Right out of the bucket, I have to thank my neighbor, Eddy, for this topic. He works on aircraft. Judging by his position at this point in his career, I would have to say he's pretty good at what he does. He regaled us Friday evening with tales of airplane repair and he was explaining to my husband about a meter and how one sets them. I listened in because I am always fascinated by how things work... which explains my viewing the Science Channel on the weekends.
A potentiometer helps you set the level of a gauge. If you want to be sure a fuel tank gauge is reading correctly, you empty it out, make sure it reads empty, then fill it back up and turn the potentiometer until the needle reads the correct level. Consider it synching up, like an iPod.
So while I sat at Ihop on Saturday morning enjoying my breakfast, listening to the spousal unit and girl child discuss their plans for our planned Christmas trip, my mind was stuck on the potentiometer. I honestly believe that we humans being have one, call it self-esteem, call it whatever, but we have one, and ours is not the only hand on it. The people who have the largest amount of time in fiddling with it are our school teachers. This is a sad fact of modern life that I consider it my mission to obliterate.
Our teachers believe that by giving children something they haven't earned, we will increase their self-esteem. I don't know about you guys, but I honestly believe that kids just want us to shoot straight with them and they know when we're lying to them. This lowers their expectations and thus, their belief in themselves. Why? Because if it's so bad we won't talk to them about it, they must be pretty bad. I'm as brutally honest with children as I am with myself and everyone else around me. I do them no favors in telling them that they are the best and brightest when everything in their world points out that I am a lying hypocrite whom they will never, ever believe again.
I don't tell them they are ugly and their mother dresses them funny. I'm not cruel, however, if they ask me a question I will be honest with them. I am taking a year off from teaching religious education at my church. I'm already missing it, knowing that by this time I would have already decorated my class room and have my student list and I'd be getting their name tags ready, etc. But I really need this year away. Because I hear way too much about what goes on in their classrooms. Way more than I ever heard from any of my children. And it's all in innocent conversation that they don't realize I listen to.
At this point, let me point out that 3 of my 4 children were held back one year in school. The boys, deservedly, my youngest daughter was held back by not answering one math question correctly on the standardized state exam, despite having straight A's in the core curriculum. I would not still be harping on this to the school district if 40% of the children who failed one or more parts of the state exam had not been promoted, in spite of poor grades, as well, in the core curriculum. Because of this I have repeatedly threatened the school board to find a way to give that year back to her or I will sue them seven ways to Sunday. They are allowing her to fast track and do 4 years in 3. She will graduate with the same kids she started kindergarten with, which has been my goal.
The year they held her back was the year I stopped PTA, booster clubs and even attending school functions. She was so bored that second year in 5th grade I really worried about whether or not she'd grow a real resentment towards school. Thank God she's smarter than that. She's one smart cookie. However, I do not grant any of her teachers with that, I believe it's entirely her will to show them how wrong they were to hold her back. They tried to dial her potential down because we did not generously donate to the booster club, or even bother to pretend to participate in fund raisers or PTA. We didn't live in the "right" neighborhood and our other children did not drive the "right" cars, in fact, did not drive at all because they didn't own cars yet, because they couldn't afford it. They dialed her potential down because her mother was a "radical" thinker who didn't read the right kind of books and belong to the right kind of clubs (namely the country club). Her mother was one of "those" women.
It didn't matter that I was giving both of my sons to the service of their country. It didn't matter that the work I did bettered the world in some small way, or that I loved what I was doing. I wasn't fitting in to their world view of what a suburban housewife should be, so I was a money-grubbing capitalist bitch who actually thought she could hold a conversation with a man that didn't involve fabric swatches or shopping plans. They wanted to dumb her down to be just like them, because I am an uppity bitch.
I am proud of her for not allowing them to dial down her potential. I am very proud of her for standing up for herself. She knows that she can allow no one else to tell her what her potential is, she makes it for herself, and she rises or falls based on her own actions, not those of others. Most of all I am proud that on the day she got her schedule for the new year she talked to two counselors and demanded to be removed from the class of a woman she already knew could not teach. She did not need me to fight that battle for her, because she knew the truth of it and spoke it, despite what may be said about her after. She took the class to learn a certain something, and by God, she will learn it. I think the counselors took her seriously.
Watch your teachers, watch your schools. Do not let them arbitrarily set your child's potential to what they see fit. Don't let others set your potential to their comfort level. Be who you are, not who they want or need you to be. Unless you get paid for that sort of thing, but that's another tale...