January 19, 2011

"I was kind of, really mad, sort of... I was trying to think back, 'What did I miss? What did I do wrong?'"

That's what Abhinav Venigalla thought when he fell 10 points short of a perfect score on the math SAT, which he took in 7th grade as part of a part of a Johns Hopkins University competition.

Factor that into your thinking about teaching kids self-esteem.

33 comments:

TMink said...

I don't think self-esteem can be taught, but we can teach kids who to get it for themselves. And it REQUIRES a history of a stable, loving pre and post natal environment in order for it to take.

Self esteem is earned through learning new things and hard work. It cannot be gifted.

Trey

TMink said...

HOW to get it for themselves.

MadisonMan said...

I was 40 points off a perfect math score when I took it (as a young Senior), and I was just all Thank God I don't have to take that test again.

edutcher said...

Trey is right about self-esteem being earned. The more someone tries to instill or "give" it, the less it's believed by the object of the attention.

In taking practice tests for a certification, when I blow it by just one question - and one I got right the day before, but second-guessed myself out of the right answer - I get rather peeved at myself, as well - Lord knows, the last thing I have is any kind of big ego.

I think that's just taking pride in doing a good job; you don't have to be an over-achiever or have an inflated ego to feel that way, although I can understand someone who's very good at something being aggravated by falling so short.

Hoosier Daddy said...

That kid's name should be in a spelling bee.

Fred4Pres said...

Self esteem is earned not given.

And most of you suck.

Tough love, Chinese style.

TenMile said...

Self respect aside; someone might explain to him those types of tests have built-in cribbing questions an honest testor cannot max.

SteveR said...

I was mad in 7th grade because Suzi Broyles didn't like me. And I was totally the same, "What did I miss? What did I do wrong?"

Phil 3:14 said...

I'm not seeing the connection. Are you suggesting his statement indicates an issue with self-esteem? or just the opposite?

Jon said...

Althouse said: "which he took in 7th grade as part of a part of a Johns Hopkins University competition."

Might want to edit that, you repeated "part of a"

PaulV said...

Waits til he finds out you can miss several questions and still get 800 and that SATs have been recentered to inflate his grade/

Salamandyr said...

I took the SAT in 7th grade as part of a Duke program; I "only" got a 500 on the Math section, and my reaction was "Hey, good score!".

Leland said...

I tend to argue it this way. Failure is an option. The trick is handling the failure. When you fear failure, then anything that is short of perfection scares you. Because anything short of perfection is a failure to somebody.

On the other hand, you can't rely on just failing and having someone else make amends for your own failings. If you do that, you won't have self-esteem either.

Gene said...

For years I've been hearing that American students do lousy on math exams but feel great about their scores while Chinese students do great on exams but feel lousy about their scores.

Maybe if we had fewer students who felt so good about their non-accomplishments we'd be better able to compete with China.

Gene said...

A few years ago I got a call from a college classmate to whom I hadn't spoken in 40 years. Before he hung up he mentioned he mentioned something that I vaguely remembered from our college days--that in high school he had gotten perfect scores on his math SATs.

I couldn't believe it. Here was someone in his sixties still talking about his SAT score from 40 years ago.

Salamandyr said...

Gene,

Sometimes that's all you've got.

Suburbanbanshee said...

Some kids are competitive like that and have high self esteem. Some of us kick ourselves repeatedly for scores like that that fail so miserably, which prove we are worthless and that nobody will ever want us around for anything.

On the bright side, you meet some nice kids at that Johns Hopkins study's awards ceremony. It's too bad you only get to go when you're taking the SATs in junior high.

On the dark side, there's a side study to scan your genes these days. Creepy.

ricpic said...

The thing in life is to go from being called a punk to calling others punk.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Factor that into your thinking about teaching kids self-esteem.

What about it?

Kirby Olson said...

... and then he picked up his Glock and went on a rampage ... shooting everybody he could hit ... and finally turning the gun on ... the test itself, which was the sole cause of this action, having been designed by the Tea Party and Sarah Palin!

Ankur said...

That reaction is kind of an Indian thing.

