Archive of ‘education’ category

Homework should go in the bin. End of.

Yes homework should be banned. I have said it before and I’ll say it again – children need to be allowed to be children. The school day is jam packed enough with academic and educational lessons, and in my opinion that is where it needs to stay.

Homework is a complete and utter waste of time. It helps no one, least of all the children and I can say this with absolute confidence having been a primary school teacher and assessment leader who has monitored the impact of homework on children’s learning and their knowledge retention. Homework is often fought against by the children and then it creates tension, which leads to huge battles that only serve to make exhausted and tired children feel even worse about themselves and their learning.

Children are naturally inquisitive and motivated. They just are. But the pressure piled on by the government and schools with regards to their education stamp this out of them bit by bit, until they no longer want to learn and are no longer enthusiastic about school.

Home should be the place where children are allowed to relax, play, and be taught age appropriate skills that serve a purpose in their lives. Swimming, bike riding, cooking to name a few. They do not need to sit down at the dinner table and spend the precious few hours after school with their parents struggling with yet more work.

Homework takes away quality family time. There is no time to go to the park after school, or go swimming or bowling or do anything, because the school day does not stop at half past three anymore. And on top of that, many parents often feel inadequate because they don’t understand homework set and cannot help their children. How great is that, setting something that makes the entire family feel like a piece of crap.

I wish now, just like I have wished for the last few years, that people would realise that children are not work horses good for nothing but doing academic work until they leave school and then have to go out into the real world. They don’t deserve to have their childhood sucked away from them by people who truly believe that bringing a horse to water will make them drink. Throwing extra work down children’s mouths will not turn them all into geniuses. Ask a fish to climb a tree and it will fail, yet breathe underwater and it will excel. What about those children who are destined to be creative? Those who could be inspirational artists or award winning designers? What about those who will excel in the West End or inspire the next generation somehow? How does homework help them?

Being academic is not for everyone. And making parents force their children to consolidate the learning they have done at school is unfair. That is not a parents’ job. As parents yes, of course, we want to and can encourage and support our children through their time at school, but we do not need to become their second teacher. We are their parents. Their carers. The people responsible for helping them grow into independent and confident adults who are not afraid to chase their dreams.

When will this obsession with academia being the sole focus for all children end? When will education teach them skills they could not survive without at adults? Allow for individuality? Allow for creativity?

When will children be allowed to be just that…children? Without a fear of failure. Without pressure. Without stress.

Children are the most magical and wonderful human beings on this planet and they are the only things that can offer hope and inspire change. And change is what we desperately need because the current state of the world is one that is going to require resilience, empathy and compassion in bucket loads.

Take your child to the park. Show them the world if you can. Open their eyes.

And throw the damn homework in the bin.

Politics and Parenting

Politics: the activities associated with the governance of a country or area, especially the debate between parties having power.

I clearly remember the first time I voted. My dad drove me to the local town hall, informed me that I would be given a piece of paper and a pencil, and then told me exactly where I should mark my cross.

And I dutifully did as I was told. Because I knew nothing at all about politics. I knew who the Prime Minister was and I’d cheered/got angry based on the results of various general elections over the previous years as a teenager, but my responses were all based on the opinions of my parents. They didn’t shout about it, they didn’t beat me into submission and make me vote the same way they did it just happened, exactly as it happens now. Children are not educated about any aspect of politics, or how our country is run until it is too late and they are eighteen and in the voting booth following in the footsteps of their parents.

But is this right? Is teaching your children about politics a form of extremism? Indoctrination?

Or responsible?

Politics around the world has over time become more and more messed up and dangerous – Brexit and Donald Trump are two very real and present examples – but if children were educated about politics then maybe, just maybe, when they were eighteen and given the power to vote for the first time they’d be able to make a more informed, independent decision, knowing the full impact of their actions. If they learnt the basics, without bias, of what each political party stood for, about the past governments and which policies have worked or been an unmitigating disaster, of learning about the country outside of their own immediate experiences, then would they not be in a better position to use their vote wisely? To be fully informed?

Yes, I know that many parents might unwittingly, or I don’t doubt on purpose, pass their own ideals down to their children and OF COURSE this is something that should never be encouraged. But I still don’t think that should mean we can’t educate children about politics at all for fear of this. Children should be free to know all the facts, form their own opinions, and draw their own conclusions. Otherwise isn’t their vote a wasted one anyway?

