We are just two weeks away from the start of school here in New York! I just wanted to take a minute to wish you and your children a successful new school year. What do I mean by successful? Well, I don’t mean straight As and accolades. Those things can be very nice when they come, but they shouldn’t be the focus or even the goal we are asking our kids to shoot for. I would argue that the real purpose of education is to ignite and nurture a love of learning in our children. To engage their natural curiosity and teach them how to think for themselves. To make their hands shoot up in class because they have yet another question or comment that they just have to share! A successful school year means that every child is participating to the full extent of their ability and contributing their unique strengths to the community. When parents and teachers value participation over performance, all children are allowed to succeed, not just the ones who do well on test days or excel at prized subjects like science and mathematics. Parents, this school year I urge you to look for your child’s strengths instead of their short-comings.
Ask yourself these questions often so you don’t loose sight of their special gifts:
How do you show your support for your child’s interests and ideas?
What are your child’s strengths and talents?
In what ways do you build your child’s confidence?
In what ways do you nurture your child’s own unique timeline for growth and development?
When you are clear on the answers to these questions, share this wisdom with your child’s teacher(s) at the first parent/teacher conference or even sooner if you can. You want the person spending that much time with your son or daughter to know the whole person and what works best to engage him or her.
When we stop comparing our children to the performance of others, or measuring them against some standard set outside themselves, and simply recognize and appreciate them for the unique individuals they are, we all feel relief from the pressure to “perform” and conform. Wouldn’t it be amazing to free your child from that anxiety this year? You can do it simply by letting them know they have value – even when they make mistakes, take a long time to understand a math problem, or fail a test. Let them know their personal best is the only thing that counts in the end.
I hope to see kids at every age and ability saying, “I love school” because it is a place where they are acknowledged and appreciated for the unique qualities they bring to the classroom. Happy September everyone!