Why I am not a feminist

Every time I write about something that is potentially controversial, I always preface with the proclamation that this article is my opinion, evoking my feelings and experiences, with no desire to inculcate anyone into the way I see and feel things. I am not trying to change the world. I am just sharing my point of view; a different point of view. This opening is actually going to be addressed as one of the reason why I am not a feminist and cannot identify with feminism, as it exists in these times.

Feminism was originally rooted in women achieving the right to vote. In almost all major democracies, this right was granted in the first half of the 20th century. While we live in an era in which every individual is considered equal law and has equal rights and duties, the problem is that feminism did not stop after achieving this original goal. In fact, the feminist movement made a deviant tangent towards erasing gender inequalities and boundaries that actually cannot be undone.

The problems that exist in countries where women are tortured, raped, uneducated, oppressed and killed, also deal with many other tremendous problems of the violation of human rights, not just women’s rights. Feminists see great value in fighting for women, rather than fighting for mankind. This is a particular area of discomfort for me. If we are standing for equality then we must understand that for equality to exist between men and women, that the rights of men are not ignored, in the name of feminism. So, I would like to be very clear that I do not need to subscribe to the feminist mind-set in order to be horrified by the atrocities that women experience worldwide – I can feel horrified because I am a human being.

The hypocrisy of feminism exists in trying to proliferate the image of the modern woman who is independent, self-sufficient and proud. While these are not necessarily negative qualities, they are projected by feminists with unspoken and hidden conditions. We cannot proclaim that we are independent and don’t need a man to complete us, then complain that all men are dogs. We cannot want to ‘open the door for ourselves’, then be disgusted when men allow us to. Feminism has become very convenient to its immediate, and what seems like its ever-changing purpose. We are happy to be considered independent, but we want more than three months maternity leave, a whole lot more maternity leave than men and reserve the pride that only WE can reproduce.

Our natural, as well as our societal roles, differ. It is an inherent difference that laws cannot change. The difference lies in our very nature; in basic understandings like yes, we are the only ones who can bear children and breast feed them. Feminists are proud of this, as though it was one of the things they fought to achieve. However, there are some gender imbalances that simply must exist.

In almost all sports, the gender bias is expected and the feminists are silent, accepting of this gender imbalance. Although there is the existence of vastly different amounts of output of energy and displays of strength and stamina among men and women in various sports, there has still been a recent clamouring for women to be paid equal prize money as men. The hypocrisy and blind acceptance of this school of thought continue to bewilder and amaze me. The reality, the harsh reality, is that the public wants to see men play the same sports, much more than they want to see women. Therefore, men’s tournaments generate a whole lot more revenue than women’s sports. This cannot be ignored in times where sports is a big business. Women’s sports fail on every level to attract the revenue that is generated by their male counterparts. Feminists cannot expect women to earn the same amount as men, in prizes and money, when they generate so much less of it. I think it is fantastic that there are women’s teams at a national level of so many sports and I truly hope that this grows, but the fact remains that women do much less than men in tournaments like Tennis Grand Slams, but expect the same rewards.

Women, generally, and especially feminists, do not want to be judged and valued based on how they look. They should not be pressured to shave their legs in order to be attractive; or wear make-up and sexy clothes in order to be considered desirable; or be a size four to not be considered chunky. Yet men are constantly judged and expected to live up to a certain standard and expectation in order to be considered good enough for the modern woman. The hypocrisy is glaring when men are pressured to be big income-earners with nice cars and homes; they do not need to have six-pack abs, but they dare not have the very front-pooch that we want overlooked in ourselves; we want them to be the hunters and providers, even if we can provide for ourselves (being strong, independent women, and all), but we must not be expected to be the child-bearing home-makers, all in the name of being ‘progressive’.

