When a Math question teaches you a lesson on humility...

By Michelle

My (not so) little girl came home yesterday with her first English and Math tests. She scored 15/20 for both. The teacher commented that she could have done better if she had read the instructions properly.

I agreed with the teacher. I flipped through the papers in front of her to see what her mistakes were. They were mainly careless mistakes which could be avoided if she had put in greater effort while doing her test.

I told her immediately I was not happy with the results. I told her it's a shame that she got this grade because of her carelessness. (I'm not sure which is worse… to do badly because of carelessness or because they are clueless) From all my posts, I am sure you will know that I am not a person who will lower my expectations because she is my daughter. In fact, by doing so, I think she would only learn to expect second best for herself… from her work, life and even her future partner.

After the (mild) scolding, I told her to turn in after she said goodnight and apologized for her poor performance. While putting the youngest to bed, my dear girl went under her blanket and was completely quiet. I knew immediately she was in tears. (Well… that's what I do when I don't want anyone to know I'm crying…. and… she IS my daughter after all) I waited for her to calm down, pulled the blanket aside, with both my hands on her face, I looked straight into her eyes and told her I love her no matter what the score was. She was still someone I was proud of and with her ability, she deserved to do better. She teared a little and with a kiss, she went back to bed.

This whole episode made me reflect on whether I had passed the test as a parent myself.

I wanted to see how other parents coped with this and I went online to search via Google articles sharing bites about parents who have discussed the times when their kids didn't perform as well as expected. Hmm.. interestingly while there were tons of articles talking about proper child discipline, hardly any site discussed this situation I just personally encountered .

D had dinner with some friends last night and when he came back, I showed him the papers. Unlike me, he is usually the more relaxed parent. Not that he has low expectations of the kids, he just didn't think the test results was something we should sweat about. Unlike me too, he looked at the paper as a whole, not at the mistakes Audrey made. Laughed and said okay. (Really so difficult to say more than one word????)

When the kids slept and all was quiet… I looked through the paper again. This time at the small successes that I may have overlooked earlier. Audrey got her concept of addition (2 and 3 numbers) right… She understood how to form sentences with the words in different orders… She wrote neatly… She completed her paper in the given time. :)

I looked for the things that I should look at as a parent, rather than as a teacher… and then I saw this…. There's this particular question that she was marked wrong. It asked how many eggs were left. I'm sure many of you, just like me, at first glance, would probably not understand her thought processes. There were 7 eggs, 3 were broken, why on earth would she put the answer as 3 + 1 = 4?

She didn't obtain the right answer because of a "fluke". She got it because she saw the solution differently. She took the 3 eggs from the left and added to the single egg on the right to arrive at the answer. Like what I mentioned in the email to the teacher, the standard way of marking didn't accommodate a different way of solving the question. (Aren't you amazed how kids can surprise you at times?)

I'm fine if the teacher did not wish to reconsider accepting her way of solving the question… but I did mention to the teacher to be less ambiguous with the phrasing of the question should they not be too prepared to accept a different style of answering.

Audrey has 'humbled' the teacher in me. While it doesn't discount the other careless mistakes she made, it does feel good to be proven wrong by her. :) (Okay… maybe if Ms. Smart Alec keeps doing it, it may not feel that good..)

When she returned home from school today, I told her I appreciated her for seeing things from another point of view (though perhaps unfortunately this isn't what we are encouraging nowadays) and that I actually learnt something new from her. She just smiled and continued doing her work assigned to her today. :)

With deeper reflection, I never asked her how she felt about getting such results. While I felt it was not good enough and I was very clear in showing my displeasure, she may have thought otherwise. Her feeling good at getting 15/20 is not a bad thing. In fact, just because she felt good getting 15/20, it doesn't mean she won't want to score better in future instances. So, while she got 15/20 for her test, I failed for mine.

That's the thing about Parenthood… Just like life and love, it's a mystery. It doesn't come with any manuals (since each child is different).. We can only pray that we don't screw up too much. I thank God that He has given kids an amazing ability to overlook the shortcomings of their parents no matter what… isn't that after all His message to us too? :)

This post was first published over at the Story Of My Life blog on 9 March 2015. It is reproduced with permission.


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