A Question of Self-Esteem

  1. As many of you know, I have a young son in elementary school. He does all right in class most of the time.

    I do have a problem with the way his assignments are sometimes read and graded in school. Even if he does a sloppy job and obviously has not taken care with his presentation, or his work it comes back labelled "Great job!". And if it is downright wrong, it comes back with "Good try!"

    Possibly as a result of this he seems to take criticism very hard. If anything he does is pointed out as less than perfect he gets very unhappy, and says that "I always do a great job in school. Why are YOU picking on me?". My point is "son, if 2+2=5, it's not a great try, it's WRONG and you have to do it again else you'll never learn!"

    Am I being too harsh? I work in a scientific field and academics is basically very competitive, eat or be eaten regardless of race or gender. I'm worried that he might get so pandered in school that once he goes to a more competitive environment he'll be totally lost because he thinks he's the greatest (which he's not!).
  2. I guess it depends on what kind of assignment. If it's math, well, there's a right or wrong answer. If it is a writing assignment I think it is best to write a section on things that should be improved on and another for things that were done well. It is a kind of reinforcement in both ways.
  3. I don't know what to do, since I have no kids, but I think this is a growing problem in America. Everyone is a winner and everyone gets a prize. I don't you should, or this case that you are, make your kid feel bad, but what these kids going to grow up us? They're going to think they know everything and know nothing. I feel bad for the future generations.

  4. My son's school is NOTHING like that. They are more like, "you failed and you need to do better or you will repeat first grade." Seriously they are the COMPLETE opposite of what you are describing! LOl I kinda wish they were more like your son's school. They have beat my son's self esteem into nothing! His school is exemplary and they only want the best. almost perfection from the students. They also grade on handwriting in his school and my son's is the WORST! Poor boy. I try to build him up but it's tough sometimes!
  5. I have a son in the first grade. They are already learning addition, subtraction, and word math problems. My son takes it very hard when he does not get something right. He gets very upset then doesn't even want to try. I am sort of a perfectionist and was a little hard on him at first. Saying things like "your not doing that right" or "that's wrong", "that's not neat", etc. Well, I had to reign myself in a little bit because I have to remember he is just in 1st grade. I think in Grade school there still trying to learn how to learn, if you know what I mean. So, I think the best thing you can do is to reinforce the thinking that it takes to come up with a right answer by praising the "right" answers and not focusing or saying so much about the "wrong" answers.
  6. Hmmm...difficult situation.

    I completely understand your concern. As a teacher, I know that a lot of educators want to focus on the positive, and therefore downplay what is "less than correct." See---now I'm doing it too!

    With math, of course, the answer is either right or wrong. A "good try" comment would be warranted in the case of a lengthy math problem, where the student has shown his or her work, and obviously made an effort.

    I believe there has to be a balance--self esteem is critically important, but effort is as well, and in the case of mathematics, well, the basic stuff is really important!

    Could you try talking to his teacher, and explain your concern? Use a non-confrontational approach, and just express concern and your wish to be a helpful parent. A good teacher will welcome this!

    You can pm me if you like!
  7. In a situation like this, it seems to me that you probably don't have any real options other than trying to get your kid switched into another teacher's class, or otherwise transferring him to another school. Maybe I am just being pessimistic, but I think talking to the teacher might just make her resent you and your kid since she probably prides herself on always being positive...
  8. I think private schools are tougher...seriously. Though the public school my son goes to is 'good', in the sense that a lot of (university) faculty kids go there and parents are a lot more involved with kids - it's in a small college town - there is also lots of school politics.