Feminists are proud of the women who run marathons while menstruating, without wearing any feminine hygienic product, in the name of ‘liberty’, not realising that the only thing more absurd that actually running and bleeding all over the place, is the celebration of the absurdity. We do not need to be distasteful and offensive to prove a point. In fact, I found Kiran Gandhi to be quite backward to run the London marathon while ‘free-bleeding’. This is a step in the opposite direction, away from progression and equal rights. Society is not ‘uncomfortable with the natural process’, as she accused. Some of us are simply disgusted with her display of tastelessness. I am not sure how much awareness was raised about our sisters who do not have access to sanitary products, as was her aim, but I do know she made a name for herself. One thing she was right about though, is that ‘women’s bodies do not exist for public consumption’. That is why her bodily functions on display for the public was highly inappropriate and backward and a giant leap away from all that we should be trying to achieve.

The irony of feminism is that while they believe that they are fighting the good fight to achieve equality for women, they do so on condition. Any view, opinion or nuance that is in disagreement with what they subscribe to, is instantaneously shot down as being ‘un-feminist’. But you cannot be fighting for equal rights on one hand and then be dismissive of any opinion that differs with yours. True equality lies in allowing and respecting everyone to have their own opinions and make their own choices without ridicule or threat. For example, this entire article is simply my opinion, to which I am entitled, yet I expect to be put in my place for misconstruing the true meaning of feminism, because a feminist will disagree with me and find it fit to share her opinion. Her opinion is, of course, acceptable because it is a feminist view, while mine is not.
Female politicians in many countries drive the support of the female vote, which in the eyes of feminism, is acceptable. If they lose however, it is because she was somehow persecuted by her male opponent in some way, not at all because she was simply not good enough as a candidate. If a man lost to a woman, I am not sure he would be supported if he complained that it was because he was a man.

Our celebrities are revered for spewing hate in the name of feminism and we do not just condone it, we celebrate it. If male celebrities spewed hate about a female politician, the way Madonna and Ashley Judd did, I do not know if they would still be respected in the industry. Displays like Madonna’s and Judd’s simply project feminist as extremists. Let us not forget that terrorists are considered extremists, as well. These women were put on a feminist pedestal for trying to incite the crowd, even if it was via the irresponsible spewing of potential violence or the misuse of Nazi ideology. I cringed when I listened to them; they actually made me ashamed of my gender, unaware that such beautiful, intelligent and progressive women, could actually project themselves in such a terrible light.

We want to teach our girls to shatter glass ceilings and blaze their own trails, but not at the expense of male persecution, in the name of feminism. We should raise our girls to respect themselves, as much as they respect others, even men. The real world is hard for women, but it is hard for men as well. They should be taught to work with men and women, not against them. We cannot achieve equality by teaching inequality.

I am quite capable of doing everything for myself and I WILL do it if need be. But I do not need to be in constant competition with men in order to feel strong in body, mind and character. I love that some men still understand the value of chivalry and I think more women should expect it and enjoy it. Whereas I don’t consider us to be the weaker sex, I like considering myself the softer gender. Soft doesn’t make me weak or dependent…it simply makes me a woman, it makes me feminine, but I am not a feminist.

The woes of a non-mother

DISCLAIMER – the views and opinions shared by the writer of this blog are offensive to all, and no one should read it. If one proceeds to read it and disregard this warning, the writer of this blog will not be able to accept responsibility for any feelings felt.

 

My mother was not just a full-time working mom, but one who was forced to raise me single-handedly. Money was tight and she made innumerable sacrifices for me and for our family of two. Not for a second do I discount the difficulty one faces in trying to juggle children, work and money problems.

There are so many videos, posts, stats and especially blogs about and from mothers, who share their many experiences and struggles that they face daily. Much societal admiration exists for working mothers and stay-at-home mothers, and even more sympathy and empathy is extended to them. I do not for second disagree with what they experience daily, in fact, I can’t. I don’t walk in their shoes, and I don’t judge them…contrary to much public opinion.

It just seems quite negligent of us as women and as a society at large, to assume that mothers should be admired more than non-mothers, and are somehow off-limits from any type of criticism. Men and fathers are criticised relentlessly and are all judged the same, because of few who are as valuable as a cent. I cannot understand the over-sensitivity women feel because other women disagree with them. I think it may be because I’m not easily offended. However, we non-mothers also face our struggles, which should also be highlighted as much as the struggles that mothers face. It seems only fair and equal.

