at angelolli.com.