Will you explore an idea with me for a little while? Basically, I need to think out loud for a bit.
Last week I went to my 4th grader’s school to help serve sundaes. You see, the sundaes were connected to how many of their multiplication facts the students learned. The higher they achieved, the more toppings they got on their sundaes.
I didn’t think much about the idea in the beginning. My son was excited and eager to make it all the way to his 12’s. He gave me weekly reports on his progress. He was extremely motivated. We did flashcards at home and he used an iPad app occasionally. Thankfully, he met his goal. He was able to construct quite the creation when the day came.
When the paper came home to volunteer to serve the sundaes, I signed up. I don’t get many opportunities to help in my boys’ classrooms, so this seemed like a good occasion.
As soon as they started unloading all of the goodies on the tables and gave us directions, I had a sudden change of heart. I was going to have to check kids’ tickets and make sure they were allowed to have my topping. I might have to tell a kid no. My stomach started to churn and I got teary-eyed. My mind immediately thought back to those students I had that no matter how hard they tried, they just couldn’t learn their facts. Then I thought about those kids who didn’t have anyone at home who would quiz them or be sure they practiced.
I watched some of the kids walk away from the line with just a couple of toppings, and I knew some of them had learning issues that likely prevented them from being very successful. It felt so icky.
I am not the parent of a child with special needs, but I think this scenario would be hard for me if I was. I realize that everyone got ice cream, but what about the child with autism who only got syrup…because he has autism.
How do you handle a situation like this? What could be done differently? I’m just asking the questions.
The reality is, there will always be competitions. There will be kids who don’t receive the Presidential Fitness Award in gym class for various reasons. There will be kids who don’t get the perfect attendance award because they get sick a lot. There will be kids who never get a solo or speaking part in a school production. Some children will be the first one out in a spelling bee every time because he/she isn’t a good speller.
Maybe the key is teaching our kids to deal with disappointment. Emphasize with your kids that we all have different gifts, maybe not even academic or physical, but the ability to be a good friend, honest, or an excellent listener. Encourage them in their strengths. Affirm them when they aren’t able to attain as high as they would like for whatever reason. Come up with your own special rewards at home based individually on their abilities when there is something on the horizon that is a big deal that you know they can’t achieve.
So, I just don’t know!! What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.