The current system doesn’t work. It’s not indoctrination, its ignorance. The future Prime Minister may very well be the little girl who was recently on the ITV news giving a passionate speech to Theresa May. Damn right she should know who the Prime Minister is. Hell yes she is right to be concerned about homeless people. She didn’t smack of a child fed some bullshit by her parents to me, she was simply a young girl who doesn’t understand why Theresa May can’t go around giving hot chocolate to homeless people with floppy ears. This child is clearly inquisitive and caring and wants to make a change. And I say that should be encouraged.

What do you think?

Robot Number 478

Robot: A robot is a mechanical or virtual agent, usually an electro-mechanical machine that is guided by a computer program or electronic circuitry.

I’m sorry it appears that Robot Number 478 isn’t performing well. He’s failing, he’s not doing what it says in the instruction manual. He is not achieving what he is supposed to be achieving. He’s not good enough. Make him work harder. If he gets something right make him do something more challenging. Never let him feel he’s achieved anything, you must constantly make him do more. What do you mean he can’t retain all of this new information? He has to. Failure is not an option. He must perform. He must reach the targets set out for him, in fact he must exceed them at all costs. He wants to do what…play? My goodness no there’s no time for that. All robots must work at all times. All robots must be overwhelmed with new ideas and new concepts and they must learn them all immediately. There’s no time for trying to understand these robots…they must do as they are told and get to where they are meant to be. Robots must always have more to do, they are never done and must never feel the joy of success. Push them harder, challenge them more, never let them relax. I know let’s make sure they are here for longer – robots don’t need sleep or time away to be just a robot. Why is Robot number 478 still not where he should be academically? Why is he not doing what he’s told? Test him again, test him more. What is wrong with him? I’m sorry, what did you say? ? I do not understand, what do you mean these robots are all different? What do you mean that they all have different talents and skills? That they will not all conform to our rigid expectations? You think all robots’ successes should be measured in happiness and not targets? That they only get one chance to be robots…one chance at having confidence, self belief and pride instilled in them. One chance at being inspired, motivated and enthused. Why is this all so important to you?

Why I say…because they are not robots…they are children. Beautiful precious children. And their education needs to change. Not to one with longer days, shorter holidays and more pressure and stress, but to one that embraces childhood and its beautiful simplicity. One that allows children to be children and rewards enjoyment as well as success. An education not measured by targets and levels…but by laughter and smiles. Children instinctively want to learn and have an innate desire to please. They are adventurous and inquisitive; they believe in fairy tales and magic and are filled to bursting with enthusiasm. They are amazing, deserve the very best…and if I had a magic wand I’d make our current education system worthy of them.

If only I had that magic wand…

MAD Blog Awards

Can I really have it all?

Complete: having all the necessary or appropriate parts.

Warning: the following post is a complete outpouring of random thoughts…

Oh if only I could have it all and be complete…the world would be amazing! I’d have a size ten figure and eat chocolate. I’d have wine with no hangover. I’d have children yet spontaneity. The world would be my oyster. But can we, and by we I mean women, really ever truly have it all? Can I be a mother, a teacher and a blogger? Are there enough hours in the day; do I have the capacity and mental and physical energy to do all of these things to the very best of my ability, or does something inevitably have to give?

This week I went back to work, and even though it’s only been for two days it’s impacted on my life hugely. I’ve been dreaming about work, thinking about it when I’m not there and even – shock horror – doing some school work at home. I’ve not seen my children as much as I would normally and I feel distanced. I’ve not been on Twitter hardly at all and I feel removed from that too.

Before I went back to work I was happy and fulfilled. Being a full time mum was amazing, and blogging gave me the mental stimulation I craved. I wrote and published a book, I even made some money…and things were getting exciting. I was planning on organising a post natal depression awareness week…something that would take a huge amount of organisation, but is such an important thing to do. I was becoming involved in Team Honk and the fabulous bloggers relay across the land. I was developing my blog and writing more books (as yet unseen and unpublished.) It was exciting, I was excited, I loved it. And while I still can (and most definitely will) do all of those things, if I’m honest I’m already very anxious that I will not be able to dedicate as much time and energy to them as I would have when I wasn’t at work. Sometimes if you’re away from the world if Twitter just for one day you can miss so much, and the same is true of children. And I certainly don’t want to miss a single minute with them.

