Amidst all the demands of an overloaded curriculum do we really have time to actually listen to our children?
It’s a real problem – the pace that we have to actually work at to deliver the curriculum is taking its toll across everything that we do and would wish to do in school.
I have read countless reports of pressurised colleagues unable to take lunch breaks as they battle to contain the marking overload, schools that do not now advocate practical work in Maths as “all OFSTED wish to see if work in books” and even 1 school where staff are only allowed a “comfort break” mid morning and not encouraged to chat with colleagues!
So if we, as teachers, find ourselves in these situations; is it now impossible to find the time and create an atmosphere wherein we can actually “listen to our children?”
Are we driven by the curriculum or do we feel in the driving seat?
It’s a valid question which strikes at the heart of not only school policy but also in every individual classroom. Do we feel in control of what we are doing or conversely are we simply a passenger in a vehicle that is careering out of control?
This is not the article where I intend to look in depth at this very issue; however it remains at the very core of our classroom environment and as such, our relationship with the children.
If we do not, in fact, feel in control then our whole rationale is being driven by the pressures and demands of the curriculum and by extension, more often than not; the reflected pressure from the school.
I wrote an article some time ago (3 related pieces) that was entitled ” Its NOT all about the academic!” This series of 3 articles looked at the other, just as important aspects of school and classroom education. The link to the first article I will give below – the other 2 in the series can be found through the website search bar.
In recognising that there are equally important, and at times, more pressing aspects in a child’s education, we need to also recognise that there are often pressing times in a child’s life that need our input and care….but if we are being constantly carried forward in this pressured melee will we even recognise these times when they occur?
Sometimes we can forget how important our role is!
Perhaps role is the wrong word – but in a child’s life, the position and importance of their teacher is right up there sitting just below immediate family. In fact for some children it may unfortunately be that their teacher is the person in their lives; someone they know they can trust, will be friendly, fair and have the time to listen to whatever they have to say.
But – and here is the big question….
“How can we be that person if we are trapped in this cycle of curriculum pressure?”
We are in a very special position as Primary school teachers. Unlike Secondary colleagues who have rotating groups of pupils; we generally have one set class where we have the privileged opportunity to create our “class community.” As your group of children settle and gel together there becomes a very special bond not only between all the children but also between you, as the teacher and every child in the class….you become their special person.
I commented a short time ago that I did not set any work for my classes when they first arrived in the mornings. We marked the class register and dinner register and I used to chat with the children as we did it. It was the way I liked to start our day…it was relaxed, it bonded the class and allowed me to not only observe the children as they first came in but also to spot any problems that may be noticeable in some children.
You see – on some days the MOST important thing for a child may NOT be academic classwork – and as a teacher I have to be aware to not only notice this but also respond.
I had many responses to that comment about preset work as the children arrived. But perhaps the one that made me think was this….
In our school we have to have work set for the children from the minute they walk into class. We take the register and the dinners are done electronically. Within 10 minutes we all have to be in the hall for assembly otherwise there is a danger of “time slippage!”
Perhaps there is a danger of much more than time slippage in this approach to managing a school – but then that is just my personal opinion!
Maybe it’s just me! One of my initial reasons for becoming a teacher was that I had the flexibility to create my own environment in my classroom and also to decide how and why to deliver the curriculum in the way I chose. Despite the enormous changes made over the years I have stuck to this aim and made the curriculum fit my own approach and the education of the children in my care – and as such I refuse to be pushed around by its demands.
In exercising this control I can look beyond the immediate and obvious pressures and see the value and importance of educating beyond the academic and the vital contribution this can make to each and every child.
This however means that at times , as a teacher, it is more important to listen than talk….and to realise that these times are just as valuable as anything else we may teach.