So here are some struggles and complaints of a working, childless, therefore and obviously heartless woman, with whom one should not empathise.

– Who is going to take care of me when I grow old? I have no children. I have no idea what is going to become of me in twenty or thirty years, when I am too old to care for myself! Is there no one to feel sorry for me that I must face these last daunting decades of my life alone? It should not matter that I chose not to have children. Mothers who choose to be mothers are sympathised with. They went in with their eyes open and facets intact, yet we must all feel sorry for their daily frustrations. Why are my choices not being sympathised with? Who is going to take care of me when I get old? Will I have to be placed in a home where there are absolutely NO parents, because their children always have them at home taking care of them…always!

– I will never experience unconditional love. The love of a child is seemingly the only love that matters when a child is born unto a mother. Their lives are complete and nothing can describe that love that is given by a child; a child that you created all on your own! I will never feel that love. I am now forced to go through life not knowing what it is like to be loved unconditionally. I will never be called ‘mummy’ and have my heart melt in my chest. I can’t understand why no one feels sorry for me that I will have to make do, with the love of JUST my husband, who can leave me at any time, but children never leave. They always stay and care for their parents. A part of my life will always remain incomplete because I chose a different path. It being my choice, is of no consequence. It is my FAULT that I will never feel this mystical love.

– My time just doesn’t seem like my own. I never have enough hours in the day. I never have enough days in the weekend. For that matter, if I want to be truly honest – I need more god damn hours in the work week! Between the work that I do at work, and the work that I bring home with me, I feel sometimes that all I do is work! Who cares that I chose to be a teacher (and love it, btw)? Work comes with the territory. But then, I have to juggle into my work, at work, and my work-work at home, the time for nail appointments, hair appointments and the oh-so-necessary wax appointments! In addition to those struggles, I constantly have to decide what to cook, which is four times harder than actually cooking! By the time I finish work, do the groceries, have my appointments done, cook, do the laundry and prepare to do it all over again tomorrow…it’s….night fall!!!! I’m exhausted and have no time to do anything other than shower and hit the sack. Where is my time going? I mean, it’s not like I have children.

– Is money ever going to be enough? My bills are somewhat different from mothers. I have a cell-phone bill (which is admittedly way too high), rent/mortgage, car upkeep, groceries, electricity bill, entertainment, clothing and travel expenses. Granted, I have no pampers, baby food, school fees and other child-associated expenses. That simply means that my entertainment, clothing and travel are increased to fill the void that is my childless existence. I feel very frustrated that I can’t always buy whatever I want for myself, because I have to consider things like retirement and medical money that would be needed later on! It is so unfair. You would think that since I don’t have children that I should really be exempt from such tedious responsibilities. I really thought that it was only parents who faced these struggles. If I had only known that we, non-mothers, face the same financial woes, well I don’t know, I may have just popped one out!

– Oh the judgement! The hurtful, deliberate and insensitive judgement I face from….the world! How selfish I am made to feel that I didn’t want children. My time is judged; my money is judged; my travelling is judged; my drinking is judged; my appearance is judged; my life is judged!! I just can’t take it anymore! It hurts the depths of my soul when people find that I don’t know what it is like to be a mother. I mean, I am not a mother, but I am somehow not empathetic enough towards them, and I am judged so brutally for it! I feel like if my accessories match or I buy a new handbag or I eat out four times a week, that I am being judged for being irresponsible, and I am brushed off as, ‘well she doesn’t have children’. I want to be part of club too, in which I am understood and empathised with for facing this type of daily judgement.

