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Why let grades determine your child

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Photo credit: Girl scouts

The education circle is more triangular than circular in the sense that it has the child at the top, the parent to the left of the bottom, then the teacher to the right of the bottom of the triangle. Which invariably means that every party has a role to play in the academic performance of the child, says educational consultant and parenting coach, Diasy Umenyiora.

Often, when a child doesn’t perform well especially after an exam, we as parents would come at him or her with all sorts of advice and statements depicting how disappointed we are, forgetting that there was a role we may have not played that would have resulted in such a performance.

While analyzing the roles teachers and parents have to play, Umenyiora said, “from the angle of the teacher: Each slot on the daily timetable is allotted 35 minutes. In a classroom, there are all kinds of learners- from fast paced ones to those who need more time. Everyone is expected to be carried along within this time-frame. And it is impossible oftentimes. The teacher always needs to creatively restructure to be able to accommodate these more time learners. Where such learners aren’t taken into consideration, after a class, they don’t understand what was taught but are still given tasks as take-home.”

She noted that back at home the parent often gets back tired. Homework is presented. The parent isn’t in the mood to assist because of course he/she is tired from the hectic day’s work. So as that tired parent, we scribble the answers down without attempting to teach the child (who of course doesn’t know how to arrive at the answers) and simply ask them to recopy such “pencil scribbled” answers. The child of course is glad- work made easy. Scribbles as instructed and the next day, submits the Home Work done.

The teacher marks, endorses her signature, imprints the date and goes ahead to the next topic on the scheme of work and the cycle continues.

“Continuous Assessment Test timetables are sent out to homes for the children to get set. The child has two evenings at home or at most- four evenings to be able to revise what the parent didn’t even know the child didn’t understand at first.

Continuing Umenyiora said: “Do you think that same parent who would still get back late who couldn’t supervise homework instead of ‘doing’ the homework will be able to sit to revise these topics one after the other? Of course he may try, but the moment he reaches a point where the child takes time to respond to clarifications on the homework, the parent becomes immediately impatient and refers his child back to the teacher.

“Of course, we oftentimes remember to put a call across to the teacher from work, because the child’s grades are too important to us. Are these grades truly important or is it about your child not being referred to as the ‘dullard?’ Should this matter to the child too?

“Since going through the circle it’s been about the adults (the teacher who doesn’t have enough time and the parent who is tired from work) and almost not about the child who is a key figure in the learning triangle. Why then do we heap blames on them when the results come back not as good as we expect them?”

Umenyiora stressed that studies show our learning environment must consider the physical, cognitive and emotional elements in that environment to optimise outcomes. This means that where the physical and cognitive are considered and the emotional left to its fate, the child will not provide the outcomes we expect. All elements ought to be balanced. This is often what we do as parents – dump the emotional element of the child.

What then do we do? Research shows that for every achievement made, a hormone, dopamine is released. This hormone creates a sense of pleasure when an achievement is made, causing the achiever to be motivated to do more. A child who is termed a ‘dullard’ (there’s no dull child) will show low levels of dopamine resulting in little or no motivation to achieve more while a child who is encouraged to perform better or is praised for performing better, will show high levels of the dopamine level resulting in a higher motivation to out-perform her previous performance.

“So what should your attitude to your child’s performance be – praise efforts first, then later seek ways together on how to produce better outcomes. Allow the child participate in the remedial discussion because as important as the grades are to you, they are even more important to the child. Every human being needs to feel the sense of accomplishment. It helps build our self-esteem. It’s the same with children, too. Psychologists say, high self esteem leads to high accomplishment. Build it!,” she added.


In this article:
Diasy Umenyiora
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