Sep 12, 2009

Achievement Tests

When I was in lower grades, we used to take what were called "achievement tests." They were computer graded tests (bring two sharpened number 2 pencils, fill in the bubble) that were designed to assess your achievement. What have you learned? How do you and your school rank nationally? The teachers stressed the importance of doing our best and following directions exactly, because these were important tests. And yes, they are. Achievement is good.

Reaching a goal rocks.

My boys played soccer. Each year after the awards banquet, they'd come home with some sort of trophy. Up it went on the shelf for Mom to dust. As I dusted the trophies, I felt bad that I didn't have much pride in them. They didn't represent anything more than attendance. You show up, you get a trophy. Big deal. A trophy should represent an achievement, otherwise it's just a piece of plastic gathering dust on your shelf.

A certain athlete is alleged to have used steroids to beat another athlete's record. I can't say if he did or did not use steroids, but if he did, then he knows in his heart that his trophy is worthless. Steroids are cheating. Or put the steroids-users against other steroids-users, and the non-users against the non-users. At least that levels the playing field.

How would you feel if your teenager bragged about beating a 6-year old in chess? Where's the competition? What has he achieved?

Which brings us back to the first point. I remember being quite proud of my scores on the achievement tests. My children derive a great deal of self-esteem when they master some academic material, or reach a goal.

No one has to "teach" them to feel good about it. Self esteem is derived from mastery.

I've never won a trophy. I don't want one, either, unless it represents an achievement. I don't need more plastic to dust.

Who are you going to encourage to achieve today?

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