– It is only obvious that I hate children. I must be a meanie who thinks that all children should perish in hell. Because if you aren’t a momma, you cannot possibly love children! It is such a struggle to be looked at as a child-hater. Mind you, my JOB is taking care of and educating other people’s children all day, in their absence, and I have only been doing it for a mere seventeen years. Why have I stayed in a profession for so long, that exposes me to teenagers on a daily basis, if I cannot possibly understand what it is like to have a child?? The struggle is just too much at times. The thought that I actually love other people’s children is not accepted or acceptable in any way, because the only way one can love a child is if one makes one for themselves, on their own, alone. The amount of times I have had to endure the torture of being accused of not having children and therefore have no clue how to interact with them! Because, of course, you must be a parent to understand children and interact healthily with them. Me being a teacher really counts for nothing. Don’t even get me started on how I actually feel about my students, because no one would even believe me! I actually love them and I care about them and I think about ways I can be a better teacher…all the time. But no one cares! I make tea for my girls when they have their period; I keep extra pads around as well; I counsel them when they are upset; I endure the complaints about their parents while trying to get them to understand how hard it is to be a parent. I hug them when they cry. I check on them when I know they are having a bad day. I clean and bandage bleeding toes; I make myself available 24/7 to my older girls; and sweet Jesus, I love it. Yet not a person would or should believe that I know a thing about children or loving them, because I have none of my own. This is so unbelievably hurtful. I must be overreacting and just accept that I must just hate children.

– I hate when mothers deliberately post things about their children, JUST to make me feel lesser about myself. All the beautiful pictures and videos of how much mothers are loved by their gems, is sometimes too much for me to handle. The report cards, the pottery…things they make (I really don’t know what they are called), the mother’s day cards, the hugs and kisses and, oh, the matching outfits! Why, oh why, do people share these things for me to see? Do they not know that I take offense to these posts? They were obviously MEANT to make me feel barren and irresponsible and heartless and jealous! It could not possibly be that they are just proud of their children! Oh no! They MUST want me to feel bad about myself, because God knows that when I post about loving my child-free life, I MUST be trying to deliberately offend all parents, and not just enjoying my choices. Don’t even get me started on those vehemently offensive ‘motherhood challenges’! They tear me to pieces! Please stop hurting me with your beautiful family pictures.

Thank you cyber world, thank you. Thank you for allowing the downtrodden childless women like myself, vent! It is really important that I am allowed to share these feelings, even though I am not lucky enough to be a mother. I feel so understood now that I have shared this. I feel…normal. My struggles are so real. I feel like no one really understands me and that society has made insignificant all that I go through. But now that I have faced who I really am and shared my frustrations, I so hope and pray that some semblance of empathy, or at least some sympathy is extended to me.

Success vs. Happiness

I have been an educator for over 16 years, and even though I made the decision to not have children, I was a very involved step parent for 13 years, before the divorce. I have always maintained a close relationship with many of my former students and even some of their parents. I love being an involved teacher, going way off and beyond the curriculum to get to know my students…who they are, what their families are like, their interests and goals, how their parents think.

What I have learnt over the past decades is that almost all parents that I have encountered, truly want the very best education and opportunities for their children; they want them to be successful in life and in their careers; they want better for them than they had. I have to assume that if I was a parent, I’d feel the same way. But I am not a parent. So, I have the advantage of seeing it all from the outside. And sometimes what I see isn’t always pretty.

Our education system forces students to choose school subjects at the age of 14. These subjects determine what subjects they can then do at a higher level of secondary education. These choices, of course, affect what they would have the pre-requisites for at university level. Therefore, the choices they make at 14 years old, in essence, dictate their future careers. This entire process is disturbing to me on so many different levels, but seems so normal and to so many other educators and parents. The fact that they find nothing senseless about a teenager making major life choices at that age and stage of development seems almost cruel to me.

To compound this already dire situation, I meet parents and teachers all the time who decide for their children and charges, what career they will pursue. It’s almost always the same answers I get – she wants to do medicine, law, architecture, engineering, actuarial science, leaving me amazed that they all believe that a 14 year old actually knows what these fields entail and actually have a passion for any of them!

In many cases, the subjects that a child loves, aren’t the ones they are encouraged to pursue. In fact, many parents discourage any thought of following a path any less than the careers previously mentioned. In all my years as an educator, I have never had a parent tell me that their child wants to be a business owner, accountant, fashion designer, dancer, athlete, physiotherapist, HR manager…or God forbid, a teacher.

