Is there such a thing as an ‘all-rounded’ child?

Now, I am not one for putting people into boxes – least of all because of how much knowledge they hold in their head or the material value of their academic status (if that is not confounding two measures). However, when it comes to measures of intelligence, particularly amongst students still in the precarious stage of pre-18 schooling, I admit to harbour a passion for seeing the education sector providing correct and fair schooling for all. This has improved in the few years, certainly, but I am not the first to say that there is still a far way to go to see that those who, one way or another, struggle with what has come to be seen as ‘traditional’ schooling, get the learning they deserve to advance in their chosen career.

In today’s consideration, I want to draw attention to a phrase I have been seeing on school-review sites and on some school websites, too: the profession that enrolling your child at this school will not only help them achieve academic excellence but they will also come away as a well-rounded child.

Let us first consider what that might mean or imply. Some people are polymaths—that is, those able to acquire multiple skills*—though, we can ask whether polymaths also include those who work hard enough to acquire their new talents and skills, even if they are not naturally gifted (as a searchlight intelligence/polymathmatics implies). Certainly, all- or well-rounded to me implies that a student will have a searchlight intelligence and show effort if not achievement in more than one field of education. If not, they will show extreme acuteness in their subject or field of choice (for instance, achieving consistently high test scores in Maths, Further Maths, and Physics) and will show an eager participation in an additional field, whether that be study or recreational interest. Recent studies* have in fact found correlational results that music may have a positive effect on increasing stimulation of memory as well as attention on executive functioning – that is, learning pathways. Thus, one could ask that an all-rounded child would be one with a strong musical background or supplement to their work. (Of course, we do not rule out similar correlations between sport and increased brain function.)

Alas, with high factual and academic intellect often comes a toll: low social/emotional intellect. Not for want of trying, of course; children with high intellect are often aware of the necessity for social interaction (though, we must not discount those who choose to neglect their social side for studying), but for them, engaging in social interaction is fraught with peril, and often social cues go missed. Perhaps, indeed, because they are aware that the stakes are higher. Perhaps, because a person has more facets than a fact does. People change their minds; numbers rarely do. Sometimes, a lower emotional intellect may stem from lack of exposure to the template of social interact – just as if you were living with a completely different culture. For the first few weeks, you feel as if you are walking around in a clumsy suit too big and with ‘OUTCAST’ stamped on your forehead. Eventually, you get used to the culture, but this only occurs after repeated exposure and, for want of a better idea, note-taking.

In the case of the naturally bright children, they can be faced with shying away from peers, due to not being entertained by the same materials. A lack of mutual understanding and a mutual template only increasing possible feelings of isolation and lower emotional intellect. Particularly for younger children, frustration is sooner felt within situations where they are not intellectually satisfied by conversation, stimuli, or once-planned events.

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And whilst schools are working on (or at least have started working on) changing the teaching structure so that more versatile learning styles are incorporated*, many still advertise at raising a good ‘all-rounded’ child. When one looks at what that might include, one hits on possible flaws in the definition. That is: many schools define an all-round achieving child by their grades and their contribution to academic life. A good all-rounder might be considered as: a sixteen-year-old tipped for the Russell Group with five AS Levels* in subjects classed as arts, sciences, humanities, languages, whilst also being an active member of the school band, drama society, humanitarian charity society or similar, and a sports team. Yes, these people do exist.

And it’s not just that pressure that gets to a student of that calibre. Notice what’s missing? The social aspect. Under the pomp and circumstance of that fictional list, in which appears to be many opportunities for social interaction, many overachievers fall through the cracks, socially. They might be the cellist who hides behind their instrument, or the lead actor whose stage-hatred of other characters comes from genuine classroom bullying. Or the volunteer who always listens to the people she helps, whilst knowing that nobody will listen to her.

In the same vein, more medical professionals are recognising the depression in those who do not present with typical symptoms, such as apathy, lack of energy, goth-like gloom*. It is worth researching high-functioning depressives, as the condition is not something I have studied or researched. In short, many sufferers go undiagnosed because their grades and academic work and extra-curricula activities are all strong and unaffected by their mood. Why/How? Because they use throwing themselves into such activities as a way to distract themselves from the pain and intrapersonal hatred depression can bring.

