The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Laziness in today's students.

In my time as a teacher, I often saw the most surprising laziness in students. Today, one memory came to mind.

There was a student in my class, from Mongolia, who liked, at times, to use the catchphrase: "I'm lazy." to explain why he wouldn't do something. I heard it a little too often from him. He was an unusual boy: very charming in his own way, with an engaging demeanour. He had big dreams for himself but utterly lacked the will to work at them. I didn't see him attaining any of those dreams unless he changed his ways.

One day, I wrote an essay title for the students on the board. It wasn't a long task, really: I just wanted them to write something in the class on a topic that I thought would interest them, to give me something to feedback on their grammar.

Now, my Mongolian student was somewhat short-sighted. He squinted up at the board, from his customary seat at the back of the classroom - then raised his hand and gestured me over to him.

As I drew near, he offered me his pen which, reflexively, I took in hand. Then he pointed at the board and spoke: "Write that, here." he said, presumptuously, nodding at his notebook.

I stood there, pen in hand, with astonishment on my face. This young man was too lazy to walk to the front of the classroom to read the board - but wanted me to write the essay title, again, in his own notebook, especially for him.

He didn't get anywhere. "You are go to the front of the classroom where you can see it better."

He looked somewhat surprised at this, but rose slowly from his seat and slouched to the front of the class where he wrote down the title. Then he slouched back to the back of the classroom.

Forty-five minutes later, I gauged that all should have finished the task and asked them each, in turn, to stand and read their work out to the class (for these were second language speakers and the challenge of public speech was good for them).

When it came to the Mongolian boy's turn, he just shrugged: "I haven't done it."

I walked over to him and looked down at his notebook. He sure was lazy, as he himself noted. There on the page was the essay title - and nothing else. He hadn't even written one word. I said nothing but turned to the next student. Sometimes, you have to know when it is pointless to pursue a student. This one did as little as possible, all the time - and there was little chance of changing that.

There are other students like that Mongolian boy. I just thought his particular story was interesting in the way he seemed to think he was entitled to special treatment - but did nothing to deserve it. All the students like him share a common mindset: that the world owes them a living and that success is theirs without effort. However, I think that all of them are going to be rather surprised at what reality has in store for them. The world doesn't tend to reward too highly those who make no effort to strive within it.

It would be interesting to see how the Mongolian boy's dreams turn out. However, I doubt that I will ever get to know.

The funny thing about him is that Genghis Khan is his great hero - yet it never seems to occur to him that Genghis Khan's particular success came at great personal effort his whole life long. It didn't just happen.

How many other young people think that success just happens - and that it is theirs for the taking, without ever trying hard to get it?

If you have any revealing tales, please share them in the comments. Thanks.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 7:44 PM 


Blogger Miao said...

I worked as a relief teacher after graduation from junior college. I taught Chinese at a secondary school because I was thinking of becoming a Chinese teacher in future, so I wanted to try it out and see whether I am really cut out to be one. I was assigned two lower secondary express classes. During the first lesson, I made the mistake of introducing myself as a relief teacher. The students immediately knew that I had no prior teaching experience and disobeyed all my rules, refused to pay attention in class, neglected their homework, challenged my authority, and even talked back when I reprimanded them. They were totally out of control. There was just no way for me to discipline them. One of them even used vulgarities when I talked to him. Not only were they lazy, they were also disrespectful, rude and immature. In addition, they were just not interested in Chinese. When I mentioned this to another fellow relief teacher who was teaching Mathematics, she didn't seem to have such a serious problem. I left the school after one month, and gave up the idea of becoming a teacher in future. I admit that I don't have that much patience to deal with students. I had a very unhappy teaching stint, and life is too short for me to be unhappy.

By the time I entered university, I was contemplating the idea of giving private tuition to earn some pocket money. I was hired to teach a 7-year-old Filipina, who was in Primary 2. I thought that since she'd already completed the Primary 1 Chinese syllabus, she should be able to understand basic Chinese at the very least. However, I later discovered that she didn't even know how to write her own name! When I asked her simple questions like, "Have you eaten lunch?" She'd stare at me blankly without saying a word. I totally had no idea where to start teaching her, so I randomly pointed to different words in her Chinese textbook, and asked, "Do you know these words?" She shook her head every single time - even when I pointed to very easy vocabulary like "one", "me", "you", etc. So I decided to assume that she had zero knowledge and I started teaching her from scratch. I prepared little games to facilitate her learning but she was so unresponsive that none of my methods worked. I gave her homework, but she told her father that I didn't give her assignments. I asked her to prepare for spelling tests, but she couldn't understand any of the words that I read aloud. Sometimes she even yawned during lessons. She is as lazy as your Mongolian student. I became so demoralised that eventually I decided to quit the job. I didn't want to receive salary from her father when she was essentially learning nothing from me. She was not only a disappointment to her teachers - she was also wasting her father's money and efforts.

After these two episodes, I made up my mind never to go into the teaching profession. I am simply not suitable. I get demoralised and frustrated too easily, and being a teacher really requires a lot of passion and patience. All the students I've come across in my limited experience are lazy and uninterested. My friend who is currently giving private tuition also often tells me similar stories. One of her students aspires to become a fashion writer, but she cannot be bothered to work hard. Like your Mongolian student, she thinks that she would be able to achieve success even without having to work for it. Their outlook is unrealistic, and usually it takes a good, hard fall to shape them up.

1:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That a challenges to be handle by most of the teachers...variety of students level and behavior...
tq teachers..

12:25 PM  

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