There are the students who hate the science subjects and are not very good at them, if we base it on the marks achieved. Yet their parents insist that they must do the sciences in order to enter a good, high paying profession. I would ask if the children had a say in what they wanted to do, knowing how much they loved and how good they were at art, literature and the social sciences. Parents tell me all the time that it didn’t matter. She is to get a degree in the sciences and change careers later on if she wants. So a particular student that always stood out to me, did as she was told and succeeded at all her science subjects, hating every minute of it. And her parents continued to be oblivious to her self-harming, unhappiness and resentment. But at least she is on her way to an excellent career, if not a happy, healthy life.

These stories are endless over the years of me teaching and they differ in subject areas, families and careers. The constant is always that she must get a good job in order to be successful. In speaking with and more so, in listening to my students overs the years, I have come to understand that their parents have taught them that success has been equated with wealth, and that happiness comes from that genre of success.

What we are doing, essentially, is raising generations of children and students who see success in terms of prestigious jobs and wealth. While not wanting be a hypocrite and undervalue the importance of a good education, a substantial standard of living and a successful life, I wonder why we are not teaching our charges about what happiness should really be. I have not met a parent in many years who has said to me that I want my child to follow whatever path will make him/her happy. Job satisfaction no longer seems to be that feeling of fulfillment you get on an afternoon when you get home, or that excitement you feel on a morning to go to work. Job happiness seems to be determined by the pay cheque received at the end of the month.

So many of these very parents are in jobs that they hate, in which they are underpaid and miserable. Yet, they are seeing no value in preventing THIS outcome for their child. To hear parents of toddlers saying that he is going to become a lawyer seems only psychic to me, rather than ambitious.

I had a conversation with some students recently, and was of course very careful not to present views that were opposing to the ones in which their parents raised them. I explained to them, that I teach Dance and French, my two passions, and there is no greater feeling than to be paid for what I love to do most in this world. Because I am academically qualified in both areas, I am paid the same salary as the teachers who teach the ‘important’ subjects. I told them the truth – I don’t feel Monday blues; I don’t dread the end of a vacation; I love what I do. This is all that I want for them as well.

Now I am not saying that becoming a lawyer or doctor cannot be someone’s passion. I know a doctor who is young and vibrant, thorough and caring. I have never met a doctor who loves what he does more than him. He has transformed his practice into s very dependable, high tech machine that is still surrounded by love and care. His parents should be enormously proud of him, but not for BEING a doctor, but for BEING so happy at his job. That is his true success, whether he realises it or not.

Parents are admirable for wanting what is best for their children. But what is the best for them? Why are we proliferating a life full of success is success is wealth? Why aren’t we encouraging them to be happy in what they do? The money will always come. But to become a professional who loves your job is the true success and will bring true happiness. We were not all made equal or alike and not all of us fit the moulds of the same professions. My former dance teacher always told us that, ‘God is not a Communist, we aren’t all the same.’ This has always resonated with me, regardless of how funny she made it sound.

Parents and educators are no longer tapping into the real strengths and passions of students in order to really help them choose a career path. We are helping them to make loads of money when they are adults. So essentially, we are helping to mould generations of rich, miserable professionals who resent what they do and who made them do it. But at least they can buy nice things.

The Teacher. The Stereotype.

Sixteen years ago as I was about to enter the Teaching Service, I called my high school teacher, to whom I looked up for so many decades, even to this day. I asked her if she had any advice for me as I finally started the career I dreamt of. Her advice was simple and spontaneous. She said that everyday that I go to work, I should dress up and look good; never be dowdy and boring and don’t be afraid for the students to see who you are.

 

The image that teachers project is created by teachers within the service. There seems to be a horrid stereotype of what teachers should and shouldn’t look like. None of which I subscribe to, of course. For those who know me well, conformity is not my strong suit.

 

So many teachers decide to dress ultra conservative with a dowdy twist to it, as though trendy fashion would somehow render you incompetent. Needless to say, I took a massive bashing while teaching at an all-girls Catholic high school, because I stuck firm and hard to who I was and who I wanted the girls to know. I wore trendy clothes and anklets and nail polish and make up and designer shoes with matching handbags. This was a major problem there. The older ones especially felt that I didn’t fit the mold of what a teacher should be.

