Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Raise the Bar Too High and Children Will Flop

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Raise the Bar Too High and Children Will Flop

Article excerpt

My daughter's friend has just passed his grade 1 piano. His mum said he did really well, but lost a few marks in one piece because he didn't do the pedalling marked on the score.

He can't reach the pedals. He's five years old.

"That's really unfair." I said. "How can they mark him down for something he can't do?"

She shrugged. "We did email them beforehand but they obviously couldn't make allowances."

Now, I'm all in favour of sky-high expectations, I really am, but sometimes I think our expectations of children can be plain unfair.

When we do set targets, they can't just be an act of teacher bravado - there should be a degree of realism. What if we, like that piano examiner, are genuinely expecting the impossible? What if we know we are setting children up to fail?

To even think this sets you deeply at odds with current thinking. If your expectations are not meteoric then you are implicit in letting children down and supporting mediocrity. These days everyone, no matter what the individual circumstances, can be a high-flyer; a straight-A student; above average. Only, we can't all be above average and the most deeply held beliefs in brilliance-for-all aren't going to achieve this end any more than labelling a child dyslexic will help them to read.

What really counts is what you do once the expectations have been set. This is where lofty notions of ambition and greatness take a back seat and the real hard graft sets in, coupled with plenty of blood, sweat and tears. …

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