As I warned you at the beginning, this post really is a bit of an outpouring of thoughts and confused feelings at the moment and I appreciate it if you’re still reading. 😉

I’m the kind of person who doesn’t do anything by halves – my boss once said to me that no one could ever meet my expectations as I set them impossibly high, hence why I’m not great at job sharing – and I don’t want to do something unless I can give it my absolute all. Yet, if I try and maintain those expectations of myself, then all of the things I want in my life may not all be able to stay. Obviously I can’t give up my children…so what will go? I guess maybe, only time will tell and I’ll naturally gravitate to the things I am most passionate and enthusiastic about. But oh it would be so lovely if nothing had to give…if these emotions and anxieties were just all part of getting into a new routine, a new groove, and that in a few weeks I’ll look back and wonder what all the fuss was about. Because of course I can have it all…I’m a woman aren’t I?! 😉

Have any of you felt like this? Can we have it all because if we can, I’d love to know how! 😉

Reluctance

Reluctance: unwillingness or disinclination to do something. “she sensed his reluctance to continue” synonyms: unwillingness, disinclination, lack of enthusiasm.

Urgh. Meh. Pah. Bleurch. On Monday, for the first time in nearly two years, I will return to work as a primary school teacher after my third (and final) maternity leave. A couple of weeks ago – feeling extremely nervous and apprehensive – I went into school to join in their Christmas lunch. And when I came home I wrote this…

Today I went into work for the first time in a very long time. And in January I return to work after nearly two years of extended maternity leave. How was it you ask? Strange, horrible, exciting, different.

For those of you who don’t know I’m a primary school teacher and have been for the last 14 years since I qualified. I’ve worked both as a supply (supply teacher of the month May 2003 I’ll have you know!) and then as a permanent member of staff in my current school since September 2003. During that time teaching, my school and myself have changed unrecognisably. It’s fair to say the current education system neither excites or motivates me – if I had Michael Gove’s job things would be done very differently, but sadly I don’t, and somehow have to fit back into a school and a system I’m not particularly enamoured with.

Now I’m not going to go into detail about my actual school, because let’s face it as a teacher I’m not entirely sure I should blog about work at all, but what I do want to write about is how I’m feeling about returning. This will be the third time I’ve returned from work after having a baby. The first time I was a single parent and my daughter was 18months old. Having had to defer my last year at university after my father had died I hadn’t had a full time job before I got pregnant, so being a supply teacher seemed like the perfect way to get back into teaching. And it was the right time. My daughter has always been very busy, inquisitive and sociable and (as my mum lived over two hours away so couldn’t help out) nursery seemed like the best choice. She settled in instantly which helped and I was excited to return to work. Supply teaching meant if I needed a day off I could easily have one, but it did mean no holidays as I worked in nursery school during the school holiday time, or there was I didn’t get paid. It worked well. Working three days a week gave me the best of both worlds and I loved being ‘me’ at work, something that was mine and defined me and I was good at. Then, when she was three, I had an opportunity to work permanently and full time. A choice I didn’t take lightly, but a regular income was too good to turn down.

Skip down the line a couple of years and I met my husband and became pregnant again. This time I was on maternity leave for just ten months, and at the end of it I was raring to get back to work. I thrived on the buzz, applied for and got a promotion whilst on maternity leave and loved it. Working three days again was brilliant and I still got to spend some wonderful time with my children when I wasn’t at work. I became an expert at compartmentalising things and when at home work did not cross my mind once.

And this time, well this time is different. This time is so very different. And I’m not sure why. Is it me? Is it work? Is it because of pnd? Or because I know I’m not having anymore children and going back to work is now forever until I retire…which will probably be when I’m one hundred and fifty if the government have anything to do with it. Although this maternity leave has been one of my most challenging – pnd really is a complete bitch – it has also been the most amazing time of my life. I knew I would want to take extended maternity leave when I first found out I was pregnant and applied for it straight away; and I’m so grateful we’ve (just about) been able to afford it. With my middle child starting school last September I knew that the long settling in period would be difficult to manage if I was working. My husband works away often and there is no family close by to help out and I didn’t want to rely on wrap around care immediately like I had to with my daughter. And now I’ve taken that extra magical, and wonderful time away from work it’s making it so much harder to go back. My life is pretty amazing at the moment. Yes I have a challenging pre-teen saying she hates me often, yes I have two wonderfully lively boys who never stop, and yes some days I am overwhelmed with the groundhogness of it all – but it really is simply perfect. I love being with my children, I love being able to blog, I love spending time with my friends who are mums themselves. And of course none of those things actually have to stop, but they will be impacted upon by work.