 

There is a particular teacher’s group on a social media site, to which I am a member, that often post pictures of teachers and ask if their outfits are appropriate. I’m always thoroughly appalled that colleagues could diminish our value as they do, thinking that their fashion commentary is somehow meaningful.

 

Why can’t teachers look good, trendy, fashionable….even sexy? My skirts are never too short and my 40 year old boobies always stay hidden. What else can the problem be??
I am already disgusted that we must make every effort to hide our ink, as though a student under 18 is going to get a tatt because her teacher has one. Ludicrous much?

 

No student has ever disrespected me because of my clothing, hairstyles, make-up, shoes or tattoos. In fact, these things are excellent launching pads for discussions with them about how choices made in youth, stay with you forever; about what self-image really is; about how attractive the profession is.

 

Teachers are so often our worst enemies. But I have to say that no male teacher ever jumped on this ridiculous band wagon. Go figure!

 

Vaneeta

Wise parents listen as much as they speak

We were all taught while growing up, the importance of listening to our parents. Not to mention how detrimental to our physical being it would have been if we didn’t. We were always told that parents know best and because they always wanted better for us, that we should heed their never-ending advice.

 

Likewise, we are always told about the realness of intuition – that we all have it, we should listen to it and that it should never be ignored. It has even gone so far as being said that not listening to our intuition is why things sometimes go wrong in our lives.

 

As an educator, I have noticed that many parents haven’t learnt how , or don’t want to mesh the two concepts. We were all born with intuitive qualities, some sharper than others, of course. So why do parents not ‘listen’ to their children about the path they want to take. I have realised that the answer is simple. It is fear. In most cases, parents are scared that if they leave big decisions to the child, a bad decision will result and a life-path would be wrong.

 

However, I am in contact with teenagers day in and day out, and some are very clear on what they want to do. When their dreams differ from the path already planned for them by their parents, the result is usually a very unhappy teenager.
It is worth the effort to get to know your children for who they are and not for whom you hope they become. So many of them have a sharp sense of intuition that shouldn’t be ignored. Dreams can and do become reality and sometimes they know what they want to do with their lives. If you force them down a particular path, they may achieve some of what you want, a certain lifestyle and salary, but they may not achieve the happiness and job satisfaction that their intuition has them seeking.

 

The last thing we want to do is kill a spirit, that fire, that enthusiasm and passion for what they believe in. We tend to nurture that curiosity and enthusiasm when they are toddlers and infants, but then want to quell it, even chastise it as they become older and their intuition sharpens.

 

A particular student stands out. She desperately wanted to choose business subjects so that she can get her Business degree, get herself further qualified, because she wants to own her own spa. Her mother insisted that she must choose the sciences because if her spa ‘fantasy’ falls through, what good job can she possibly get with those qualifications. Her argument was that since the student was young she always wanted to be a doctor. The child’s response was that she was 4 at that time. I tried in every way I knew to convince the mother otherwise. As I looked at the student, having failed in my attempts, the child silently mouthed to me, ‘Thank you, Miss, but don’t bother. It’s ok.’ I saw a look of defeat and dejection on her face that I felt inside of me. Her life flashed before me. A successful doctor, unhappy but rich, resentful every time she went for a mani, pedi and facial.
Sometimes it’s worth listening to the younger ones because they may actually know better than us at times. And what is success really?

 

What Is Intelligence?

Being a teacher at one of the most acclaimed and successful Girls’ High Schools in the country, I feel that we help to produce some of the most brilliant minds and critical thinkers of tomorrow. However, is it at the expense of basic common sense?

As I listened to a colleague correct mock exam scripts of her Form 5 students, I became increasingly concerned about the type of student and child we were helping to develop and send out into wider society. The student stated, without any finesse of writing or remorse of thought, that there was no need for education in the career of cooking. Other students in her class stated similar ideas, like the “common classes in society educated themselves and were, therefore, less educated”. And these are bright girls sharing such thoughts.

It provoked a memory in me from not too long ago, when I was watching an interview with one of our country’s most popular female soca artistes who was sharing her views on the importance of soca, and by extension, the arts, in our education system. She felt that teaching our youth about the soca and music industry in Trinidad and Tobago, was essential, because it created an outlet for students who were “less academically” inclined.

