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Dec 11, 2013

In Honor of Creativity (A Mother's Challenge Not To Waste Her Son's Gift)


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Last Sunday my youngest son, together with his dance team, competed at the World Supremacy Battlegrounds in Sydney, Australia. They won the gold in the Monster Crew Division! (click INDK Champ to watch the dance.)

 

Parents with children who are into street dancing (or any other extra-curricular activity that entails a lot of training time for that matter) know that the road to success is not easy. For several weeks, my son had been coming home late at night, tired from training, with loads of homework to do and with a mother to contend with, “Why are you late again? You said your practice was ‘only’ until 8 pm!’ yaddah yaddah yaddah!”

 

I love watching my sons perform but I’m just a mother who wants the best for her children and has to play the role of the responsible guardian reminding them that at this point in their lives they are students first before dancers. The role becomes more challenging if your children study in very competitive traditional schools.

 

Last year when I was actively involved in the Career Exploration activities for our junior high school sons, Fr. Bert Ampil, S.J. (Parent Relations and Programs Director) showed us a Ted Talk entitled How Schools Kill Creativity by Sir Ken Robinson, an English author and advisor on education, creativity and innovation. This has been viewed over 20 million times and I’d like to share some of the salient points he made in this talk and the two succeeding ones, injected with my own thoughts, as a way to remind parents (myself included) and educators about the limitations of our existing school system so we could compensate for them and help prepare our children for the future.

 

1. Our school system considers Math, Science and Language as the high-ranking subjects, while Art (which also includes music, drama, dance) is at the bottom. He said nobody teaches Dance everyday the way we teach Math. He narrated the story of a little girl whose teacher was concerned because she was always fidgeting and could not concentrate. This was back in the 1930s and ADHD had not been “discovered” yet. So the girl was brought to a specialist and after the mom enumerated all the “problems” as observed by the teacher, the specialist said he needed to talk to the mother in private. He and the mother walked out of the room after he turned the radio on. From outside the room they could see the little girl dancing to the music. The doctor said, “Look at your daughter, she doesn’t have a disorder. She’s a dancer. Bring her to a dance school.” This daughter was Gillian Lynne, renowned British ballerina, dancer, actress, theater director, choreographer whose body of work includes Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, The Muppet Show series, and many more. At the age of 87 she is still actively involved in her craft.  

 

2. Our education system produces professors. Their top graduates make good professors because the universities design the system in their image. Robinson should know because he confesses he’s one of them.

 

3. The problem with this system is that a lot of kids are not motivated to be the best they can be. Those whose natural talents/gifts are not in the Math, Science and Language feel inferior because the things that they’re good at are not valued. Traditional education dislocates children from their natural talents. The creative ones are “educated out of their creativity.” 

 

4. The education system discourages students from making mistakes, from giving the “wrong answer.” But the thing is if we’re trained to avoid “being wrong” we will never come up with something original.

 

5. The education system was originally designed to meet the needs of the Industrial Age, a period in history characterized by mass production. In a mass production line, standardization is of utmost importance; hence, the school system had to produce workers fit for the needs of a production line - the ones who are good at conformity and standardized tests are the ones hailed.

 

6. Education is not necessarily linear. It is organic because we are diverse. We cannot impose the same path on everybody. Robinson thinks that not everyone needs to go to college. He narrates a story of a fireman, who since childhood had always wanted to be a fireman. His teacher said, “You’re wasting your time with that ambition.” Fortunately, the boy still followed his passion and eventually became a fireman. One of the lives he had saved was that of his teacher’s.

 

7. Curiosity is the engine of learning and achievement. And learning should be the focus of education. The teacher’s role is to facilitate learning. This is why teaching should be a creative process, something that engages the students’ interest and curiosity. Even if the “task of teaching” has been done, if no learning was achieved, the exercise is futile.

 

8. There is too much focus on testing. Testing should be diagnostic. It should help but it should not be the main goal. It should support, not obstruct, learning. The irony is Finland (the country that consistently does well in standardized tests in Math, Science and Reading) does not obsess with these disciplines nor give too many standardized tests. They have almost zero drop-out rate. And their success is attributed to a.) Individualized teaching/learning; b.) High status attributed to teachers; c.) The school’s design and success are under the control and responsibility of the school itself and not controlled in the legislative halls of congress.