Such people may indeed be classed and considered by the education profession as successful, but often they are lonely, of lower interpersonal emotional intellect than average, and confused at the way people act, because it makes no sense in their world-shape and with the knowledge they have so preciously gleaned. As I said, knowledge does not change, and lacks situational specificity. Even the fields of psychology are about two or three years behind ‘real’ life. Of no fault of their own, but because research by necessity moves so slowly from hypothesis to conclusion.

Why is this important, to not let academically-strong children be considered well rounded (without also considering their emotional intellect)? For the same reason that many are petitioning for schools to include more practical lessons, such as how to change a tire or how to pay one’s taxes. The school may be turning out good ‘all-rounded’ scientists and writers and artistes, but when faced with post-university and the job field, many of these over-achievers are struggling to acquire or sustain jobs because they are struggling to know how to interact with others to the satisfaction of their employers. This is particularly precarious when many modern employers expect their new employees to arrive with a full knowledge of training and work procedures.

And is this a fault of the job sector? No, I say. This is a fault of the schools – and of defining what an ‘all-rounded’ child is expected to be against who they actually are.

 

*See also searchlight intelligence

*Such as Degé, Kubicek, & Schwarzer (2011) and Moreno, Bialystok, Barac et al (2011)

*The above image includes a very simplified version of the variety of learning styles. For further reading, I advise also looking into multiple intelligence theories, like Gardner’s 1983 theory.

*Now, it has been a few years since I have been at school, so I am not sure if AS Levels still exist. For comparison, the average UK student (of my generation) will take four subjects in Year 12/Lower Sixth as half of their ALevel (aged 18) qualification and then drop one subject and continue with three. Some students choose to start with three and drop none, as reputable universities require three ALevels for entry.

*#Gothproblems jokes aside, it is also crucial to mention here that depression often presents not as a constant cloud over someone’s head, but as something that can be triggered around a period of, say, lightness. It is an episodic illness.

In Which I am a Graduate

It’s been one of those long journeys that passes in the blink of an eye, but yesterday I stood in front of a hall of people and shook hands with The Chancellor of Reading before accepting a scroll of paper from him, otherwise known as a degree certificate. Yesterday, I officially graduated from the University of Reading with a Bachelor’s degree of Psychology and Philosophy. It’s a weird feeling—I guess, now it’s really hit me that I’m not going back to Reading for another year, that I’ve finished my work on my undergraduate, and everything I had from that degree is ultimately in the past, reset to zero.

That’s not to say that I haven’t had a good time. There have been many aspects of being a British university student, and one of a joint honours in arguably controversial subjects, that I have not had the time or gall to ever blog about. There have been many ups and downs, of course—but that goes without saying when one spends three years of one’s life in a single place with the same sorts of people.

Eventually, though, I know I have to move. For secondary school, it hit me after five or six years. The feeling is kind of distant from the self, but more as if a knowledge of what needs to be done. I have done a lot of what I needed to at Reading, and experienced so many, but it’s not a town in which I want to spend the rest of my life. Nothing personal, just opinion from having lived around the gossamer spires of Oxford most of my life.

What a feeling it is to be moving on to academia new. Indeed, I would be lying to say that that has been the best thing about graduating when in fact it is such a gratifying feeling to be justly rewarded for three years’ hard work. However, it is good to know that I have something more after graduation.

So, there it is. I am a graduate now. I officially have a degree. (This is where I scream “hire me!” at you. Just kidding!) And the obligatory graduation photo? Oh, go on then. 🙂

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Looking professional in my gown and mortarboard!

Have a blessed weekend.

 

Why a Writing Hiatus Is So Painful

I’m taking a writing hiatus. This would be due to the importance of my studies for my final year of my undergraduate anyway – but it’s also due to another reason. I’ve hit a massive writing slump.

I should have expected it, what with my dissertation taking up most of my non-contact time; but where I’d planned to query in January February, I know WTCB has instead to go through a massive upheaval, and I don’t know where to start.

I’m afraid. Afraid of tearing it to pieces and gluing those pieces onto a new board. Afraid of the emotional and mental work I’ll have to do to recover it. Afraid of the time I’ll lose, and afraid of being back at square one.

Yet, I am back at square one with most of my novels. Let me count them – five. I think. Five I like in need of editing beyond a first or second draft. It took me so long to get to a queryable stage with one novel (and that turned out to be false hope), how long will it take with a second novel?

