SchoolFamily Voices

Connie McCarthy is passionate about her work as a teacher of young children. She has devoted her entire career to making sure that her students do well at school, right from the start. Connie has an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education, and a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She has been teaching first grade in East Providence, R.I. for 23 years, where she received the distinction of “Highly Qualified Teacher” by the Rhode Island State Board of Regents. Connie also taught nursery school for four years, and published numerous articles on early education in East Bay Newspapers in Bristol, R.I. She’s also been published in PTO Today Magazine. She lives with her husband, Brian, and has a daughter and a son, both young adults. Connie enjoys reading, writing about elementary education, and taking long walks with friends. During summer vacations, she likes to travel with her husband. She also loves reading readers’ comments on her weekly blog posts.

Call Me a “Tiger-less” Teacher

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Happy School KidsIn a recent weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal, (January 8-9, 2011) I read an article that soon started a nationwide controversy. The headline read "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior." It was the story of Yale Law Professor Amy Chua, with essays excerpted from her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. My interest soon turned into disbelief, as I read her own words "...that nothing is fun until you are good at it." Nothing? What about the fun of learning through "discovery?" I kept reading.

As an educator of young children, I understood when she wrote, "To get good at anything you have to work...", However, I did not agree with the second part of her comment "...and children on their own never want to work." I see the inaccuracy of that statement everyday in my classroom. Children are eager to learn, and do not shy away from whatever work it takes.

She tells the story of making her seven year old practice a piano piece, under extreme pressure. She threatens to take away her dollhouse. She threatens no lunch or dinner, no birthday parties and no holiday presents. She says "I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic."

This is where I fundamentally differ from her approach, as both a parent and a teacher. When has humiliation ever been an effective tool in teaching anyone anything except resentment and hate? In my experience, it is positive encouragement that allows children to take risks, knowing that if they fail they have a soft place to land.

I am left to wonder...is this all just a "reality show" in the form of a book? Is it simply controversy to generate sales? I’m at a loss to say. All I know is that when I returned to my class after reading that article, I was more determined than ever to continue my nurturing, "tiger-less" approach. Although Ms. Chua’s method has apparently worked for her two talented daughters, I am proud to say my methods have successfully worked for more than six hundred students over the years.



#5 Kathy Winsor 2011-01-31 02:21
Connie, totally agree with you. You wouldn't even teach an animal like that! I'd love to know how old her daughters are and what they will have to say about her when they reach adulthood. I'd love to know if they are still practicing the skills they learned out of fear. Maybe they could call that book " Tiger Mommy Dearest ".
#4 Elli Davis 2011-01-30 19:46
The approach is completely wrong and it can only have a damaging impact on the natural development of your children. How can she say these methods are good when she clearly ignores the balance between the aspirations of a parent and the actual capacity of a child to perform well?
#3 carol williams 2011-01-26 21:07
Anyone who has seen the perfectionist mother in the "Black Swan" , played by Barbara Hershey, with long term damaging results to her screen daughter, will see what the Tiger mother's daughters may well turn out to be. Hopefully not, though.
#2 Martha 2011-01-26 20:11
Well said!
#1 Livia McCoy 2011-01-26 02:38
Absolutely agree!

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