Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Great Expectations

The exams are looming and that brings out the tiger mom in me no matter how much I try to squish it back in. The twins have only finished the essay papers for both languages and that itself brought epiphanies to me.

The most glaring one. 

I expect too much of my twins. 

Not in terms of grades though. 

It's partially an occupational hazard. When my livelihood is dependent on teaching pre-university students to think critically, I suppose that it is inevitable that some of that spills over into what I do with the twins. 

It doesn't feature as much in the actual content papers because honestly, some of that is beyond me, even as an adult and a teacher. It does rear its ugly when it comes to composition. It isn't about the phrases and whatever rubbish they are often encouraged to memorise and regurgitate. It's to do with the ideas. 

An example. 
A composition about helping. A picture of an old man selling magazines. 

Jordan's take.
Old man is poor. Needs to sell magazines for a living. 

Nothing wrong with that. But I prod on. 

Could there be anything else wrong with the old man that might require him to sell magazines? 

Erm... He's sad. He needs money. 

He likes reading magazines. He can read them and then sell them. 

I wanted to lead them to talk about people who might be disabled and what led them to that point as well as what their struggles were. I asked them about the old lady who sold tissue paper at the MRT station near us. She always had a walking frame with her. I asked them if they noticed the walking frame. I asked them why was it that the old lady had to sell tissue paper and wasn't doing anything else. 

She stuck to it. The old lady was poor. Needed money. 
Evan wondered what it was like to have a walking frame. 

Smoke started to slowly escape my ears. 

I asked them how else we could  help people apart from giving them money. Jordan offered to give them food. Evan thought very hard and wondered what toys they could give away. 

I realised that their answers were fine. But just not the direction I wanted them to be moving toward. 

I gave up.

Eventually, I showed them the video of 6 year old Alex who wrote to President Obama. Both of them were interested in what had happened that caused Alex to write the letter. I pointed out to both of them that helping could come in this form too. And that little children could help in big ways too and that little Alex had written to the most influential person he could think of to ask for help and that was being helpful as well. 

But on hindsight, I wondered if it was too much to expect my 9 year olds to think of it beyond what they see and to draw connections to things around them. I wondered if my being disappointed that they couldn't draw these connections was an unreasonable expectation. 

I guess, for the purposes of their compositions, their answers were sufficient to get by.

But for them, as people, it's definitely insufficient. I think that was why I was distressed. I see all these young adults who have such beautiful transcripts but without a heart or thought about the world they live in and it makes me angry. I fear that it's the transference of that frustration that manifests when the twins give me trite, textbook answers. 

Then I wondered if by wanting them to think about ideas in such a way , was I telling them how to think. That truly frightened me. What if I was squashing them into the exact box that I hoped they would think out of, unintentionally? 

So I stopped and I left them with Packrat and went out. I wasn't doing anyone favours. Them or myself. 

I come home to this. Of all the things that I talked Jordan through that afternoon, she remembered one thing. She made her letters bigger and clearer and she co-wrote a joke with Evan about Obama for me.

So, without these great expectations, my 9 yos are pretty great and funny and I have to remember that.


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