So, for now, before I drive myself crazy, I’m taking a writing break.

The thing is, I don’t want to have to stop writing. I find it incredibly therapeutic, even when characters and scenes frustrate me. However, I want to be able to look back on my work and feel proud, the way I would having finished a first draft.

But I’m not. Each book I read and the more research I do, the less confident I feel in my own work and my own style. I’ll never be as good as these, says one voice in my mind. Another chimes in, You call this tension? Your characters resolve debates as readily as infants change moods. The chances of me ever being successful are so slim, and part of me would give up were it not for the fact that I don’t want to throw away all the effort and characters and ideas I’ve had for so long. What a waste that would be.

I love Phillip and Aidelle’s world, and I definitely want to at least self-publish the almanac that I have detailing the timeframe of the three epochs featured in the Time, Stopped Trilogy, but I can’t deal with having poor writing at the moment. I think, were it not for my endlessly encouraging CP, Lillian M Woodall, I would’ve trunked the novel by now. Even the Steampunk world of Alexander and Cathy inspires me, but it’s not viable for me to meet them every night. By the time I’ve finished revising for the day, rested my mind, had dinner and settled in for the evening, I’ve been far too tired to concentrate on my editing.

Yes, it hurts. A writer should never have to abandon their families and their stories pressing through their mind – but then, I wonder if the resulting craft will even be worth it. I give so much to my writing, and sometimes I wonder if that’s too much…even though it’s not been enough.

That’s why a writing hiatus is so painful. It is is full of possibilities whilst drowning them with the silence. It’s putting the writer first at the expense of the characters. It’s breaking from the daily visits into the centre of one’s mind.

And, yet, I always wonder if it’s worth it.

Quick Takes: 7 Good Friday Thoughts

Although the days passed quickly this year, we are approaching the end of Lent with Easter Sunday and the Resurrection of Christ. This year especially, I have noticed that, even though I’ve been busy with my dissertation and still more essays this year, I have drawn closer to Christ. Not through prayer or alms-giving or abstinence, as I would have expected and have tried to utilise, but through my thoughts and observations.

So, for 7 Quick Takes Friday, I’d share some of the realisations and feelings this Lent has delivered to me.

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  1. Giving

Something I wish I’d been truly aware (instead of just knowing it, but feeling it too) of before this year is how much God is always there, always permeating our lives. I’ve been following the CATHOD blog since the genesis of this little blog, and I am enjoying their series at the moment about the challenges their volunteers have been doing as part of Lent, including things like cutting down the amount of water they use per day as solidarity for those in low income countries who have to walk miles daily just to get dirty water.

Only the last couple of days has it hit me that giving during isn’t just involving others; giving can be giving one’s self challenges to make one conscious of how much luxury the first world situation is. Maybe I can try and do something challenging, like cut down the amount of washing I do. I am sure I can live more cost-effective and world-aware.

  1. Fasting

Today has been one of my best days fasting that I have had. I don’t tend to fast except on days of obligation, but to focus the mind on God, it might be good to fast more often. I think I could do it tomorrow as well. I put on a nice dress, had a shower – I even walked 3 miles! What’s wrong with not eating? 🙂

3. Abstinence

I am definitely considering trying to make my Fridays permanently meat-free (as well as my usual Thursdays and Wednesdays). I mean, I can’t afford much meat as a student anyway, but limiting the amount of meat I buy can be beneficial for the environment and my giving up something I like on a long-term basis will help me to think of those who have no choice with their diets.

The only complications are when visiting friends and my tendency to have pizza on Fridays (and pizza is just bland without meat 😉 ).

4. Respect

Having not been to a proper Triduum before, I was surprised by the feet-washing part of the liturgy for the Celebration of the and the little note in today’s Mass saying “If you would like, like may follow the ancient tradition of removing your shoes before the Cross.” Surprised, but delighted, though. One of the reasons I was drawn to the Catholic Church is because I have always been naturally traditionally-minded.

I took off my shoes. Not just because it’s something different, but because of how it made me feel in relation to the Cross. Taking my shoes off meant respecting the ground on which Christ walked, setting God apart from mortals. It meant showing belief with my whole body, not just my voice and my mind.

