There was a phrase I was taught to use as a new teacher when speaking with students. Every day I asked, "Did you do your personal best?" It was our way of trying to teach the kids to put effort into their work and not just slop something down to get it done.
I've been thinking a lot about this phrase and my early years of parenting. When my children started school it was extremely important to me that they be enrolled in a gifted program. I suppose it was partly due to my own insecurities about my school performance as a child and partly due to the fact that I taught them a lot at home and wanted them to be challenged at school. Now, looking back I see that there's something more important than having your child in advanced classes. It's teaching your child how to put effort into their work. To care about their performance. Because if they're in advanced classes and they don't do the work or they do sloppy work it becomes a very bad habit. It is worse if the work is easy for them because then they learn they can put very little effort forth and do just fine.
I see it at all levels when I sub. Students rushing to move on to the next project or be the first done, sometimes not even taking the time to put their name on the paper. In middle school--students choosing to sit and stare at the wall instead of tackling the task before them. Then there's the HUGE problem that begins in elementary and goes through to high school... students not completing their homework.
Why? What makes our children lack the discipline to get their work done? What makes them rush through a task and not care if it's correct? Is it parents too busy to watch carefully and check to see if the work is done? I'm guilty of this. Is it teachers who are inconsistent in checking homework or entering grades? Teachers are very busy but if there's no time to check homework then should it even be assigned? Imagine if someone asked you to take an hour or more out of your evening for an assignment and then never bothered to look over what you had done. How long would it take before you simply stopped doing it? Middle and high school students are savvy enough to know when teachers and parents aren't watching closely. And the next question is what affect is this having on our children?
I look at my own life. Do I put 100% effort into everything I do? No! Lord help Eric if he ever said to me, "Krista, did you do your personal best cooking this meal?" There are days when my effort level varies based on the amount of tasks I must complete. I have to understand the same holds true for my children and when I walk into a classroom. However, I know the difference between when I do a task well and when I choose to rush to get something done. And everything gets done. Do our children know the difference? They may think it's acceptable not to do homework or to slop through their work. How will this eventually affect their job performance or college performance?
Are we depriving them of learning self discipline and of learning the joy of accomplishing a difficult task if we allow them to get by effortless in their studies?
Personal best.... it's a good notion. Excellent lesson even if it doesn't apply to cooking. It may not be the complete answer to teaching effort but I think planting the seed when our children our young of trying their best and caring about their work is a lesson that will last a lifetime.