And work itself. I felt lonely today, which is ridiculous considering the staff are over 60 in number. It’s changed so much. I likened it earlier to some colleagues to the boiling frog analogy – and that those still there haven’t noticed the many changes because they have been subtle and over a period of time, like the frog not realising he’s getting too hot – and then there’s me, the frog thrown into the boiling water and screaming because it’s painful and shockingly different and not a pleasant place for me to be at all.

And then I stopped writing. So, Monday is the day and as you can probably guess I’m pretty reluctant. Hopefully once I’m back all of the people who have said, ‘It’ll be like you never left!’ will prove to have been right. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

Do you work? How did you feel about going back…any magical words of advice for me?!

Releasing the middle one.

Release: 1. To set free from confinement, restraint, or bondage: released the prisoners. 2. To free from something that binds, fastens, or holds back; let go: released the balloons; released a flood of questions. 3. To dismiss, as from a job.

So, it’s Wednesday again and time for a quote from me for my #wednesdaywords. And this Wednesday is indeed a very special one. For today, my middle child started school. Well, I say started…he actually only went in for two hours as the school has a ridiculously long settling in period, but nevertheless it was the first day he would wear his uniform and cross the threshold of the school building independently. A building where he will spend the next 7 years of his life and come out an entirely different person, shaped and moulded by many different experiences.

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The first drop off thankfully went very smoothly. There were no battles about putting the uniform on, no tears about us leaving; just a gentle apprehension about what would happen next. The boy is so confident in so many ways and yet so shy and stilted in others. New experiences gently shake him and new people cause him to become mute and often hide behind my legs. I was worried about him starting school, worried as to whether he’d actually talk to any of the adults there. However this morning he embraced the change; the new; the unknown. He seemed a little nervous, but mostly excited about what was coming. And when he came out he was buzzing with talk of everything he’d done. He surprised me and I felt so proud. I’m a firm believer in bringing my children up to be confident and independent and his independence today made me smile. Even though he wasn’t 100% confident, he had the courage to do something new, like all of the other wonderful children in his class.

Interestingly this morning it was actually my husband who was the emotional one; he says he can never explain exactly why he is emotional (men!) but today he felt like he was giving our son over to a new part of his life. He said he hadn’t felt that emotional since the birth of our youngest. That it was the uniform, the formality. The emotion, my husband says, came completely out of the blue as he’d mostly been very excited about seeing our son off to school. And then leaving him and seeing him all alone in the classroom hit him hard. This made me feel a bit guilty, for I’d spent so many weeks preparing the boy for school that I’d forgotten all about Daddy…who was a mess!

And me. Ah where to start. Surprisingly given everything I’ve blogged about in the past I was actually very strong today. I’ve become very good at compartmentalising things; for example when I’m at work I am focused on work and don’t think about home, and vice versa when I am at home. Today I knew my role was to be happy and confident and show my son that school was nothing to fear, that it was something to enjoy and be excited about. I knew I couldn’t cry or hang around and pander to his apprehension or that would make it worse for him. I guess the primary school teacher in me came out a little bit as well. I knew being strong would help my son and would help his teachers. (And maybe, dare I say it, help me too?!)

So no, I haven’t cried yet. Maybe I’m not allowing myself to comprehend the enormity of today. But maybe it’s not the actual starting school bit I’m sad about. For he’s not the only one staring school today; there are hundreds and thousands of small children starting this week just like there were last year and will be again next year. No, it’s not that he’s starting school that makes me sad, it’s the loss of our time together. It’s that my little boy will spend most of his days away from me; changing, learning, and growing with someone else guiding him. As teachers we are ‘in loco parentis.’ We are their parents when they are at school and I’m emotional about having to share my son with so many other people. People who may hear him read his first word, or answer his first sum. People who will be as proud of his achievements as I am. People that aren’t me.

