Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Idiots, Losers and Non-Achievers

The debate is on again.  A middle school in Calgary has decided to end the practice of year end awards and replace it with a broader system of recognition.  The responses to the article in the National Post  ( are very negative and perhaps those responses themselves point to a need for change.

The comments that support this traditional practice use statements and language such as the following to support their argument:

"Thank our "progressive" education system, we don't reward those who work hard instead help the mediocre fool themselves into believing we are all "equal" (from an achievement / skills point of view)."

"Why demote the winners, our future, to appease the losers?"

We should push the non-achievers to emulate the performance and behaviours of achievers, not the other way around"

And my favourite. . .   "The world has their share of winners and losers, and geniuses and idiots. No amount of PC bull can change the fact that some are more able than others."

Winners and losers.  Non-Achievers and achievers.  Hard workers versus the mediocre.  Geniuses and idiots.  Is this what these people have left school believing about themselves and their classmates?  Is this what they want to perpetuate?

These statements make me even more sure that it is time for a change.  Contrary to what many people believe the education of our children is not meant to be a competition full of 'winners' and 'losers'. 

I was raised to do my best, to work hard and to be a good person.  Sometimes I won awards, sometimes I didn't.  This never changed how hard I worked, how much I achieved, how I viewed myself and my classmates.  Education is not about having one winner and twenty-nine losers every time an assignment is completed.  Working hard is not about being the best.   Working hard to be your best helps you live a fulfilling life and makes you proud of yourself.  You don't work hard because you want to 'win' some award or even view yourself as the 'best', you work hard because it's the right thing to do.

"There is no success. No failure. Only a fuzzy middle." Not winning an award should not be synonymous with failure.  There are many successful people who have never won an award.  There are many successful people who are successful because of their talent, their passion and their dedication. They are not motivated by looking over their shoulder to see where they are on the 'winner' and 'loser' scale or if they are stuck 'in the fuzzy middle'.

"Psychologically, humans crave praise and feedback, which serve as motivating incentives for further, future performance."  This quote was used to support the continuance of awards programs when I believe it does exactly the opposite.  If praise and feedback (this is a whole other blog) serve to motivate, shouldn't schools be using this for all students.  Don't we want all students to be motivated?

The perception of people that the goal is to make everyone 'equal' is also ridiculous.  Do you really think that by removing awards students won't know where they stand.  The outstanding athlete, academic, musician, artist, problem solver, scientist and world citizen will still be outstanding.  Nothing will change the fact that students (and adults) are all blessed with different talents and that those talents will shine through regardless of whether or not awards ceremonies exist.  Most of us know we are not 'the best' but it doesn't stop us from striving to be 'our best'.

Nothing will change the fact that some students come to school with full bellies, freshly cleaned clothes and an army of support behind them while others come hungry and dirty with only a few supports in place.  Our job is to support all of these students, to educate all of them, to motivate all of them and to help all of them recognize their own strengths and talents.  Not just the 'winners', 'geniuses' and 'achievers', but ALL students.

I have no understanding of how recognizing more students in more meaningful ways can create such negative dialogue. I am ashamed of being part of an education system that has produced thinkers who believe that children who do not step onto that podium in June (and that's the majority) to receive their 'award'  are 'idiots', 'non-achievers' and 'losers'.  And by the way, school is the 'real' world for everyone within its walls.

It's time for a change folks.  It's time.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Awakening My Senses

Saying Yes To the Moment - Day 2
This is our bridge
It crosses the mighty Fraser River
For 32 years crossing this bridge meant 'coming home'
The bridge is known by all who live near
So sad that it has no bike lane
which makes it almost impossible to cross without a vehicle
For young people this bridge signifies summer parties
bonfires and sometimes trouble
Nowadays, for us, it is a place to let our dog run free
as we walk along with the sun on our backs
and the crisp fall breeze softly blowing in our faces
The smell of rotting fish is familiar
and the bear scat reminds us to be watchful
A few fresh berries pop out on the fading
scraggly, mostly-dead blackberry bushes
which were ripe with fruit just days ago
The walks we take here are always peaceful
although we can hear the fisherman along the far shores
and a few farm dogs barking in the distance
beyond the freshly stripped cornfields
Garter snakes slither just beyond our steps
as we disrupt one of their last sunbathing days for this year
As we turn at the end of the path
with our dog bounding on ahead
we once again talk of how quickly the time passes
Today we are noticing that this is true with both
the seasons
the years
And we are grateful for the time we have
Just Say Yes To The Moment

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Saying Yes To The Moment

I have been meditating on and off for about  2 years now.  I'm not sure why it's 'on' and 'off' as it is the best part of my day when I am 'on'. 

I read a wonderful article the other day,, about slowing down and making that quiet moment to ponder life an integral part of your day.  "People put meditation on their To Do lists. This is something I tell my students: “If you don’t put meditation on the top of your To Do list, it will be at the bottom, and it won’t happen.” I find that if meditation is not the first priority of my day it won’t happen. You know if I am
foolish enough to say, “Well, I have to make this phone call, check my email…,” then it’s over. Finished. “I’ll do it later.” It never happens. Look at your life and ask, “Am I being honest with myself? Is it really true that I don’t have time?”

I'm afraid that when I was working full time meditation wasn't even ON my list of things 'to do'.  They call it a 'practice' for a reason - it requires practice!  Oh how I wish I would have known then what I know now! But, even in my retirement, with all of the time in the world, I still have days where I don't consciously set aside the time and revert back to my busy-ness.  The things that keep me busy are not urgent things; dishes, making the bed, planning meals, reading a book, going for a walk/bike ride/swim, driving into the city to see our wee ones, knitting or crafting or just making time to take pictures.  None of these things are urgent but unless you set the time aside and make meditation a priority there are days where it just doesn't happen.  Then, something happens that reminds me again of how peaceful my days are when they start with a few quiet moments just 'being'.

This week those reminders came one after the other.  I  read Dr. Ray's article and it certainly struck home with me, especially the parts about our fast-paced North American lifestyle.  Next, my daughter wrote a blog, ,  that reminded me once again to 'stay in the moment'.  As I read through her blog she referred to another blogger, Liz Lamoreux, who inspired Christine (and now me) to follow her on a 10 day journey of  "Saying Yes To This Moment".   I was just pondering what happened to my morning meditation and it's like the universe conspired to get me back on track.  This has happened before in my life and I am again reminded that if I just take a moment, one moment, to ponder life the answers will appear.

As I just finished  a photography course, part of my 10 day journey will be making a photo of one moment in each day that touches that quiet spot in my soul.  I hope you too can find a moment to 'just be' and join us on our 10 days of Saying Yes To The Moment.

Today's photo is from my photography course on Hornby Island.  What I love most about this picture are the rings of light in the front of the rocks.  It's all about the light :)