I then remembered many a Parents’ Day when meeting a countless number of parents who did not hesitate to share their absolute support of the Arts being taught in our high school system BECAUSE it gave the students a “break” from the academics; or the parents who tell their daughters not to bother with dance and drama assignments, as they should concentrate on the more important areas.

Sometimes it feels as though Parenting goes against everything I believe as an educator. Our prestige schools seem to promote careers that have traditionally been considered of a higher class…..medicine, law, architecture, engineering. Of course, there is nothing wrong with such careers that derive high incomes, help people etc. But are we promoting these careers at the expense of creating students who understand the value of all other careers, or understand the value of job satisfaction? Have we aligned success with net income and happiness with wealth? Or are we producing a society of rich professionals who don’t love what they do?

Developmental Psychologist, Howard Gardner, proposed the theory of multiple intelligences in 1983, in which he proposed that intelligence existed in specific (primarily sensory) “modalities”, rather than seeing it as dominated by a single general ability. “Gardner argues that there is a wide range of cognitive abilities, and that there are only very weak correlations among them. For example, the theory postulates that a child who learns to multiply easily is not necessarily more intelligent than a child who has more difficulty on this task. The child who takes more time to master multiplication may best learn to multiply through a different approach, may excel in a field outside mathematics, or may be looking at and understanding the multiplication process at a fundamentally deeper level. Such a fundamental understanding can result in slowness and can hide a mathematical intelligence potentially higher than that of a child who quickly memorizes the multiplication table despite possessing a less deep understanding of the process of multiplication.”
Intelligence exists in many varied forms. A lawyer may not be able to fix a car. A musician may not be able to balance accounts. A financial adviser may not be able to read music scores. Who is to say which one is the true mark of intelligence and which career is the true mark of success?

A holistic approach to education should be one in which our students are tested to find the career in which they are most pre-disposed to succeed. Gone are the days when one has to be academically low achieving in order to pursue a career in dance; or the thinking that all sportsmen and women must be less inclined to be able to hold an intelligent conversation; or that one teaches because one can do nothing else.

I remember, with a small degree of hurt, when I was in Form 3 and choosing subject for CXC, that my grandfather, a retired Electrical Engineer, had stopped speaking to me for weeks, because I chose Modern Studies rather than Sciences. I wanted to be a Teacher instead of a Doctor. With my mother’s support, I pursued my career. I don’t earn $30, 000. a month but I wake up every day excited and hopeful to go to work. I have never felt a sense of dread when I think of Monday mornings and do not understand Monday morning blues. Sure, I love my vacation, but always look forward, with renewed exuberance, to the opening of every term. When my students succeed at my subjects and achieve excellence, the sense of fulfillment I feel is unmatched by any monetary earnings. When my students come to me to confide their fears, problems and joys, I feel something that cannot be described accurately. My worth is not measured in money, or raised salaries or in society’s opinion of what I do. It is measured in the development of my students.

All I want is for them to feel the same job satisfaction that I do…the same happiness I feel every day to face them. I want them to know that success is not measured in money. It is measured in happiness. We live in a society in which University degrees, both undergraduate and post-graduate, can be pursued in all aspects of the Performing and Visual Arts, Culinary Arts, Counselling. I want them to understand that they don’t have to be Doctors and Lawyers to be considered intelligent. I want them to be happy…..

 

Vaneeta

How to compliment our children and students

I was always slim, with a healthy, lean body. So when I put on a whopping 25 pounds some years ago, all in a matter of 3 months, depression was the next inevitable step. The weight gain was a result of medication so, therefore, out of my control. I tried for very long to drop the weight, as I was no stranger to exercise. However, the effects of the medication were long-term.

What started to become obvious to me was how badly my self-esteem was shattered by my weight gain. My body image dictated my self- image and no matter how much or how often or how sincerely my loved ones told me how beautiful I looked, and how little weight they found I gained, it didn’t matter to me. When I looked in the mirror I was always astounded by what I no longer saw – the slim, pretty me.

