“Practicing” wearing a sparkly new outfit!
So you may have gathered… I’m like, all about practice.
And I just can’t stop thinking about the student I told you about last week… the one who was focused on getting straight As.
What do you do when your unique, visionary kid is SUPER FOCUSED on grades?
Is this a practice to encourage, or something to fear?
Especially with kids who are usually very intrinsically motivated – who have their own plans, ideas, and passions – a sudden focus on grades can actually be a red flag that they are terrified of falling behind, not measuring up to their peers, or being excluded from the “smart kids group.”
When this happens, it’s really important to redirect the focus back to where it belongs – on the mastery process.
Grades CAN work like a thermometer. They have the potential show you what you’ve learned, and what you haven’t learned yet. In this way, they can give very helpful information.
But grades in and of themselves don’t give you the full picture.
Did you get an A because you really understood the material, down to your core, so much that it’s part of you? (True mastery?)
Or did you get an A because you turned in your homework, showed up in class, and raised your hand even when you knew you didn’t know the answer? (Being rewarded for appropriate behavior, even if you have no clue about the math?)
Did you get a D because you made a silly mistake, but you get the concept and you can figure out exactly what went wrong once you look over your work?
Or did you get a D because you have no friggin’ clue and you just wrote something down so you wouldn’t leave it blank?
Did you “complete” the worksheet by passively watching the teacher review a problem, thinking that this means you “get it” because you “got it done”?
Or did you complete the worksheet by truly understanding what is going on and practicing it until it’s automatic for you?
Did you get the GPA to be accepted to your dream college by flagellating yourself every night and focusing on fulfilling other people’s expectations, miserable, sleep-deprived, and constantly anxious that you won’t measure up?
Or did you get that GPA and receive that acceptance letter by pursuing your passions, taking care of yourself, and being intellectually nourished?
On the surface, it looks the same, but underneath, it’s much more complex.
This is why I find it’s so important for creative, unique, trailblazing kids to be focused on the true process of mastery, instead of just grades.
Just getting straight As alone doesn’t mean that you actually understand what’s happening.
It doesn’t mean that your dream college will accept you.
It doesn’t mean that you know yourself.
It doesn’t mean that you are prepared for life – especially if you are blazing your own trail.
Focusing on perfection (like getting straight As) can be extremely debilitating and discouraging.
It can make it harder to grow and learn and even suck all of the joy out of life.
But focusing on mastery, regardless of what’s happening with grades, is energizing.
You feel the thrill of understanding something new.
You focus on learning from your mistakes and understand that mistakes are just part of the process.
By constantly engaging with the process of learning – asking yourself, what makes sense to me here? what do I not understand yet? – you develop deep self-awareness.
You come to know who you are – not just how to “get through it” or “churn it out” for a teacher or requirement.
You are resilient in the face of challenges, because you are in the practice of joyfully engaging with challenge just as part of your routine.
You trust yourself.
You understand how you do your best work.
And paradoxically, by focusing on the immediate, incremental process of mastery, the great grades, with time, will just naturally happen.
Just to share, from my own personal experience, in college I had to take French in order to fulfill a requirement, and I had to maintain a certain GPA or I would lose my full tuition scholarship.
I got through it, and I learned French, but the process wasn’t that meaningful to me.
I remember feeling so frustrated that I was expected to speak French perfectly and it made me afraid to open my mouth. This wasn’t how fluent speakers mastered the language! It was so artificial and hollow to me.
In contrast, when I was 23, I studied Indonesian language (in Madison, Wisconsin, of all places) in a total immersion environment. Four hours, every day, all Indonesian, no English. We HAD to make mistakes in order to learn. The focus was just on communicating and being playful…on the process of mastery, rather than on being perfect.
It was the most incredible language learning experience I’ve ever had. I felt so confident and secure!
And when I went to Indonesia the following summer, I was completely prepared to speak Indonesian with the musicians and dancers who I truly wanted to study with – who happened to not speak English at all.
And the Indonesians I met on the street thought I had been living in their country for years because of how comfortable I was with the language – when I had only studied it for 8 weeks.
This astonished me. And it was all because of focusing on the process rather than on perfection.
So if you find your creative, unique, trailblazing kid is coming to you with goals like “I want to make straight As,” shift the focus back to the ongoing process of mastering math.
Do you want your passionate, visionary-of-the-future kid to receive totally aligned support with the process of true math mastery? (And to experience the awesome confidence and great grades that happen as a result?)
Then I invite you to begin the application process for my individual math tutoring programs. This application process has been meticulously designed to help us both get clear about whether the special, magical way I work is a match for you.
Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll get you started on your application!
Dancing with my Indonesian dance teacher (who only spoke Indonesian to me)-
this is what can happen when you focus on the mastery process
instead of on “being perfect”!
What a Balinese dancing queen taught me about praise and encouragement
What I learned in the streets of Paris, and in a Dutch grocery store
It’s eraser time! (And other math mantras)
Is your kid a creative, passionate, unique visionary of the future?