D is not for Disaster

My 7-year old has just started year 3, and as she attends a British school, her schoolwork is now graded. When I was her age, in contrast, I had barely begun my first year of school in Sweden and I was 13 or 14 before I even got my first grades. That may have been a bit late some will argue, but what’s the point of giving grades to 7-year old kids who would rather play than memorise times tables?

Meanwhile, my 11-year old is in her last year of primary school, and there’s a huge focus on exams and getting into her preferred secondary school. I’m anything but a chilled-out person in normal circumstances so this autumn I’m having to make a gargantuan effort to stay calm in the face of the secondary school frenzy that’s descended upon us.

There is more to life than exams and grades I tell my children, but they don’t seem to believe me.shutterstock_316684445

“Did you ever get a C in school?” my 11-year old asked me a while back.

“Of course, and I got the odd D as well,” I replied.

She looked at me aghast, “You got a D? What happened?”

Nothing, other than that I realised I probably wasn’t meant to be an engineer or electrician as the D was the outcome of my 14-year old self’s inability to strip a wire without breaking it. My tech teacher even gave me two metres of wire to strip as homework, yet I never managed to get the hang of it.

There have been other Ds as well, in Maths in particular, and I never got more than a C in P.E. and Music. But, so what? I still sing in the shower. The only C I feel remotely bad about is the one I got in a class on modern fiction when studying at an American college. I come from a family of book publishers and reading is practically in my blood. Even so, I never got more than a B in any literature class; for while I loved reading stories and poems, I found it excruciatingly boring and somewhat meaningless having to analyse them. It just spoiled the fun of reading.

My point is, neither your school grades nor your university grades will have much bearing on your life in the longer term. No one has paid any attention to my grades since I was in graduate school twenty years ago and in order to write this blog, I had to dig out my old transcripts to find out what my grades were. I’d completely forgotten.

Know this: A C-grade doesn’t mean you’re stupid, and a D-grade isn’t a disaster.

Grades are not a true representation of someone’s abilities and rather than asking students to work harder for the sake of school ratings, the focus ought to be on the teaching side.  An excellent teacher who appreciates that not everyone learns the same way and who reflects that understanding in their teaching methodology, is key to students doing well.

I know this first-hand because for much of my middle school years I had a young, arrogant maths teacher who disparaged any child who didn’t get it the first time. I did poorly as a result, and at the time I thought it meant I was stupid. When I moved on to high school, however, my maths grades went from Ds to Bs in one term, and it was all down to the teaching. My new maths teacher believed I could do maths and she took her time to explain anything I didn’t understand. As a result, I started to believe in myself.

So, let’s not get too caught up in grade-mania, because it’s not worth the stress, worry, sleepless nights, expensive tutoring, and exhausted, tearful children.

On a side note, I had completely forgotten that I got two As in Beginning Badminton and Intermediate Badminton while studying for my undergraduate degree in politics. Those A-grades more than make up for my C in statistics and B- in economic analysis II. Perhaps I got my career choice all wrong…





Sex Education

shutterstock_29772169It was bedtime for my seven-year-old, and I’d just finished reading a few pages from her favourite book and was about to say goodnight when she asked,

“Mummy, how exactly ARE babies made?”

Oh no, I thought, not now.

“Can we talk about this tomorrow,” I pleaded, hoping to postpone the conversation. “It’s a bit complicated.”

“Come on, mummy, how complicated can it be?” my daughter snapped, “you must know how babies are made since you made two with daddy!” Continue reading

Cleft Gorgeous?

A week into the school term the good news is that my TV consumption is under control, and I’m finally getting some reading and writing done.

4321D32A00000578-4778646-image-a-1_1502384172235There is one drama series on BBC, however, that I’m not quite willing to give up and it’s not because it’s particularly good because it isn’t. No, I am watching Strike, based on the novels by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling, solely for its lead actor, Tom Burke.

Burke stars as Cormoran Strike, a war veteran turned private detective, and he is gorgeous to look at. I’d previously seen him in other TV productions, including BBC’s adaptation of War & Peace, and knew him to be a fine actor as well.

Burke also happens to be born with a cleft lip, which is quite visible on the screen. Continue reading

No Longer a ‘Good Girl’

My lovely daughters finally went back to school yesterday, having enjoyed an eight-week long summer holiday. That’s about four weeks too long in my opinion, and there’s no doubt about which one of us was the happiest about school starting again: Me!

Don’t get me wrong, I love my daughters to the end of the universe and back, but family life can be exhausting, especially with two strong-willed, authority-defying daughters, so it was a relief to be able to hand over responsibility for their well-being to their teachers, if only temporarily.

bare-1985858_1280I may not have a high-flying career, but I am most definitely more than a mother, and with the girls at school, I finally have some breathing space, as well as the time to do what matters to me.

So how did I spend my first day of freedom? I’d love to say I threw myself into creative work, writing, reading, planning a Smile Train presentation due next month, etc., but the truth is, I watched the last few episodes of my latest TV addiction.

Oh well, yesterday was just a warm-up; today I’ve sat down straight away to write this blog post. That’s progress, isn’t it?

Once upon a time, I was a highly disciplined, hard-working young woman with lofty ambitions and a great sense of responsibility, but that person is long gone. And I don’t miss her at all. Nowadays I make a point of allowing myself regular playtime.

Perhaps it’s because I’m older and a tad wiser that I no longer feel I have to prove myself to the world. Besides, I know first-hand what stress can do to one’s health: in my case, it culminated in at least two incidences of stroke before I was even 35.

Whereas in the past I would push through when tired, challenging myself to complete a task no matter how exhausted, I’m neither willing nor physically able to do that anymore. Diagnosed with acute pulmonary embolism a few years ago, I finally learned to listen to my body: when tired, take a break, rest, go outside and enjoy a bit of nature, take a nap, read a good book. Do whatever takes your fancy.

There are those, of course, who thrive on a high-octane life, and I have nothing but respect and admiration for them. As for me, however, I’ve learned the hard way that I’m no superwoman. And that’s ok.

That’s not to say I’m happy spending my days watching Netflix; far from it. But at the ripe age of 45, I care less about what other people think of me, and that gives me greater freedom to do something I genuinely care about rather than what I think I should. I’m done being a good girl!