After a lengthy period of rebuilding, our children’s school is finally about to emerge from its chrysalis of scaffolding as… well, if not a beautiful butterfly, then at least a larger caterpillar.
A few weeks ago, a letter went out to all parents inviting us to describe our hopes and aspirations for the new incarnation.
My wife picked up her pen without hesitation. ‘Higher expectations of the children,’ she wrote on the reply slip.
Now, she’s not a Tiger Mother in the style of Amy Chua by any means. (She’s a pussycat really. Hello darling, if you’re reading this.)
But like me, she wants to see a bit more asked of the kids.
I was astonished when I learnt that they get certificates for 100% attendance. ‘Well done for turning up’, reads the commendation. OK, so it doesn’t say that, but it might as well.
And soon after our daughter started in reception, I asked what the star sticker on her cardigan was for. ‘Sitting quietly and neatly on the carpet,’ she replied proudly.
The Chris Rock routine about getting “credit for s*** you’re supposed to do…” was the first thing that crossed my mind, but even I realised that it wasn’t suitable to be repeated to a four-year-old.
It’s hardly surprising that Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, recently declared that current benchmarks in primary schools are too low.
It’s not hard to envisage a future in which we languish well behind other nations, though at least we’ll languish quietly and neatly, so well done us.
Higher expectations generally lead to greater achievements. The Tiger Mother approach certainly gets academic results, as indicated by US statistics showing that Chinese students hugely outperform American students in maths and science.
But there is a downside. The pressure of high expectations can cause anxiety and unhappiness and ultimately be destructive.
Shortly after Chua’s book came out last year, it was followed by the angry memoir ‘Tiger Mother Son of a Bitch’ by Derrick Lin, who was raised under this harsh type of parenting regime.
High expectations can also be inhibiting – even when they are imagined. When my wife suggested I should develop a presence on Twitter to drum up more freelance work, I was reluctant to do so.
‘Everyone will expect me to keep coming up with funny and insightful stuff all the time,’ I said.
‘Not if they’ve read your football column, they won’t,’ she replied.
This is supposed to be a football column though, so perhaps I should get to the point.
I get the feeling that expectations of our team and management have risen very high in some quarters. There seems to be some disappointment that we’ve slipped out of the top half of the league and that we didn’t easily dispose of Wigan the other week.
Apparently there have even been some boos at Carrow Road, though I haven’t heard any myself.
Of course, it’s natural for expectations to change according to varying circumstances. Any edition of Deal or No Deal demonstrates that.
And if expectations have risen, it is entirely down to the players and management. Having set such high standards and shown what they’re capable of, they are inevitably going to be judged against those standards.
We should have high expectations.
But they do need to be tempered with realism. The club is years ahead of the schedule mapped out by the new board after relegation to League One. Finishing anywhere above 18th this season will be a tremendous success. Every single point won in the Premier League is hard-won.
And it’s impossible for us to carry on rocketing upwards at the same rate, though this seems to have escaped one of the other dads at school.
‘So, are Norwich going to get promoted this season?’ he asked the other day. ‘I don’t think so, not this year,’ I replied. ‘Oh dear, never mind,’ he sympathised.
As ever, Paul Lambert is ahead of the game and is managing expectations as skilfully as he manages the team. He knows that disappointment and dissatisfaction from the stands will make the team’s job even more difficult, and constantly reminds of the need to look at the bigger picture of the club’s progress.
We also need to remember that Lambert is the person who has the highest expectations of all. His reported devastation after the last-gasp defeat to Manchester United shows that.
He knows better than anyone what the players are capable of. And he is the one who will demand that they continue to turn up every week, in more than a primary school sense.
We couldn’t be in better hands. In fact, the only thing to worry about is the day when he decides the club is no longer able to meet his expectations.
Here’s hoping that day is still a long way off.
I’m no gardener. My horticultural knowledge extends only to differentiating weeds and non-weeds – and even then I don’t always get it right, as I’ve sometimes found to my cost when trying to tidy the flower beds.
So I’m not sure how I came to spot that the ‘Canary Bird’ rose was named Plant of the Week in the gardening section of the Guardian Weekend magazine the other Saturday.
It looks very attractive – it’s a yellow rose, obviously – but there was something in the description which sounded particularly appealing:
“Some may consider its flowering performance a bit of a one-hit wonder, although ‘Canary Bird’ sometimes rewards gardeners with a second flush of blooms in September…”
Once again, here’s hoping.