I work in a school. Facing a class of 40 students that comes in at the beginning of each year, I wonder about the children’s potential and how well they will do in school.
These kids are all different. Some are smarter, some sportier, and all have their own strengths. The kids have different family backgrounds and different starting points in this ultimate race, called life.
In a way, this can be likened to a stock market of different counters. All the stocks have different fundamentals, and in the long term, they will show their true values. I am in a honored role, for I can add value to these counters, while they are under my influence.
Around this period each year, parents whose kids that underperformed the “market” (school exams), will be asked to see their teachers. It is usually a nervous experience for the kid, to have their performance “reviewed” by their teachers in front of their parents.
I haven’t done this for a while, and thought it will be just another routine before releasing the class for the school holidays (and mine too!). But this review turned out to be insightful, and I was taught a lesson on parenting and success.
Dad A came in, without kid A. When the child appeared a while later, I could sense the tension. They were not looking at each other, and the kid wanted to sit away from the father.
After the initial awkwardness, the parent poured out his woes about how the child hangs out with “undesirable” friends and argues with the family. The parent even mentioned that the kid has been written off.
To me, that is not a suitable thing to say in front of the child. The kid sat there with quiet anger, and after some prompting, talked about his “undesirable” friends and why he trusted them.
The teachers gave some well meaning advice, and the child cried. The dad might have heard but I wondered if he really listened, for he looked unmoved. He continued, repeating what he had said earlier. In my heart, I do hope that the family relations will change for the better, for there is still hope for the child.
The child’s glass is still not full, and he can still be influenced. The tears prove that. He must have been touched and wants things to be better. From what I see, the dad’s glass may be full, and cannot be filled with anything new, unless it is first emptied.
Kid B came in with both dad and mum. The teachers shared that the kid has exhibited some violent behavior and uttered swear words. Kid B was normally quiet in class and had few friends in school. His recent outburst had been surprising to some teachers.
This started the mum telling everyone how her kid had been bullied since young, and how she had tried to teach him to stand up for himself. “The workplace is the same, there are always bullies, you have to fight against them, you must change.”
The advice has its merits, but looking at the quiet child sitting there, I can’t see how it will help. The kid is signalling for help with his outbursts because he is reaching the breaking point, after years of being bullied. Yet the advice from the parents is to change himself and fight back.
The poor boy has no confidence, and now he is being told he is insufficient and need to change. With no tools, he is asked to retaliate. Looking at the mum who is talking most of the time, and the father sitting there quietly, I sympathise.
I gave the best advice I could. But I wondered at its effectiveness. The dad listened and nodded his head, the kid listened and stayed quiet and the mum was talking away. In the end, I could only hope for the best for the child, that he will somehow find his courage, and his path in life.
The last kid came in with both the parents. It is obvious the parents are wealthy, with their rolexes and an eye-catching branded pendant. They also felt slightly “beng”, with bright, gold watches and colorful hairstyles.
But the dad seemed wise, as he kept quiet initially, and only listened. I had a feeling he was appraising the teachers who were teaching his kid. The mum also had her own views, for she disagreed with a teacher and supported it with her reasons.
Kid C was to be demoted to the NA (normal academic) stream as he had not done well in Express stream. But the parents argued that the kid has improved a lot since mid-year. The grades had shot up, and the family was celebrating the improvement.
Although the boy still could not pass the overall grade, the parents felt that he has shown determination and with more time, would produce results. The parents shared that they were both non degree holders, and the dad was from the NA stream previously. He wanted his child to finish his studies but did not want the son to go to the NA stream.
The parents then dropped a bombshell! They would allow the boy to drop school if he so desires. If the kid didn’t enjoy school, they were willing to let him go out to work. But they would not give him his allowance and he must work, even “as a handphone seller” (quoted) if that was what the boy wants.
But when the child is ready to go back to school, the parents will support him entirely. They have the means to send him to a private school or even overseas, if the local schools do not accept the child. The parents were ready to let the son fail, but they would carry him up again when he is ready.
What a unique, yet supportive set of parents. Despite not being too educated, they have done well in life financially. And now they are educating their child in the best way they know how: letting him make mistakes, so that he can learn. Who says that only graduate degree parents make the best kids? These parents definitely gave me a lesson that day, about education and life.
If I have to put money down on these 3 “stocks”, I will definitely weight more heavily on stock C. It has good fundamentals and although it might suffer some dips in price at the start, I am sure that the business will prosper and its true value will surface eventually.
Both stock A and B have potential, but they also have fundamental problems to resolve. Until these issues are settled, there will be some volatility moving forward.
I have seen my fair share of students. Many have turned out well, but some have fallen by the road. An indicator of success is always the parents. It is not about how wealthy they are, but how they communicate with their children, how much mutual love and respect there is, and how the parents support their kids when they are forming.
The child is like a plant growing up. The parents is the farmer watering and fertilising the young shoot. As the plant grows, it is all about the effort put in. When the plant is buffered by rain and wind, it is how the farmer shelters and supports, that matters.
In the end, the tree that emerges, must be one that is nurtured lovingly and yet exposed to nature’s elements. Well supported and cared, the tree will be strong, and a source of shade for the next generation.