Monthly Archives: November 2015

Children are the real teachers

As someone who is a regular Facebook user, I see a lot of weird and wonderful videos on my timeline on a daily basis but this one has to have been my favourite by far. This child is having a conversation with her mum after her parents have gone through a divorce and her depth of enlightenment and understanding of the world is quite incredible.

She talks about how she wants “everyone to be steady” and in line with her heart. This is a great example of how at this age children may not know words for what they are trying to describe, in this case compassion, but can more often than not explain what they mean much better than any adult could. She talks about how much better the world would be if everyone smiled and if everyone could be friends. This message is so heart felt and is so important to remember when we are currently seeing a lot of hatred and violence around the world.

My favourite line that the child keeps repeating is, “I’m not trying to be mean” because it shows that she understands that people can try and enforce their opinions on others in a mean way but she is trying to achieve the opposite.

She then goes on to talk about how “everyone’s heart is something” which shows that she has strong morals about equality and everyone being seen as unique and having something to offer in the world. There is a constant theme in her argument that if she can do something, like smile or be nice, then everyone can because we are all the same. Her idea that everyone in the world would be monsters if we weren’t friends is such a powerful statement.

Have adults forgotten the importance of smiling? Have we as a society forgotten how to be friends? Are there people who have turned into monsters? What would the world be like if everyone kept it “steady” and “in line with the heart”?.

Children have so much to teach us.

Calling out for peace

The terrible news of the terrorist attack in Paris on Friday 13th November will not be new to many people. It is a story that has really struck a chord with me and makes me question; what kind of world are we living in? When innocent lives are being taken, and for what?

One of the biggest outcries on social media over the last couple of days has been the need to highlight more of these tragedies that different countries, around the world, are facing everyday. Just today there was another attack, this time in Kenya. (See article below)

How are we now meant to move on as a society? What can we do to make a difference? And, most importantly, how can we as teachers address such serious issues in the classroom? It can be difficult to know where to start and whether or not children are ready to hear about some of the horror stories we are subject to every single day.

I think it is really important that, from an early age, children understand that violence is not the answer to solving problems. It always amazes me that people think that the way to achieve peace is through war. If people had the ability to see past hatred and violence and focused on loving one another then the world would be a much safer and happier place. This is a message that is important to share with children as we want future generations to live in peace. Psychologist, Marshall Rosenberg, has a very interesting take on the topic of ‘Compassionate Communication’ which I encourage you to read:

Another issue that has been raised after the recent terrorist attacks is the increase in Islamicphobia. I find it absolutely ridiculous that people are blaming all Muslims for the actions of a minority group who practise the same religion. This is why it is vital to teach religious education in schools, to help children understand that there are always going to be stigmas attached to certain religions but that doesn’t make all those who practise that religion bad people.

One way of helping children to understand such big issues is through music. There are so many beautiful and meaningful songs that really get the simple message across that it is important to strive for peace. Some examples of simple songs that can be used in the primary school are in the links below.

Overall, I think it is important that we inform children of world issues when they are at a stage of development when they are not going to just feel scared about these stories but will actually be able to communicate how they feel about the issues. It is important that we don’t cause them to live in fear but encourage each individual to make a difference. Something as simple as a session on reflective writing, poetry or through song could be a really effective lesson to cover some of the harder topics that are important to address.

The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds

This programme, on Channel 4, was recommended to me by a friend and I thought it was something worth sharing. As primary teachers we will be expected to teach some children as young as 4 years old, therefore it is important that we understand the stage of development they are at when they start school.

This episode shows how from a young age children are already influenced by gender. When asked to pick their teams for the bean bag race there was a clear divide between the boys team and the girls team. This game also shows that boys at this age are very competitive and sometimes bend the rules to win, whereas the girls see the rules as very important. Some of the boys also became aggressive and upset when they weren’t chosen as team captain. This shows how boys and girls think in different ways and why it is important to create different learning environments to suit everyone.

Another point that is raised in this episode is that some children are still facing language barriers at the age of 4. This can be as simple as not knowing the right word to use in a situation and can become very infuriating for the child. This is an important point because, as teachers, it is essential to be patient, especially with the younger children who may struggle in this way.

An example at the opposite end of the scale is when you get a child who avoids social interaction and finds comfort in objects and numbers. The child in this episode was thought to perhaps be on the autistic spectrum, as he showed  great interest in areas that others might not e.g. buses and found it difficult to socialise with the other children. It is important to realise that not all children will feel comfortable in social situations and that being in a classroom situation is actually really difficult for them. Flexible lesson plans are vital to suit the needs of specific children in your class so that they all feel comfortable in their learning environment.

It was very interesting to observe another child try and bring the child who isolated himself out into the playground with the other children. He had decided that this boy would be his friend and that he was not going to give up. This particular child is being brought up by parents who often talk about and value love. This was obvious when he was the only boy who showed sympathy towards the girls when they lost the bean bag race. At this point it is important to note that children all come from different backgrounds and so will behave in different ways. Although they are all the same age, some children can be seen as more mature or developed than others due to their home circumstances.

To follow on from this point, the episode showed how having siblings can influence a child’s behaviour. When it came to sharing toys, the children with siblings were able to make compromises whilst the only child was seen as bossy. This is because the only child is not used to sharing with other children and so has to learn that this is important. This can result in arguments among the children but it is important to let them learn how to solve their differences through discussion and reasoning.

A further point that is highlighted is that young children get upset very easily. They find it hard if someone tells them that they like someone else more than them or if they are not allowed to join in someone’s game. This is where, as a teacher, it is important to listen to the children because although it may sound silly to you it means a lot to them.

It is important to note that most children start school when they are 5 and so it can sometimes be a challenge for the 4 year olds to keep up. This is why it is important to remember that within a year group there will be a mix of ages and abilities to work with and plan lessons for.