Every now and again, I pull some random gem of information from the reaches of my brain. SOH CAH TOA from geometry. Kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species from biology. Mrs. Van Der Tramp from french. ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears’ from English lit.
As your kids try to cram their heads full of random social studies, math, science, and language rules, definitions, and history during exam time, we should just lean in and tell them exams don’t matter. But I don’t think they’d understand the nuance.
This spoken word from Suli Breaks perfectly tackles the dance between exams, education, and what we need to learn.
How many equations, subjects, and dates did you memorize just before an exam never to use again?
How many “A” grades did you get, which were never asked for when applying for a job?
How many times have you remembered something five minutes just after the teacher said: “Stop writing.”
Only to receive your results one month later to realize that you were only one mark short of the top grade?
Does that mean remembering five minutes earlier would’ve made you more qualified for a particular job?
Well, on an application form it would have.
We all have different abilities, thought processes, experiences and genes.
So why is a class full of individuals tested by the same means?
Test us with tests, but the finals are never final,
Because they never prepare us for the biggest test which is survival!
And what I suggest is fairly outlandish,
So I don’t expect everyone to understand this.
Except for the kid that knows what it feels like to be worth no more than that D or that A that you get on results day,
And the ones whose best stories were never good enough for the English teacher,
Because apparently you missed out key literal techniques,
Did not follow the class plan,
And the language was too “informal” for him to understand.
Cause the purpose of “Why I hate school, but love education” was not to initiate a worldwide debate,
But to let them know that whether 72 or 88, 44, or 68,
We will not let exam results decide our fate.
It’s true, exam results don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, and it’s true much of what we learn does not play directly in to our future lives. But school is about something more than the pythagorean theorem — it’s a training camp for effort and commitment.
While we are told that those grades ‘go on our permanent record,’ and they will be held as leverage to get them in to the best college or what have you, by the time we roll around to our 10 yr high school reunion, that grade 9 math test result doesn’t matter. But the effort we made to study for it does.
That’s what school is about, isn’t it? The effort. The discipline. The desire to learn and to seek out what does matter. Me knowing that the cosign equals the adjacent over the hypotenuse doesn’t help me as a writer, parent, or broadcaster, but the discipline to learn that concept has served me well to be an inquisitive person on the planet.
So, yes, when your kid whines: “Why do I need to know the difference between concave and convex?!” You can nod silently in your head that you agree, “It doesn’t matter.” But the words coming out of your mouth need to encourage them to learn just the same. Because while the exams don’t matter, their effort does.
I’ll borrow from Jim Higley (aka Bobblehead Dad) to sum things up:
“So grades be gone?
Of course not. They matter. For sure. But they’re just part of the puzzle.
Studies regularly confirm that it’s things like character that counts. Stuff like curiosity. Grit. An inquisitive nature. Persistence. And kids who have strong qualities of character often do well scholastically. Perform well. Retain well.
That’s what I want for my kids.”
Image via John on Flickr