    I am debating whether to take my son out of the public school system and enroll him in private school. There is only one private school hereabouts and it's very strongly Catholic. The other private schools around are middle/high schools which are very good academically. Most of the kids who go to those places go on to the Ivies.
  9. Well, I grew up in Norway where schools are all about that nobody is better or worse than anybody else and that nobody's gonna feel stupid or smart. The result? The curriculum is boring, the kids self-esteem is ruined because he or she doesn't get the feedback he or she needs and the overall quality of education is low (mind you, we spend more money than most countries on education). That ruined things for me and many other people I know, so giving "false feedbacks" is indeed very dangerous.
    I don't think you're being harsh at all, as long as you don't push him beyond his limits you're just helping him, and as you said, 2 + 2 isn't 5, and that the schools give him a pat on the shoulder for writing that will just give him a twisted image of the real world.
    However, you say that you are in the science field, so why not teach him as much as possible (of course, to a level he can grasp at his age) about your field? I mean, not force it on him, but explain it to him. When I was younger I loved to learn about stuff that wasn't curriculum at school and it was a whole lot easier than the things we did in school. That would be a good way to encurage his self-esteem as well without fooling him to think he's better or worse than he actually is.

    It's really late here, and english is not my native language, so I don't know if everything I wrote seems logic, but please bear with me :flowers:
  10. My advice is to leave the teaching to the teachers and encourage him in positive ways. In elementary school learning is NOT scientific.. however, if the subject was truly math and were simple problems like 2+2 then it should be a response more along the lines of "Good try, BUT the answer is actually 4 not 5 and HERE's why" and then continue to explain how to get to the correct answer. Then i'd probably give him a set of three more problems to try by himself and see how he does without help. It's a lot of teach, encourage, re-teach, encourage, etc.

    I went to Montessori school for 9 years (3 y.o. through 6th grade) so i am still very used to a "teaching a child at their own level & speed" concept. I can honestly say it's the best education i've had throughout my life.. (i'm 17 now and a senior in H.S.)

    btw, i just read that you are thinking about switching him to private school.. i strongly encourage you to consider Montessori!! Best years of my life :smile:
  11. That is a tough one. I'm wondering what grade...if kindergarten, I can see the teacher putting the focus on effort possibly for obvious reasons...she wants the year to be enjoyable and positive from the get-go. If he's older than first, then I do think that's a little too 'lenient'...for a lack of a better word at the moment.
    Maybe, the teacher is very tuned into the fact that your son is sensitive to criticism and again, depending on his age, is 'picking her battles' in order for school to be a success for him in the early years.
    Maybe she's had a bad experience with another parent at some point regarding being too harsh?
    If it concerns you, definitely talk to her.
  12. Really well-stated. In the race to raise everyone's self-esteem, we've lost sight of the importance of honest evaluation.
  13. My son's elementary school has this idiotic thing called Positive Discipline Program (can we say oxymoron) and in this program they receive rewards like going to the movie if they "clear" their Positive Discipline card. Well, my son had 26 missing assignments 1st quarter and 42 all together by 2nd quarter. I was appalled to learn that he was able to go to see the movie 2nd quarter because he made up his missing assignments( cleared his Postive Discipline Card) prior to movie date. Someone needs to explain to me what this is teaching him! The thing that he seems to be learning is that it is okay to turn things in late...and not just a few things but a whole lot of things. This is totally not what I want him to learn. I am pretty disgusted with the whole thing and I am going to tell the teacher that I don't care what the progrm is at school because not even 1 late assignment is okay with me and he is not allowed to go to these celebrations any more.

    What are the schools coming to?
  14. Good question. I am grading a midterm for a science course right now. Mind you, this is the midterm for an undergraduate course.

    I come across this expression (in a midterm exam submitted by a student)

    1/24 + 1/12 = 1/36

    And a couple papers later I get

    1/5 + 1/10 = 1/15

    I don't understand how these people pass their SATs?
  15. I taught 6th grade for five years. One day I instructed a student to try to keep her writing on the lines (regular lined notebook paper that everyone uses) because her writing was all over the place. The next day her mother was screaming at me for ruining her daughter's self-esteem and self-confidence. Now her daughter was afraid to do assignments because she was afraid I would criticize her handwriting. She accused me of stifling her daughter's creativity. The funny thing is that when I encouraged the student to try to keep her writing on the lines, she laughed and said "yeah, that's really hard to read." Later I was criticized by another parent for not putting enough emphasis on handwriting. GRRRRR!!!!!!