Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Grade School

Here’s something I wrote while in Turkey, volunteering in my son’s school, but never published on this blog. I’m interested in it partially cause Kid.01 is now in fifth grade here in SoCal:
I’ve finally stopped trying to maintain control over my fifth graders (mostly the boys). They are boisterous and loud, they throw erasers and pillows, they fall over in their chairs. They mock fight, and occasionally really fight. I just have to accept it. I’m trying now to let them have fun, and when my voice grows hoarse shouting above them I just stop and do something physical with them, like dance or march. I try to keep in mind how polite, quiet and respectful my college students are. Somehow these animals become civilized.
There’s a good explanation of the stresses these students are under at this elite private school. Basically being a student in Turkey from fifth grade on means an endless series of tests and test preparations. Tests are the only indicator for university entrance. No extracurricular activities, economic hardships, original experiences, or thoughts explored in essays are taken into account. And getting into university is basically the only chance to get ahead economically in Turkey. A friend told me even job listings for obscure government clerks request a university degree now.
All this makes me wonder about my own kids, and will I be OK with only gently helping them to be well-rounded university applicants, or will I be one of those parents who obsess over where (if?) my child goes to college? I went to a “fancy” school for my undergrad, but a third-tier (sorry) grad school, and that has affected my success, because before anyone looks at your work, they look at your c.v. Life sucks that way.

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