Posts Tagged ‘School’

Dear Australian Parents,

Stop freaking out about finding the perfect school for your precious progeny. Parroting the answers to standardised tests is not a form of intelligence, and tends to impart the lesson that memorisation is more important than comprehension, let alone independent thought. Kids at their best are creative, explorative, curious . Encourage their interests, but don’t regiment them – the best way to teach is to make learning fun, not to take something they love and make it joyless. If you really want children who are bright, articulate, interesting and well-adjusted, then learn with them: buy them books you’ll read together, play with them, ask what they’d like to do and, where possible, make it happen – but don’t just farm them out to a stranger for rote-learning.  

Not every child is a Rhodes Scholar waiting to happen, and that’s OK. Encourage them to do their best, help them if they struggle, but understand that no amount of money thrown at private tutors, schools or remedial programs will make them any happier or healthier. I understand your concerns, I really do: the world is a difficult place, and especially in times of economic turmoil, it’s natural to want an advantage for those you love best. But education, sadly, has become a commodity, something we buy and sell without anywhere near enough thought as to its intrinsic value. Our society has fathomened the letter of schools, but lost their spirit. When almost everyone finishes Year 12 and a vast majority attend uni, what sets someone apart isn’t their improved marks, but their genuine hunger for knowledge. And that, assuming it can be taught, is a much more subtle lesson.

Parents, let out the collective breath you’ve been holding. Love your kids – teach them, guide them, help them – but remember: they won’t be kids forever. The more you have to force them into something, the less fun they’ll find it. And all too soon, when they shoot up into rebellious, awkward teenagers who storm out, sulk, cut class and answer back, the very best you can hope for is that they want to learn, regardless of whether everything they busy themselves with is part of the curriculum. Like gumtrees that start out in verandah pots, you’re teaching them to be bigger than the space they’ve known. You’re helping them grow up. Whether you send them to public or private school, if they have a tutor or not, it’ll happen. They’ll cease to be meek, but they will inherit the Earth.

So don’t mould them after the system. Teach them to change it.

I’ve been pretty quiet on the blog front lately, mostly because being fired tends to necessitate a different, more productive use of one’s spare time, despite the fact that said time has, for the same reason, undergone a net increase. Apart from the obvious job-hunting chores, I’ve also been doing uni work and editing my novel. The latter activity has been particularly enjoyable. If my writing life were an RPG, I’d have recently levelled up, because my ability to self-correct has suddenly leapt forwards. In the past, frantic editing surges have usually resulted in scrapping the lot and starting again, but while I’m definitely rewriting en masse, it’s with an eye to building up instead of tearing down. Chapters I’ve been content with for months are being systematically fleshed out, tightened up and otherwise made over. The question isn’t why I’ve left it so long: it’s why I can suddenly see the flaws.

And flaws there are, ultimately as the result of sloppy writing. It’s a sobering realisation that despite my dedication towards becoming a published author, I’ve still, on some subconscious level, retained the belief that I can do less than my best, and have this be enough. Throughout school, I always coasted and cut corners for a number of reasons – disinterest in the subject, a preference to spend my time on other projects – and while these were usually, if not saintly, then at least defensible reasons, I ultimately did so, or was able to do so, because I was bright enough. Laziness didn’t punish me. Although I cared about being perceived as smart, I wasn’t fiercely competitive: a dip in marks didn’t matter, so long as they were still good marks. Which, looking back, was both a healthy mental attitude on one level, and an active choice not to be challeneged on another. Quite often, my parents would look at my results, sigh affectionately, and say, “Imagine what you could do if you’d put in some effort!” But only now do I understand what they meant.

Since starting the second novel, I’ve improved. Writing characters I’ve already introduced is different to starting anew: there’s an implied confidence to it, with room for more flourishes, in-jokes, insight and general development. It means that when I look back at the story so far, my standards have lifted. But, still, I’d been letting things lie. I’d read the first book so many times that I only saw the cadence of what I’d written, and not the substance. This time around, however, the veil has lifted. It was holding together, yes, but it wasn’t as good as it could be. 

And so I’m fixing it, hammer and nail. After completing the first three chapters, I even submitted yesterday to a local publisher, which gave me a tingly, back-on-the-horse kind of feeling. I still need a job, but in the mean time, I’m getting things done.

Who says getting fired can’t be a good thing?