Friday, March 23, 2007

To Push or Not to Push

It's parent-teacher conference time here in the Big Apple. Invariably, all the parents of our students with averages of 95 and above show up (often as not to inquire why they haven't earned 96 and above). I tell them their kids are great, and often ask what their secret is.

I'm confident that if I could identify and bottle this secret, I'd become so fabulously wealthy I could quit teaching altogether. I could then spend my time cultivating the odious vices I've always aspired to.

So what's their secret?

One parent rolls his eyes upward and points toward heaven, refusing to take personal credit for his daughter. But a succession of others tell me, "You have to push them. That's the secret." Some, when presented with minor flaws in their kids, who have received 90 or above, negotiate with me. "You push them to do this, and I'll push them to do that." I agree, and make mental notes of who I have to push to do what.

Others, however, see things differently. "I want to push him, but if I push him too far, he'll fall down." I'm always cognizant of a young Korean woman who attended one of my college classes. She told me her parents had pushed her to practice piano 2 hours a day for ten years. She could play very well, she said, but the thing she loved most about being in the United States was that she didn't have to play at all.

It wasn't until she came here that it dawned on her she absolutely hated playing the piano.
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