I Don’t Want Smart Kids

It was report card day for my big boys yesterday. Moms love report card day, don’t we? It’s written proof that our children are scientists or artists or poets or athletes in the making. Or you know, it’s proof that they passed and the term is over, hallelujah, we made it through.

Now fear not – this is not a post about how great my kids’ grades are. They’ve got some great grades, and some areas to work on. They’re kids. I’m not banking their futures on what the report cards say just yet.

This is a post about how I am so much more proud of what their teachers have to say about them, than I am of their grades.

There are a lot of really intelligent people in this world. Some of them perform complex surgeries on brains and premature infants. Some of them are entrepreneurs and risk takers. Some of them drive taxi cabs and work as janitors. Some of them have PhD’s or MD’s and some of them dropped out of junior high.

I want my kids to work to the best of their potential. To get a good education and serve or change the world in a field they are passionate about and is meaningful to them. Don’t we all?

But you know what I want more?

I want them to be . . .
Kind
Generous
Compassionate
Patient
Good
Gentle
Self-Controlled
Decent
Moral
Strong
Respectful
Joyful

The world of full of intelligent people. I believe my children are intelligent and I don’t want them to squander that.

But the world doesn’t really need more intelligent people – the world needs more kindness. We can thank intelligent people for the creation of nuclear weapons just as much as those life saving surgeries on infants, after all. So when I read the comments from Mateo’s teacher about his character, I cried. I cried so much that my husband thought something was horribly wrong. Here is what his teacher had to say about his character:
(Note: for context for these comments, the boys’ school does split grade classes and Mateo has been in a grade 1/2 split for two years.)

“Mateo has demonstrated a compassionate and respectful presence in our room for the last two years. He has an open heart that cares for everyone around him. He can be trusted to work well with students who often cannot work positively with their peers, and Mateo will bring out the best in them. He is sensitive to the needs of our most complex students and he provides unlimited patience for them when it is needed. Mateo consistently makes decisions that reflect high regard for others and himself and continues to display strong skills in character.”

And on Andreas’ end, the comments included a lot of notes about how much he’s grown and how hard he’s working on the areas that are challenging to him. His report card made me laugh because he’s so all over the place in terms of grades and skills. His is strong where he is strong, and that is that. But he’s working hard on the things that don’t come naturally to him, like fine motor skills for example. Not his strong suit and not a skill set that includes activities that tend to interest him. He’s still working on it and improving and that is enough. That is worth celebrating and being proud of.

Yeah, the comments made my heart soar much higher than the grades. I don’t want smart kids. I want kids who grow into adults with character and who work hard. Adults who appreciate the gifts that come naturally to them, and tackle the things that don’t. If they also happen to be smart that’s a bonus.

What does smarts without character get you? A smart ass is what it gets you.
And smarts without hard work? An attitude of entitlement and an adult who doesn’t know how to face a challenge.
This mama is having none of that.

So please, tell me how great your kid is doing on their report card. But don’t stop there. Tell me about their character, their creativity, their courage, their special talent, or their work ethic. Tell everyone you know and tell them when your kids are listening. The things we brag about send a message to our kids about what is important. Is it the grades or is it the people they are becoming in the process of living and learning that matters?

copyright (c) 2013 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

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One thought on “I Don’t Want Smart Kids

  1. I love this!! So true! All I ever care to read in report cards is what the teachers have to say. I could care less if I see 62 or 95….I want to know that my kids respect their peers and teachers and that the teachers recognize the strengths that I see. I always get that little bit of puffed-out chest pride when I read about how Lauryn doesn’t need to be told twice or how she always hands in her homework neat and on time, or how Lyndon could always be counted on to help any teacher or student without fail or lag, or how Leslie is so creative and artistic and always smiling and generous(who ARE these children???) or how Emily is full of joy and helpful and kind to even the lesser liked kids who get picked on by others. These words mean more to me than any mark. And I don’t even care if my kids fail miserably on tests as long as they thrive and succeed at being good people.

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