Pot Calling the Kettle Black
I love kitschy phrases like this. I know some people hate them because they can be considered trite or overused, but to me tried and true expressions exist because they are just that “TRIED” and “TRUE”.
Such was the case when my daughter, a junior in high school, came to me upset about her CAPT score in Math. (CAPT tests are standardized tests for college entrance)
A little background…my kid is smart. I know most people say that about their children but seriously she is truly a smart young woman and she gets brighter and brighter each year. If she wasn’t, trust me, I would be the first to admit if I wasn’t blessed with a child with brains. I’m pretty comfortable with being brutally honest. But, as smart as she may be, her forte is not in mathematics. The poor kid inherited from me, among many things, terrible eyesight, a cornball sense of humor, my love of literature and disdain for all things arithmetically related.
So on this particular afternoon, with autumn peaking around the corner, in comes my little smarty pants to give me my daily after-school debrief. As I look up from my laptop I see a down trodden face and overdramatized hands flailing a piece of paper with what I quickly deduced was the disparaging mathematics mastery score results. One piece of paper had knocked the wind out of her sails and sent her into a state of self-doubt. I calmly and non-theatrically replied, “…well, you’re just not that great in math so deal with it”. Ouch, you may be saying but consider my logic, before making your final judgment. I believe in focusing on strengths instead of getting hung up on shortcomings.
Seems like, it’s incredibly easy to get hyper focused on “fixing” ourselves and what we don’t do well. My contention for my daughter (and for everyone) is that the best use of her time is to do her best in math but don’t go crazy trying to be an A plus math student. Even if she was to expend hours and hours of time and all of her might on raising her math mastery scores, she has no chance (nor desire) in one day becoming a NASA Mathematical Engineer. Instead of getting bogged down in this one area that she is not a rock-star in, she would be better suited to focus instead on mastering a skill where she already excels. In my daughters’ case, she’s an excellent writer (you insert your “what you’re good at” skill here). The chances that she will win scholarship money in a writing competition are abundantly greater than the chance that she will lose anything because she is getting a B in her math classes. On the flip side of me stating that she will never become a NASA engineer, I most certainly can see her one day becoming an internationally renowned playwright, a famed author or journalist, a Nobel Prize winner or even a head of state. Her options (and yours too) are limitless if you begin working to determine and improve your strong suits and not obsessing on your shortfalls. I think she listened to most of what I said but who can really be certain with teenagers. Perhaps if I had put my statement to a soundtrack and posted it on YouTube with a catchy but goofy dance routine, I would be certain to get her attention (and yours too, I dare say).
So now I turn the mirror to myself. I gave my daughter that speech on a Thursday. That Saturday I was sitting in my Math Class on the UCONN campus, exercising my newly found patience (reference my blog titled: Apparently Patience is Not My Virtue), when it came time for our first quiz. I didn’t fully panic but I did freeze for a moment. I thought to myself, I can’t screw this up. I don’t want to look like an idiot. What will I do if I fail this first quiz? There were only 6 questions on the quiz so despite not being a mathematical genius even I could figure out that even two mistakes would be a grading disaster. Then to make matters worse, I started seeing other classmates turning in their completed quizzes! These would be the same people I had previously, sort-of, kind-of, but not really alluded to as possibly being chuckleheads. Apparently the chuckleheads knew a heck of a lot more than me since they were engaging in light-hearted banter with the professor as they handed in their quiz and waltzed out the door. My heart was racing and I was nervous, not because I wasn’t prepared or because the questions were harder than I expected, but because I had suddenly thought I must get a 100 on this quiz in order to be a success and if not, I am a failure. Sounds vaguely reminiscent of a certain smarty pants, no?
It’s only Tuesday, so I don’t know whether or not I aced the quiz with a 100 or failed with a 57, but I decided either way, I can’t judge my overall worth in this class or on this journey on the outcome of one quiz any more than my daughter (insert your name here) should judge her scholastic prowess and future success on one state standardized testing score. My words of wonder woman wisdom for today, we all have strengths, play to them, don’t let the rest weigh you down.
I took my own advice…after all….I wrote another blog didn’t I.