  1. Community

    What’s more, this Lent has brought me closer to the Church community. Not just with those I know from Sunday Mass and the musicians and readers there, but also the strangers I have sat next to these last couple of days. They’re not the people I would normally spend time with – or even see in daily life – but we know we are united through Christ, and that can bring a sense of community to anyone.

  2. Peace

    With each service, reading, performance I am part of, I feel closer and closer to God this time of the year. With it is a sense of Peace, that post-Eucharist floatiness, a mix of prayerfulness and quiet. Of all the emotions, this is the one that hits me the greatest after Mass, but I honestly could not wish for more.

  3. Sorrow

Why sorrow? Well, this is Good Friday. Really this year have I felt the genuine sorrow of Christ’s sacrifice. No one should have to go through anything as tortuous as what He went through. Yet…indeed we still have prisoners and modern martyrs of faith, and people who suffer just for what they believe. Almost worse is it to not be able to openly practise one’s faith.

We are the lucky ones – who can go to Triduum and not find a seat because the church is so full – and we celebrate with very little prejudice. But there are so many around who cannot practise safely. Nevertheless, in Christ’s sacrifice today, He has saved us from sin.

God bless for the remainder of your Easter. 🙂

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Rain and Cherry Blossoms

I think it’s fair to say that it’s spring. Granted, the clocks don’t spring forward until the end of March, but the English days have been getting warmer (even if the nights haven’t), to the point that it’s awkward to where loads of layers. In fact, as I remarked recently, it’s almost cardigan weather again. Good for me, as I recently bought a new CollectIf clothing jumper in the sale. It arrived today, the cute little thing, gold and apt for Spring, though it was first in the AW/15 collection.

It’s been raining on and off. Mostly on, but there are days where the sun makes it unbearable to wear a coat – and days where one must travel with enough piece of wear to change if necessary. But speaking of which, the change of weather heralds the change of season.Even if it isn’t really Spring, I think it will be in my mind, because of the showers. That, and this:

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This shot I spotted on my walk into town. I go a variety of ways, but this is the crossroads of smaller roads. Sometimes it’s nice not to have to walk next to the main road. And then I come across this. Almost walked past it. But the blossoms called to me, with their lovely dappled heads. Against the sky, they were so vibrant and noticeable.

It’s not the best shot, but it’s something I rather like. Spring is on its way, with a flourish, and hopefully better spirits.

On the Death of a Genius

On Write, Edit, Repeat, Lara aptly talks about how not everybody finds success at an early age, even if, like Rickman, they become celebrated legends by their work. Keep going, keep the mind from making comparisons, and aim for your best contribution to the world, regardless of when that may be. Purpose will come.

Lara Willard

A writer friend texted me the news this morning.

Immediately I wished I was in a courtyard with wand-wielders. As a poor substitute, I watched a scene from Half-Blood Prince and made this.

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This afternoon I was swiping through old photos of me (which my aunt texted a few weeks ago).

I guess with Alan Rickman’s death, I’m getting all “I open at the close”—trying to decide how to live more truly to my child self. The silly, creative girl who didn’t limit herself, didn’t compare herself to others, didn’t fear failure:

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Rickman didn’t get his big break until his forties. He gave us almost thirty years of brilliance—of character immersion so great, people are mourning not only him, but also the various fictional characters he loaned his soul to.

On Tolkien’s birthday, I posted about how long it took him to find success. Earlier this week, I retweeted this from…

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Thursday Think on the Romance Genre

But for some people, marriage and 2.3 children works towards this lasting relationship. It’s about relative feelings and situation – such that no relationship is like another. This post highlights that not all romance in novels has to end in marriage or commitment, though. You know – in life nowadays, there are so many different ways in and around monogamy, and it might be good to see more of those in popular fiction.

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Like what I assume are millions of other people over the last few months, I came across E! Online’s article this am about the lovely Goldie Hawn, pulled from her Porter Magazine article in June, and one of the things she talks about is her ongoing 32 year relationship with Kurt Russell. If you don’t know much about them, they still aren’t married, which is actually kind of awesome and impressive, considering this is a Hollywood couple, where dating/marriage status never seems to stay the same for long. Even us normal(ish) folks can look at a relationship such as Hawn’s and Russell’s and find it inspiring. In this interview, Goldie says about relationships:

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I’ve always loved Goldie Hawn, but as she ages (beyond gracefully and beautifully, may I point out) she continues to be not only a positive influence for other women in the acting industry, but all women…

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