I love how sometimes the most awesomely huge conversations can come out of nowhere. The time we followed Granddad’s coffin on its journey to the crematorium and H said ‘Well, Dracula’s coffin was much more spectacular…’ and we then had a discussion (through tears and laughter) about what makes a spectacular coffin, do coffins actually need to be spectacular and all manor of strange things to be discussing at a very strange time.
We’ve had ‘So if people know that smoking is really bad for them, why do they start in the first place?’ whilst driving along the road to a friends house. I find supermarket queues are a good place for these conversations, there’s something about ‘dead’ time that sets their minds off thinking and oh boy do they think…
This morning we were eating our breakfast. It was porridge (‘I don’t want porridge – ooo, can I have some golden syrup too??’) and over the porridge H was thinking. He asked about being clever and taking exams and then that was it: we were off on the latest random-but-really-interesting-conversation that I have often with the boys.
Are you clever if you’ve got a string of A’s for your GCSE’s and A Levels? The boys decided that yes someone with these qualifications probably would be. I then said ‘but what about the man who came to fix our pipe when it was leaking, was he clever?’ The boys said yes definitely that this man was clever as he had learned to do something that we, ourselves, couldn’t do. I then said ‘but what if he doesn’t have all A’s in his GCSE’s and A Levels? Is he still clever?’ This had them thinking as having spent their formative years in a school environment they are up with testing and exams.
‘Exams are important but not everything’ said H.
‘I agree’, I said ‘do we need exams at all?’
Again this had them thinking. If you can be clever without exams then do we need exams?
That’s a toughie for a 9 year old.
I said ‘how do you know if the plumber really can do the job he’s coming to do?’
‘Ah’, said H, ‘this is like that electrician who came to do that work but he did it wrong and then never came back!’
‘Yes exactly, was he clever?’
‘Erm, yes to be able to do the work but no because he wasn’t very good.’
We then had another discussion about how being clever isn’t just one thing, the thing that children are taught these days is being clever: taking exams and collecting pieces of paper. Being clever can mean that you’re really practical and can mend and create things, it can mean you’re very good at working with people or in a team, it can also mean that you can ‘see’ what might happen in a situation if problems aren’t addressed that others may not foresee.
In short being ‘clever’ can mean all sorts of things. I told them that my GCSE results weren’t that great as I really could have done better. My A Levels didn’t fair much better but I did get a degree. During that degree I was asked if I minded being observed by the OFTED inspectors who were inspecting the university as the university felt I was a good candidate to put forward for OFSTED to see. I may not have a clutch of A’s written on paper certificates sat in a draw but I was ‘clever’ at being a teacher and that’s what mattered to me.
H may never have a clutch of A’s either. I don’t want to do his lovely brain down at all as he is a thinker and in a sense of the word ‘clever’ but what he knows in his head he can’t always get down on paper and for him to know early on in his education that that doesn’t mean he will never succeed is very important. He knows that ‘clever’ comes in all shapes and sizes.
While at his sailing club he attended in the summer and autumn (cracking back on with it in a couple of weeks) he stood and said ‘I could teach sailing for a living Mummy’, to which I thought this brilliant. Yes he could teach others and would be fabulous at it. He’s patient (with others), knowledgable and very keen. Then he said something even better ‘Actually, I could run this whole sailing school couldn’t I?’ I thought this fabulous and told him as such. I told him to never aim low that he could do amazing things with his life just as much as anyone else with those A’s.
Our society is very het up about exams and pass rates and test scores to the extent that we’re forgetting the point of education. Education shouldn’t just test and grade children, it should inspire children for a life long love of learning.
I am not someone who gets A’s all the time yet I love learning. If I don’t know how to sew something I want to, I go and learn how. I am studying for a history degree and the part I’m on at the moment is not easy but I’m learning and after this unit I’ll have finished the first year of 3.
That’s what I want for my children. They may be the very traditional ‘clever’ and get A’s but I want them to know that clever comes in many forms and that they are all just as important as each other. Practical clever is just as needed as socially clever, as academically clever as any of the different ‘clevers.’ Children need to know this from an early age and I believe if they did then some of the anxiety that many children suffer while at school would be far less than it currently is.
I can’t wait for the next random conversation. Will it be in the car (‘Mummy why do people smoke in cars????’) it might be in the supermarket (‘So if I was in your tummy, how did I get out? I mean I know T came out of your Tummy but did I?’) or it could be out on a dog walk. But these conversations are some of the most important ones when we are side by side and there is no eye contact (try that with your pre teen if they are struggling, we find no eye contact conversations really help) and just let the randomness flow.
Nothing should be too silly, nothing should be off limits…