Having outlined our premise in the first of these articles we can now look in more depth at vital outcomes that are so important in the education of primary children.
Lets state again our starting point:
The principle aim of education is to prepare children for the outside world.
Children bring with them the influences of their own personal experiences and life situations – irrespective of their family situation, these will affect the way they see and interact with the world around them. It does not matter at what level of society the child inhabits …the effect of these influences will be directly reflected in the child’s actions and personality.
These influences come in 2 forms
- Deep seated – that the child has experienced over a period of time and have become ingrained in their lives.
- Day to day variables where children react to situations that have occurred.
Both of these are rated as either positive or negative and either can have long lasting effects.
Hopefully the children in your class will be happy and carefree…because that’s how children should be! A child should feel safe and protected and should have the freedom to grow and develop through a wonderful childhood to become a well balanced, outgoing and responsible member of society. – However this is not always the case.
You see, what the curriculum mania omits, is the fact that life’s influences on children DIRECTLY affect their learning situation and that varying degrees of crisis WILL take priority in the child’s life to the exclusion of all else.
It is against this background that we, as teachers, find ourselves.
So just how do we approach these sort of situations.
Lets start by looking at what school means to children – it should be where…
- We learn interesting and exciting things.
- Children achieve success at whatever level.
- Friends can meet and have fun.
- There are variety in activities
- A safe place
- Children can get away from their life outside
- Each child can trust the adult members of staff
- Children can confide in trusted adults
- It is warm and they get fed.
- There is order and organisation
Its not an exhaustive list but you can see the sort of things that we are considering. The lower half of the list in italics looks at the meaning of school for some children and when we consider those sort of statements it makes for sad reading doesn’t it?
Now it is not the purpose of this article to comment on the life situations of children outside of the school. However it is a harsh reality that we, as teachers, can have very little effect on what happens to the children once they leave our care. (except in extreme situations)
What we can do though is to provide all the aspects listed above for the time that children are at school.
The main thing that we need to provide for all children is a place of stability and order
This is for all the children in our class irrespective of any problems that they might have either immediate or long term. Everyone in life needs to have a sense of belonging and desires a familiar place where they know what is expected and how everything works around them. This is the same for adults as for children. But it is magnified for children especially if there home life is traumatic and chaotic.
The more chaotic a child’s outside existence the more they need order and stability in school.
So lets get back to the initial title of this article…..”it’s not all about the academic!”
In bringing a reflection of their problems into school we can see how this affects the children in EVERY aspect of their school life.
- Personal interactions with other children
- Personal interactions with adults and authority
- Self esteem and self worth
- Standards of work
And so the list can go on and on.
Some children will present these symptoms on a permanent basis whereas other children may start to show some or all of these symptoms in response to situations that have recently occurred (and of course these changes are an immediate indication of a problem).
In identifying all these areas, I have to tell you that there is no easy fix…there never is unfortunately.
However you must start by having an environment of stability and order that is predictable to the children in your class. We have discussed Classroom management strategies previously and you should stick with these no matter what happens. Everyone in class should know that your strategies are firm but fair and they must be able to predict what happens and when. In a childs world of unpredictability this is VITAL.
One of the mistakes that teachers make is to back off or give special consideration to a child having problems. This does not work – and we will look at just why in the next part of this article series.