Thursday, October 8, 2009

Confidence, Self-Esteem, and Multiplication Tables

In my tween blog for the week, I am writing about the most dreaded thing to me in fourth grade...the multiplication table. For starters, being left-handed, I smeared all the lead on the page from left to right. This bothered me a lot and my little finger all the way down to the end of my hand was charcoal gray. Secondly, I was always timed and never came in under the clock. I would feel so defeated and sad because I thought there was something wrong with me. The guidance counselor even got me a left-handed multiplication table so I wouldn't smear my writing and could actually see the last number I wrote. I am slow AND have a different chart from everybody else.

Really, I had little confidence or self-esteem. I could easily do the tables, I just didn't believe I could. Make it a timed competition and I didn't even have a chance. I knew I could never make the Olympics in math tables, so why try? Just give up, I'll never succeed, I'd think to myself.

But it was never seen as a confidence or self-esteem problem, always an academic problem. Could nobody see the truth? I think this is a big failure of the educational system and parents. Academic performance has little to do with personal development. Children who live in an environment where they can thrive do well, while those in an environment that does not allow them to thrive struggle. Measure children by their grades and you miss out on the child. I did well enough in school grade-wise, but I didn't walk around with my head up or have many friends. Which should we be concerned with the most, the grades or the child?

I was missed on the radar at school and at home. I never made it on the radar because I always flew below it. I learned how important the outside was in hiding the inside. I made great grades. It took me several years until I acted out in class, but boy did I get some attention, as well as flunk my Romeo and Juliet exam. Even then I just made a blip on the radar screen and back to flying low.

Maybe I shouldn't expect the school system or parents to look for kids with confidence and self-esteem problems, but I do. As long as grades are the indicator, they'll miss it. Needless to say, I am in support of de-emphasizing performance-based grading systems, and more on emphasizing overall child development. Let's focus on making environments in which children can thrive and be seen for more than a grade. When children can thrive, they can learn what they need to without worrying about the dreaded F I don't have the answers for how to do this, but I do have a lot of ideas.


  1. Man am I glad I married you - sometimes I forget how smart you are! I hope to bring our kids up in a positive, thriving environment someday:)

  2. I hate to throw fuel on the fire but in Arkansas we learned the times tables in 3rd grade in addition to perfecting cursive writing. Why is it that Arkansas would come in last or second to last in education? Thank goodness for Mississippi.