The Happiness Connection  

Why is your child in school?

I recently saw a social media post from a proud parent whose children had brought home great marks on their most recent report cards.

I want to start by saying that I am in no way judging this person, or how well her kids did, but my first reaction when I saw the post was to scream, “Stop putting so much emphasis on marks!”

Too many parents assess the success of their children’s school careers by the marks on their report cards.

You may think I`m a crackpot, but I believe in the depth of my soul that we have lost sight of why our children go to school. Are they there to bring home good grades, or are they there to learn?

Like many parents, you may assume the two things are the same, but sadly they are not. You can get top marks without understanding the material.

If you have a good memory, you can regurgitate information, which is what tests ask you to do. You don’t have to understand the material to repeat it.

Learning goes beyond storing information. It is a much slower and more laborious process. It is not something you can do by cramming the night before an exam.

At the end of the last school year, I listened to a friend complain that although her children brought home top grades, they were at a loss to understand and respond to simple email when they were helping her at work.

She questioned whether they were learning anything at school.

Some children struggle to memorize information, but understand the skills involved and can apply them outside the classroom. They may not get top marks, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t learning. They may even be learning more than the A students.

The mindsets play a major role in how you view grades.

With a fixed mindset, you believe everyone is born with a predetermined level of intelligence and natural ability; this level will never change. If you are a smart child, you will be a smart adult. If you aren’t a smart child, then you are just out of luck.

This mindset believes things will come easily to those with natural ability. Getting good marks should be easy. The focus is on results, rather than effort or progress.

Parents with fixed mindsets want their offspring to bring home grades that show the world their family is full of intelligence, and natural ability. If they can`t show off marks, how will anyone know how smart they are? Emphasis is placed on the letters or percentages contained on their reports.

Research shows that students with fixed mindsets are more vulnerable to cheating, because emphasis is on the grade. Learning is of secondary importance.

The other mindset is called growth. With this way of viewing the world, you believe natural ability is only a starting point. Anyone can get better if they put enough time and energy into it. The focus is on progress and effort and life-long learning.

Parents with this mindset don’t mind if their child gets average marks as long as they tried their hardest, and made progress. If they haven’t learned what they need to, they can try again without shame.

The way you react to your child’s report card marks influences their mindset. When you praise outcomes rather than progress, you push the learner into a fixed mindset. It’s as if you don’t care if they are getting smarter, just that they got good grades.

“Mom made a huge fuss because my marks are high, what happens next time if they aren’t as good?”

By focusing on the letter grade, you may steer them away from the importance of grit, determination, and effort.

I’m not suggesting it doesn’t matter what grades a student receives. Universities are interested in marks, but they are also looking for sports involvement, work experience, and leadership.

We need to get back to the real reason people go to school. They are there to learn.

When your children bring home their next report, look at the full picture.

  • How hard did they try?
  • Did they learn anything?
  • What can they do to learn more?

Your child may have worked hard and achieved top marks, but focus on effort and progress. Celebrate the learning, rather than the marks.

Be the proud parent who announces to the world, “My kids brought home great report cards. They worked really hard and are smarter today than they were when the last report came home.”

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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