A couple of days ago, my little boy, Phoenix, came home from school with a piece of homework, which was to write a paragraph about what he had learned from his participation in a school project.
There were a couple of examples of what he should write – resilience was one of them.
Fantastic, I thought! This absolutely ties in with my research recently on what makes children successful.
So, I asked him : “Phoenix, what does resilience mean?”
“I don’t know,” came the answer.
So, rather than tell him the dictionary definition, which would probably go in one ear and out the other, I thought it best that I lead by example.
I found a lovely few words on ‘teaching your child resilience‘, which I thought might be interesting reading for all us parents and teachers out there.
Here’s a summary :
1. Listen with your heart;
2. See the world through your child’s eyes;
3. Accept [your]children for who they are;
4. Develop strengths;
5. Teach that mistakes are an opportunity to learn;
6. Promote responsibility by giving responsibility;
7. Teach your children to make their own decisions;
8. Discipline, but don’t denigrate.
This is just a rough guide but I think there’s some good stuff here ….. well worth checking out!
The more I read, the more I hear and the more I think about it, our current established education system leaves a lot to be desired.
I recently saw a video interview (featured) by Noam Chomsky (professor at MIT), which outlines his views on the purpose of education. An interesting interview, I have to say.
To sum up the ideas in this interview:
The Purpose of Education
He states that there are two concepts of the ‘purpose of education’. The first comes from the era of the Enlightenment, where traditional thinking states that education is a process of ENQUIRING and CREATING constructively and independently without external control. It’s about seeking out the riches of the past and internalising the important parts – or the parts which are important to you.
This style of education has children questioning and challenging a standard doctrine and searching for alternatives.
The second concept of education is indoctrination, where children are taught to accept and not challenge a certain set of data given to them. They are taught to fulfil the roles given to them – that failure to follow those rules results in punishment. They are taught not to ‘shake the systems of power and authority’.
The Impact of Technology
Chomsky states in his interview that although the impact of technology is very real in our lives today, the effects are not as dramatic as, let’s say, the introduction of plumbing or the development of transport, which were born of creative inquiry.
His comparison of technology to a hammer was interesting: a hammer does not care whether it is used to build a house or smash someone’s skull. His point, of course, is that inquiry provides a framework and directs ones questions and research so that we can find what needs to be pursued and reject the rest. This framework is needed in order for technology to be useful.
Tests are practical only in the sense that they show what a child knows now and how much more he/she needs to know – but they do not necessarily test UNDERSTANDING. A child can perform brilliantly on a test and not really understand a thing.
Tests can not only be meaningless, but they can do more damage in the sense that they can divert attention away from really meaningful learning. Tests can potentially mean nothing more than a set of hurdles our children need to jump – they are not the same as exploration.
A gem from this interview is one quote:
“It does not matter what we cover (in class), it matters what we discover.”
We should be helping our children get to the point where they can think and learn on their own, not just regurgitate a set of given facts on command.
I was quite surprised this week to read an article in the education section of a couple of leading UK newspapers stating that OFQUAL (the education watchdog) has called for new GCSE Maths exam papers to be rewritten because they are ‘too hard’.
My reading of this article coincides with the completion of a book I have been reading recently called “How Children Succeed” by Paul Tough. In his book, Tough highlights several anecdotes or studies of children, mainly from poorer areas, who have succeeded regardless of all the odds which were stacked against them. The reason for their success? Passion, self-belief, grit.
In my other readings recently, about the PISA successes of Asian countries such as Singapore and South Korea, I’ve found that the resilience of children is almost taken for granted – children are capable of more than we think. And children are pushed to limits higher than we would even dream of in the UK – because there is an expectation that chidren can do it.
So, this beggars the question: Why do we (in the UK, for example) not believe that our children can do this? Why do we not give them a chance, an opportunity to grow and prove themselves? Why do we set the bar so low, and change the exams to make them easier?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we should exclude children and make them feel they are not worthy, because they find it hard to perform at the higher standards. I’ve been particularly intrigued by the Finnish education system, where teachers go out of their way to help kids feel included – and these kids flourish at the higher standards, too.
Instil in students the passion, self-belief and grit to succeed, and surely we can get our kids to do these hard exams too….?
Our children are capable of far more than we think. Let’s give them a chance!
A while ago, I saw this animated video of a speech given by Sir Ken Robinson on how ‘Schools Kill Creativity’.
Looking at it again, I realise once more how many amazing and insightful things this genius educator has to say about our education systems.
In this video, he tells us how we are getting our kids through education by anaesthetising them into boredom, and he calls for action to ‘wake them up’. He ponders upon the problem of how standardised testing has in fact killed creativity in our kids, and how, as educators, we should actually be ‘going in the opposite direction’.
I am constantly inspired by Sir Ken’s talks. So, I’d like to share this one here, for us all to learn from and enjoy.