Monday, July 14, 2008

Is doing one's best ever good enough?

I had just dropped off the letter to the sports master.

After some careful consideration I decided that it was unfair that:
  1. son was not given even a certificate in his team event when certificates and medals were awarded for all other individual events
  2. up to five boys in the other Form I class who didn't make grades A & B were given "good work" and "effort" certificates at Final Assembly

Altogether eight out of the eleven boys (73%) in that class were given some kind of award.

In my son's class four who didn't made the A and B grades were also awarded certificates for "good work" or "effort". In total, eight boys out of a class of 14 (57%) were given an award.

This is great for the boys who are not academically gifted, but boys who are not gifted on the sports field are not similarly given certificates to encourage them at all.

There are a few boys in the 11-boy class who are clearly gifted in sports. There is a boy who wins all the races, sets all the records (very probably including the one with the false start) and sometimes I hear my son go, "Who cares? J--- will win all the prizes."

Now when a child says, "Who cares? So-and-so will be top of the class no matter how hard I try," a sensible mother would not go, "Yeah, why bother?"

Sensible mothers say, "That may be the case, but it does not stop you from trying your best, better your own record."

It's really great that the school awards boys for "effort" for work in class. What about awarding boys for "effort" in sports.

When I revisited the situation I realized that my son keeps coming in fourth to sixth. He was welly-wanging really well, for example. A big cheer went up after his first throw. He was the best in his class of 14. Then boys from the other class started throwing and he was edged into fourth. After fouling one throw (strong wind, good distance but just out of the V), he was edged further down into sixth.

It was the same with long jump. He was doing quite well because he is a natural jumper and they had absolutely no training and were allowed one practice jump before the whole event. The teacher in charge was saying that they might need a jump-off between my son and someone else to decide on a medal position.

Then a couple of boys came over from their javelin throw. Some boys whose names were not even on the list decided that they would also have a go at long jump, and my son was edged out ... again. I was furious, but kept my cool.

I guess I am just a pushy mother, but it is hard to see one's child trying so hard at something he is not naturally gifted in, and not be rewarded at all. I am tired at seeing tears and disappointment as sometimes the goal-posts are moved and I have used up all ideas to persuade him that it is still worth his trying his best.

So I have suggested to the teacher that perhaps boys should be given encouragement and public acknowledgement that they have achieved personal targets and vast improvements in certain events. Personal bests are to be celebrated as well, not just coming in first, second and third.

With three boys in the other class and one in my son's class who are superb athletes, the other boys in the Form do not stand a chance. But the last thing we want is for them to give up and say, "Why bother?"

No use having a clever mind when we do not have a strong body. So I hope the sports master would consider seriously my suggestion.

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