Measurement is a concept that is very important in any curriculum. From baking to building, from sewing to super jets – everything must be measured. How much, how far, how heavy, how wide, how tall – and the list goes on. In class, we have been measuring distance, mass, and volume. We’ve been drawing to scale and reconfiguring objects to evaluate surface area. We’ve reviewed metric versus standard units of measurement. The pure love of learning has sent us down the exciting rabbit hole of discovering the many ways measurement plays a role in our lives.
In all of this, it is important to reflect on how measurement plays a role in the development of each and every child. In our societal obsession and necessity for measurement, we have a long standing concept in academia of measuring each other. Is this an “A” student or a “C” student? Interestingly these are the same “grades” given to meat in a factory. The real problem with measuring humans is the framework with which it is conducted. The bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:12: “But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” This addresses two issues: measuring ourselves with our own tape measure and comparing ourselves to others – both of which are not wise.
When we measure ourselves with our own tape measure, we are inventing the criteria to be measured: “I look good today, therefore I am worthy.”, “I don’t like how I performed today, therefore I am unworthy.” These messages of self doubt and misplaced sense of worth abound in our culture and steal the joy of life from many young people. In all our measuring, we need to remind children that they are not worthy because of how they perform or external factors. They are worthy because they are made in the image of God. To doubt our own self worth is to doubt the all powerful, all loving creator of the universe. God does not make junk. Our children must know that they have inherent worth as a human being.
On the other hand, when we compare ourselves to others we set ourselves up for either destructive pride or destructive self loathing. We truly cannot compare ourselves with any sense of objective criteria. There are just too many factors that make each and everyone of us unique and amazing. We cannot begin to evaluate the journey that each individual is on and make any wise comparison. Therefore it is unwise to do so. We also know from experience that comparing ourselves leads to either a false sense of superiority based on something as simple as a spelling test to feeling completely dejected and frustrated by something just as small.
At Providence we choose a different way. A wise way to evaluate oneself is by objective skill sets and absolute truths. Both of which still exist! Here are some examples:
- A student is trying to master their multiplication skills. The focus is on the skill – not who has mastered them first or last, or how many strategies they use to get there. The focus is on the “skill” and the “strategy”. When in our human nature, students make observations of their performance compared to others, the focus is always brought back to the skill and the strategy. Because our classrooms have multiple ages it is easier to help students understand and conceptualize that everyone is different and skill sets can be learned at various ages and in various time frames.
- If a student is using unkind words to talk to others, we discuss one of the bedrocks of our mission statement: “We love our neighbors as ourselves.” Are the words we are using loving? Were they intended to be loving and did the person hear them as loving? The emphasis is on “How do I clearly communicate in a loving way?” This is an absolute in our community and our students know it is a way to evaluate their communication based not on their own set of criteria nor on comparing their behavior to someone else. The measuring rod is external and reliable and that is what we measure ourselves against.
Whole books can and have been written on the desire and pitfalls of measuring ourselves. One book we recommend to help our children understand this concept is, “Sidney and Norman: a tale of two pigs,” by Phil Vischer (the creator of VeggieTales). We highly recommend reading it to elementary and middle school students and discussing which character they most identify with and why.
Measurement is important in many aspects of our lives and a natural human tendency. Reminding children that the goal is to become the best version of themselves is a great way to frame the conversation when you see them struggle with comparisons and self-worth. We, at Providence, promise to partner with you to help your child be their best!