The hardest lesson to teach…

My daughters have today been at a singing festival.  They have been practising for ages and were prepared well.  Unfortunately, my 8 year old has had a ‘poorly’ throat and we had said that we might decide to say that she was going to pull out.  She rested (as much as a boisterous young girl can) and yesterday we said that she could take part.

The girls had entered two main classes, with my eldest doing an additional Unaccompanied folk song class.  They both performed well, but on the day my 6 year old gained 3rd place in both classes, complete with certificates, and my 8 year old wasn’t placed at all.  She immediately dropped her shoulders, dropped her head and her mood plummeted along with it.  

As a mum, I am immediately filled with guilt; should we have stopped her from performing because we knew she wouldn’t have been able to gain a place? Should we have prepared her more for the fact that she might not do as well this week as she did gaining a 1st and 2nd in her dance festival last week? And what about my other daughter, her achievement completely overshadowed by the failure of her big sister?

My eldest has had the biggest lesson today that I think she has ever had.  How do you deal with failure and rejection? How do you bounce back? How do you realise that sometimes what you do just isn’t what others expect ‘the best’ to be?

I asked her what would happen if she only failed in something when she was grown up?  Her answer encouraged me: ‘it would be harder’.  I continued the conversation by asking why it would be harder, ‘because we wouldn’t have had any practise at doing it’. 

Can you imagine the number of adults who struggle to deal with rejection and failure; in job interviews, in relationships, in competitions and other life event, simply because they have not had enough practise of dealing with this type of disappointment?

I am so proud of my daughters.  I am especially proud of my 8 year old, who, when faced with rejection and defeat has been able, in just 3 short hours, to become philosophical and see it as character building.  The old phrase ‘Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ is a cliché but has a grounding in truth.  For my daughter, she is growing into a young lady who can deal with defeat and rejection and not get swallowed up in it.

I can’t wait to meet her when she is 25.

It’s been a while…a dancer’s mum’s tale.

I love writing my blog but sometimes other things take over.  I have been honing my hair styling technique this weekend as my eldest daughter participates in her first dancing festival.  She is so independent. It made me think of school. I spend all my time attempting to train my students to think for themselves; to make their own choices. I have a variety of differentiated tasks which they can choose, allowing them the chance to take a little more control of their own learning.  So why is it, when my 8 year old daughter is getting ready for her dancing festival, I am anxious and want to take over? I am sat here, watching as she has applied foundation and is now carefully applying eye make up.  It would take me less than 5 minutes, but, and here is the teaching point, I would have to take those 5 minutes every time she needed it. This way means that we spend 20 minutes now but gradually build up to when she can do this, and anything else without assistance.

Sometimes the role of the teacher isn’t planning and doing more and more. It is sometimes gradually doing less and less.  A gentle releasing of the support, the hand supporting the bicycle, so our young people can manage by themselves. 

The art of the teacher is being able; with the use of data, awareness of the criteria and knowledge of the individual student, to be able to anticipate and predict when to let go and when to grab them. Sometimes we have to support, sometimes (in rare situations) a controlled failure or fall can be effective. 

I have just watched my daughter plaster lipstick all over herself. The only question I asked was if she looked like a dancer. She has asked for help.

We have to differentiate, but if students think everything is going to be easy to understand without them thinking too much; then we are setting them up to fail. League tables can only judge academic progress, a school’s reputation is built on that and everything else. 

My daughter has never done a dance festival before, she is excited, I am nervous but I am also proud of her growing indepence.

Addendum…she came first in her category!