 

 

So what’s the challenge for parents with children who have gifts other than those given utmost importance in the traditional schools? It is to make sure that their other intelligences are not put to waste. Don’t allow the traditional school set up to kill your children’s creativity.

 

We should really know our children. Be present in their lives. And I warn you, even if you already know and believe that widely used line of “allowing your children to follow their passion,” it is easier said than done. I’m in a constant struggle with this, myself. All three of my sons are into dancing but my youngest seems to be the one who’s taking it beyond the usual extra-curricular activity. I can see his heart and soul poured into it and sometimes it makes me uncomfortable. He is the head of his school’s Dance Organization and he loves to join competitions, performances, trainings, other dance groups outside of school. I complain when I see his grades go down. He’s not only in a very competitive school but he’s in the semi-honors class of his batch, which means that his Math, Science and English (those three subjects mentioned by Robinson above) are already of college level.

 

I self-console by reminding myself what I say to other parents in my talks:

 

1. You are just afraid because you don’t know what kind of occupation awaits your child given his interests. But the truth is nobody really knows what occupation will be best for him when his time comes. But we do know that when he’s doing something that he loves his chances to succeed significantly increase.

 

2. Remember that there are 8 (formerly 7) Intelligences – 1.) Logistic-Mathematical, 2.) Verbal-Linguistic, 3.) Bodily-Kinesthetic, 4.) Interpersonal, 5.) Intrapersonal, 6.) Visual-Spatial, 7.) Musical, 8.) Naturalist. Since the school system emphasizes on the first two, it’s your duty, as a parent, to make sure that your child’s other intelligences are not suppressed.

 

3. To add to the above intelligences, I propose a 9th Intelligence: FQ. Raise your child to have high FQ so that you will not be concerned about his inability to fend for himself financially in the future.

 

4. A lot of great CEOs were athletes in school who learned about discipline, risk-taking, inevitability of failures and team work.

 

5. It’s normal to have your own ambition for your child. If you’ve been a purposeful and present parent, you’re the person who knows him well and you may think that you know what’s best for him. But remember, he has his own ambition and it comes superior to yours.

 

6. Have clear agreements with your child with regard to school work and extra-curricular activities and see to it that both parties honor the agreements.

 

7. Success is essentially God’s calling. His will is the intersection of our greatest passion and the world’s greatest need. Each person is born with his own set of talents/gifts and given the many needs of the world, we should not crowd into that narrow definition of success espoused by traditional thinking. Everybody can be successful if we just discern our individual calling.

 

Honestly, when I look at my son and remember all those 17 years we’ve been together as mother and son, the way he conducts himself with his father, brothers, classmates, teachers, his superiors and subordinates, other adults and kids, and now, girls, I have no doubt in my mind that he’ll be successful. He’s a smart, creative, charming, oftentimes “alaskador,” witty, stubborn, fun-loving and passionate person.

 

I invite all parents to take a closer look at their children. Spot their strengths and talents. If you’re sending your children to traditional schools, remember that their creativity is just as important as their literacy, so guard it. Embrace the entire person. I’m sure you’ll come up with your own list that will make you confident and excited about their future. But remember, their road to success is oftentimes not linear.

 

Happy parenting!

 

Rose

 

*********************

 

Congratulations to INDK members Anton, Boju, Joe, Jao, Ken, Jon-Michael, Julian, Lawrence, AC, Jason, Julio Raphael, Arvin, Luigi, Paolo, Gabe, Kevin, Luis, Jason, Chips and Xernan. Thank you to the parents who accompanied the boys. Special thanks to Rose Garcia for providing free lodging for the INDK members while in Australia. A champ's welcome is waiting for you in your respective homes today!

 

Click link INDK Champ to watch the dance.

 

Click link to watch Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk: How Schools Kill Creativity

 

(Rose Fres Fausto is the author of the book Raising Pinoy Boys. Click this link to download free book sample To read her other articles go to www.RaisingPinoyBoys.com or PhilStar.com Author Archive. Send your questions and comments via email to maryrose_fausto@yahoo.com or text to 0917-5395770.)

 

This article is also published in PhilStar.com. 

 

Image Attribution: Drawing by Mark Dela Cruz; WSB photos taken by INDK parent-companions  

 

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