As a child, if I was really good at something at school, and my parents knew it (either through talking to me about that, or through talking to the teachers), they were always disappointed if my test results didn't reflect that.

The funny thing was, they never expressed that disappointment - in fact, they tried to hide it. But kids are often more clued in to their parents emotions and non verbal cues than parents think. And I always knew. Thankfully, I knew aside from that momentary disappointment, they loved me unconditionally, and were proud of me. So, that momentary disappointment, instead of making me insecure, spurred me on.

It taught me to be uncompromising with myself, when it came to things I was good at. I remember having a similar reaction in a math test when I didn't get the perfect score when I was about 12 or 13. And I am glad it did, because that enabled me to raise standards for myself, and taught me that good enough..is NOT good enough for me.

Although there is a risk to that lesson, wherein one might be so obsessed with performance that life passes them by, I think we all owe it to ourselves to identify the things we are good at, and be the best we possibly can at those things. And, as such, a little disappointment - either from your self, or, in a loving environment, from your parents - can be an excellent thing.

Freeman Hunt said...

As a child, that's exactly how I thought about anything I missed on a standardized test.

By high school though, my reaction was the same as MadisonMan's. "Okay, that's enough to qualify for [x]. Glad I won't be taking that again."

Freeman Hunt said...

One of my best friends in high school had a perfect SAT score. I think he would have been very annoyed to have missed any questions. He's a very happy librarian now.

bgates said...

That reaction is kind of an Indian thing.

Which proves those tests aren't all they're cracked up to be, because I did pretty good on them 20 years ago and I'm just now finding out that I'm Indian.

Ankur said...

bgates,

I was referring to his reaction to his score, not to the score itself.

Penny said...

"Winning by being smart. That's pretty interesting too."

Those were the last two lines of the interviewer in that video, and I'm going to assume, given the delivery, that they were meant to be amusing, in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way.

It made me wonder how he might conclude an interview with the MVP of the Little League World Series.

"Winning by being athletic. That's pretty interesting too."

Synova said...

I don't get the connection either.

He didn't feel bad about himself, he was trying to think of where he'd made a mistake... not "didn't know the answer" but goofed up.

There's a difference. Particularly in Math. I'm not even brilliant and I certainly know the difference between not knowing the answer and doing the problem wrong because of a mistake.

Or perhaps it's supposed to be an example of someone who understands his value and abilities, who has high self-esteem.

Bryan said...

(slightly off point): Since they only give scores in multiples of 10, and they round down, and he fell only 10 points short, wouldn't that mean he simply didn't answer one question...? If he got one wrong, it would have been -2.5 points, plus having missed 10 points, making the rounded value be 20 points short of a perfect score, no?

Daniel Fielding said...

Most Indian parents ( mine included) stressed that doing well in math was a necessary part of life, something we had to excel in, in order to open doors later on in life.
Plus, math is the haven for dorky desis. have y'all seen his pictures?

D. B. Light said...

I attended the presentation ceremony at Hopkins a couple of years ago with a friend of mine [Chinese American] whose daughter was one of the honorees. All but a handful of the kids on stage were South or East Asians. There were a few non-Asians, and only one African-American. Later we met the black girl's parents. The mother was black, the father Chinese. I'm not sure what the ethnic breakdown says, but it sure was striking.

bgates said...

I was referring to his reaction to his score, not to the score itself.

Me, too - I had the "Indian" reaction when I was a kid.

Gene said...

My wife is an advisor to the student honor society at her high school. A couple of years ago I happened to see a list of the highest-achieving students. Although Koreans are a small minority at her high school, seven of the top ten were Korean girls.

Ankur said...

Good for you, bgates. That reaction has probably served you well through life.

However, cultural trends to exist. Because you happen to share that trend with a specific culture doesn't invalidate the general trend, despite your snark. Yes, yes, I know its bad to generalize. But nobody would generalize if there wasn't at least some truth to it.

Kind of like - how a majority Indians living in America buy Toyotas or Hondas. But by no means is every Toyota or Honda owner an Indian. Or how Italians (in Italy) are generally loud and vibrant compared to the English (in England) - but not every loud, vibrant person is Italian, nor every stiff upper lip a brit.

Get it?