Monday, March 14, 2011

Norms vs. Personal Best

My children's school has something of a motto that all the kids have learned to repeat: "Do your personal best." It reminds the children not to compare themselves to anyone else, but to measure their performance/grades against their own expectations and their personal potential. If sincerely applied and wholey adopted, it is a phrase that has the potential to encourage self-awareness, goal-setting and also pave the way for inclusiveness and tolerance. And so, I was encouraged to see this phrase adopted by so many young lips. I too, encouraged my kids to live by these words.

Now, it's my daughter who has actually invoked it most often. For example, when I remarked on her poor handwriting or suggested she read to the end of the chapter, she countered "but I did my personal best." Ohh, I groaned and shook my head at how she just didn't get it. Ah, but I now realize, she had actually made an astute observation of its true nuance.

During the PPT, I witnessed the staff refuse to recognize or apply this very concept. Each time I tried to discuss the noticeable decline in DeDe's reading comprehension, the school countered with a typical range. I tried to relate to her personal best — they instead played Norms like aces.

As it's applied, "Do Your Personal Best" could be more accurately translated to, "Don't let others tell you you're not doing well. You just do your best." DeDe realized this. It is a defense or at best, used as a chin-up sort of encouragement.

The true and prevailing rule at school is the Norm.

Silver Lining: I don't know if the school even h a s an official motto. "Do your personal best" is an indisputably good one (It is, incidentally, the Cub Scout motto). It is also a great chin-up line. I suppose it was I chose to adopt these words as something to live by. And I know I tend to be more like C.S. and have an Aspie-like, rigid adherence to rules and such things as this. But, I truly believe these sorts of things we teach our kids. I honestly try to live by such words and not just give it lip service. If it sounds like a motto, is treated like a motto, I expect it to be applied like a motto. But, I think most people would think I take these things to far. But that's what I do. And that is the way I want to live, the way I want to teach my children. Ah, Words words words ...

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