Opting to solve this problem, I started researching causes and reasons for this connection between what I looked like and who I felt I was. My findings were overwhelming to me, as a woman, as an educator.

As a young child, I was always told how pretty I was. As a teenager I was always told how pretty, talented and slim I was. Even as a young adult, I was always complimented for my good looks, nice body and ability to dance. Boyfriends, their friends and families were always so impressed by how I looked. Academically, I did well in school and pursued all my academic goals conscientiously, and with success. However, academic achievements seem to have been expected, but what always stood out was how good looking I was.

It is, therefore, no surprise that my self- worth was more closely connected to how I looked, rather than who I was or what I accomplished. Luckily, these revelations led me to work on my self- image and body issues. I’ve only since lost a few pounds, quite a few inches but care less about it. I’ve come to like what I look like, even though it isn’t what I used to look like.

Further research led me to realize that our image of ourselves are so closely determined by the way in which we are complimented and validated as children, teenagers and even young adults.

When students do well on tests, we don’t hesitate to say how bright they are. Continually over time, the message that is sent, intentional or not, is that a high test score was the deciding factor to the child’s intelligence and that the end was more important than the means. It is again no surprise that teaching in an accelerated learning institution such as a prestige school, these students have heard for most of their lives how bright they are. Therefore, it explains the frustration we feel as teachers, when our students argue with us for a half of a mark, cry because of a 75% result in an exam and hate to answer questions in class for fear of being wrong. Their self-worth in the school environment is determined by the receiving of the highest marks and always being right. It reaches the point where they are willing to accept a half of a mark for an ambiguous display of pseudo intelligence, once it meant a higher mark. Comprehension and analysis of the work is of less importance, once the success of a high mark is achieved. The success of understanding the curriculum is of wavering necessity.
How do we resolve this disconnect between wanting to encourage our children and students to achieve, wanting to compliment them, without sending the wrong message? The answer is quite simple. It lies in HOW we compliment them.

When a 7 year old scores high or even total in a math or science test, we need to stop and ask ourselves, WHAT do we want to compliment? If we say that we want to compliment their intelligence, then we must realize that as students, their intelligence has not yet developed or has been determined. Intelligence, as defined on Wikipedia, is an ongoing process that can be “defined in many different ways including, but not limited to, abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, communication, reasoning, learning, having emotional knowledge, retaining, planning, and problem solving”. None of these can be fully developed in a 7 year old, or even in a 57 year old. So we must re-visit WHAT we want to compliment. Already knowing the effects of complimenting a child’s intelligence, we must next consider complimenting something else – their effort. We always try to tell our students that hard work results in good results but it isn’t enough to say it, even repeatedly. We must show them. By making an unbreakable connection between their study habits, work ethic and effort to their result, we don’t just say that hard work results in success, we show them, we prove it, or rather, they prove it.

Similarly, if their result in a test isn’t as high as they would like, a connection should be made via questions about how well they prepared for the exam compared to last time when they did better. Consequently, discussions should occur about the topics tested and that it is normal for all of us to understand some themes better than others, none of which is a reflection on out intelligence.

Likewise, when we compliment our young girls of varying ages about their good looks, we must differentiate between them looking pretty on a particular occasion and being pretty. We must try to not let good looks stand independently, as a sole defining factor. Rather, remind them of an achievement they made in another aspect of their life. This, however, can only be made if a child is exposed to more than just school – this way their sporting ability can also be highlighted, their achievement in a test, their ballet recital. Complimenting a child holistically, shows them their overall worth that isn’t dependent on one factor only.

When my Form 1 class performs well, as they have every term this academic year, thus far, achieving results way beyond that of the other Form 1 classes, I am very careful in what I say now. I always tell them, as I am about to distribute report cards, how hard they worked this term, how consistent they were in their studies, and how, as a result, their report cards should be a source of pride. I tell them that YET AGAIN they worked well in their classes and well together in groups and these are their results. I don’t know what is said at home, but somewhere, somehow I can only hope that they feel the connection between working hard and doing well.

According to Thomas Edison, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration’’. Accordingly a genius is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework.
…Vaneeta