Shifting Goalposts

I learn Salsa with a 11th grader. 

She says that in a class of thirty, she may be among the top half. 

To give you context, she is 16. She scored 91% in her tenth ICSE boards. She sprints and is a state level swimmer. She is also fourth year student of Odissi and has crossed grade 5 in guitar.

And yet, she is only among the top half of her class!

I am amazed at her and at the same time wondering what the standards that we are setting up for our kids are. 
Have we not begun to expect them to be authors & poets, mathematicians & physicists, language specialists, musicians and orators, dancers and dramatists. And not just that, they must look good, speak well, have their manners sorted, know the rules and how to bend them, and stick to the crazy schedules of their and our lives, while we balance work & life pressures. 

There was a time that schools used to offer multiple subjects but we were expected to get through most of them, have a few favourites and do well in some. 
But now, kids have to do well at all things at all times. 

There isn’t much room for failure, is there?

And can you imagine the life of these children?
Wake up. Rush for school. Come back by two thirty. Some at four p.m.
Have lunch and get back on the road from one class to another four-five days a week.
Come back & complete school work. 
Complete tutor’s work. 
Prepare for the next day, uniform, timetable etc.
And grab a meal before crashing to bed. 
In between all this, they have to manage a social life or some space for friends, fun and family. 
Watch their bodies. 
Watch their style quotient. 
Be cool.
This is the life of every child I know today. 
It is exhausting to even watch them. 

Burdened by Aspirations & Opportunities

In third grade, my boy could not finish his classwork and I was asked to train him at home. Our battles were beginning to rock our relationship. I had to outsource this help.  I was forced to send my boy for tuitions.
That would have been fine, if he was one among three or four lagging behind in the class. Fact is that 85% of his classmates never finish their work and have ‘incomplete’ signed by their teachers on most pages. 
And so like him, most kids tramp down the lanes of our building from one home to another for extra lessons at extra costs.  

So where is the gap? 
In the expectation we put in the work we assign them or in the ability of a third or fourth grader?

I went to Appu ghar in Delhi as a child and wanted to ride the ‘My Fair Lady’. I couldn’t because I didn’t meet the minimum height required. I was disappointed.  We returned the next year. But by then the requirement had changed and yet again, I couldn’t get on the ride while the rest leaped on. 

Just like that, each year we push the mark a little higher, a little farther for our kids. 
Year by year, little by little, step by step our expectations keep building on. 
As parents, relatives, family, friends, educators and institutions, we keep piling on to them to fulfil our aspirations through them. 

Don’t you think it is time to give them a breather. 

Let them be kids who lose track of time rather than rush them through school, to tuitions, football class and to guitar and dance lessons. 

Can we not back off and stop providing them ‘opportunities’ that were simply our childhood aspirations?

Can we not stop pestering the school to get a 100 pass result? Could we not leave a little space for the kids who struggle with a subject or two?

And as teachers and schools, can we not stop pushing for students who score 90% and above in all subjects so that we are the ‘best’? Can we not stop using them as scapegoats for our own marketing?

And can we not let the girl who attends four classes a week apart from school, the state level swimmer, the sprinter, the odissi dancer and guitarist be one among few? 

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