Like many people, I'm a fan of studies that support my choices in life. For example, I've chosen to be a great believer in the studies that claim two cups of coffee per day is healthy for me. And those studies which suggest I drink a glass of wine most nights? Thank you. I was also thrilled when the gluten-free craze was debunked - may bread and I remain friends for life.
So, as a mom who gave birth to an eight pound baby and subsequently, her ten pound sister, you’d think I’d be pleased with the study claiming heavier babies do better in school. But as a teacher, an education specialist and someone who spends a lot of time talking to families about their children’s success, I say this study is utter nonsense. Well, not the study itself, I'm sure the researchers did their due diligence and drew their conclusions to the best of their abilities. I have no doubt that they were able to identify a correlation between birth weight and school success, but really, is that a message we want to go spreading around?
I’d be horrified if a parent or a student worried their birth weight had any bearing on their school success. I truly believe that effort, attitude toward learning, self-esteem, emotional intelligence and a myriad of other traits within the student’s control are far more important to a student.
There are studies that link everything from larger breasts to blue eyes to height with a higher IQ. I am wary of any study that suggests intelligence and/or school success is somehow fixed at birth or affected by physical traits.
I think every student has the potential to be successful. A great teacher connects with learners and brings out the best in them. A strong student follows their passions, is creative, inventive and a superb problem solver - all skills that can be taught, practised and improved upon.
I refuse to believe that a person’s intelligence is fixed; brain power is not some stagnant measure remaining unchanged throughout our lifetime. We know the human brain is plastic, constantly growing and developing, making new connections and building new neural pathways. Sure, nature has a part in creating the foundation upon which learning is built, but nurture has a far greater impact on school success.
If parents want to give their child a leg up in the world, they should focus far less on things like birth weight and eye colour, and far more on positive interactions with their kids. Nourish kids, talk to them, encourage them to solve their own problems and take some calculated risks. Let kids play. Let kids find their passions. Look after their emotional well-being. These are things can truly impact your child’s future success.
Whatever your child’s birth weight, they were born a natural explorer and a continual learner. I say, refuse to let your child be pigeon-holed by some ridiculous finding that links an arbitrary characteristic to their future success!
As my favourite headmaster of all time, Albus Dumbledore, explained to Harry,”It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”