What Kids Need
School is a tricky thing. On the surface, it’s a case of teaching children the 3 R’s of “readin’, writin’ and rifmatic”. But inevitably, there’s whole lot more to education that that.
Trouble is, there are more versions of what makes a proper education than there are school students. Add to that, there are educational fashions. Right now it’s all about knowledge and wielding it for worthwhile careers (as opposed to horrible jobs… whatever they may be).
In some ways, we have reverted to an older approach where it was believed that measuring everything was the answer to educational problems. So it was in the late 1800’s when children were expected to spout facts and prove their usefulness to a questioning authority.
Now, there’s a lot less emphasis on rote learning and fact retention. But the ability to demonstrate performance is once again taking greater precedence than kids themselves.
Being infected with the teaching virus decades ago, I recognize the value of ticking boxes, showing demonstrable results, and equipping children to be academically savvy. But not at any cost.
What alarms me is that children come to school with a host of needs that aren’t being addressed even vaguely well. “So what?” someone might say. “Surely the purpose of school is to get students educated, not pussyfoot around with them”.
Well, yes, and then again no. In a hypothetical realm kids come to school bright-eyed and bushy tailed, their lunch box gleaming and filled with nutritious food. Whilst, behind them, you will see a sunny blue sky with a little rainbow behind and fluttering butterflies. Yeah, right.
Fact is, a great many children come to school tired, feeling defeated, frightened, and confused about themselves. That’s quite a package of challenges and together they pose a real obstacle to learning important skills and ideas.
So what kids need first is this:
- To feel safe and approved of.
- To be able to learn without fear of being humiliated.
- To have their interest piqued from where they are to make them (or keep them being) thirsty learners.
- To find their confidence and test their strengths, with people who genuinely care about them.
I want people who carp about education to consider these points. Children who come to school crying because Dad bashed Mum at breakfast need more than a clever literacy program. Just like kids who regularly miss breakfast and wonder what a lettuce leaf is. They need more than advanced maths. They need food!
Similarly, kids need more sleep because who amongst us can function at our best without a decent night’s rest? Many children consistently miss this and unless they receive practical care at a basic level, high order educational requirements border on being ridiculous (at least to them).
What children the world over need is compassion from all of us grown ups. Really. It’s the elephant in the room that we consistently keep missing. But when children know they are cared for, both practically and in relationship by someone, then they can become good learners.
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