I’ve blogged about releasing children before. About how they are slowly released from us over time and that we have to let them go, confident that they will be safe in the care of others and will learn to trust their instincts and make the right decisions in the future, but I am always surprised about how hard I actually find it. My Twitter and Facebook timelines are full of mums and dads anxious and emotional about their children starting school. Parents who are pushed out of their comfort zones and are having to do something that they find difficult in learning to release their children a little bit. I know I’m not the only one. Can I offer advice? Wisdom? Can I reassure these parents that it gets easier with each child? Ummm no, sadly I don’t think I can…because for me it hasn’t. And I imagine that when my youngest goes to school in three years time, I may not be as composed as I have been today. For me it seems, releasing my children is proving to be be more difficult with each child.

Based on all of this the quote I have chosen for today’s #wednesdaywords is this….
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Because today in this family, we’ve all had to do something that scares us a little bit. Be it starting school…or letting go.

Collaboration

Collaboration: Collaboration is working with each other to do a task. It is a recursive process where two or more people or organisations work together to realise shared goals, this is more than the intersection of common goals seen in co-operative ventures, but a deep, collective, determination to reach an identical objective.

So, yesterday was another day. And another debate that has divided Twitter into two camps….those who teach, and those who don’t.

Regularly teachers are criticised, condemned and blamed for everything from too much sex education to giving children chocolate. We are admonished for having too many holidays, too much time off and yes…of course we finish work at three fifteen every day!

Yesterday’s debate started with talk about taking holidays during term time. This is an argument for which I can see both sides. As a teacher it’s a sodding pain in the arse when one or two of your class aren’t there for a fortnight. They miss whole concepts. They miss precious bonding time. They miss routine, being part of a school community and so much more. However, I can also see it from the viewpoint of a parent, why should we have to pay extortionate amounts to take a holiday? Why should we be dictated to and only be allowed to go away at certain times of the year or risk a fine?

But what has got to me today, is that even though it is NOT teachers who have made up this ridiculous law, it is teachers who are being blamed and condemned for it. Being a teacher is endlessly frustrating and for every parent who thanks you for being an inspiration to their child there are a million others quick to criticise. We are criticised for working children too hard, for not working them hard enough, for being too firm, for being too lenient. It is a very very difficult job to meet the individual needs of 30 children, but it’s a hell of a lot harder meeting the needs of their parents.

And I know, I KNOW, that YOU are their parents and I can hear you screaming at me through my computer. But so many parents don’t trust us to do what is right for their children, they don’t listen. The media and Gove don’t bloody help either, but I can assure you that all we are ever trying to do is what is best for your child, each and every single one of them, every single day. I am very aware as a teacher that children get one shot at school and they deserve their shot to be the very best. Sadly though too many people don’t respect teachers, which in turn results in children not respecting teachers. If the parent doesn’t support the school, then naturally it feeds down.

Anyway, I digress. The debate was about holidays during term time. In my own personal opinion I think family holidays are so important. Time when you can be a family with no pressure of work, commitments or school. To explore other countries, learn new languages and immerse yourself in new cultures. And I would argue that travel firms, who I know are businesses and will therefore function like one, create divides by upping their prices dramatically during the holidays which sadly out prices holidays for many people. I should know, I don’t get a choice and can only go away in the school holidays! I think there are certain times in the year when a holiday in term time could, maybe be ok, at the end of term for example and I DON’t agree with schools fining parents if they take their children out unauthorised during term time or the new law one bit. And what frustrates me more than anything is that everyone blames schools when it’s the sodding government who are responsible for the half the shit we have to do anyway. It is not schools who are banning packed lunches, it is not schools who are banning holidays!! It is the government who are proposing all of these things.

I’m not saying that education is perfect at the moment, far far from it, (that’s another post!) but every single teacher I know could not be more passionate about their profession. Could not be more motivated and enthusiastic to provide children with the best possible education they can. Most teachers at my school get there at half past seven in the morning and have to be thrown out of the building by the caretaker at six o’clock, then only to take masses of work home and sit and do it all evening. And before someone comments that there are some rubbish teachers in the world then yes, you’re right, there are, we can’t all be perfect, but thankfully they are in the minority. Many, many teachers are parents themselves and do for every single child in their class what they would expect a teacher to do for their children. I have become so attached to the children I’ve taught in the past that at the end of the year I have been in tears at the thought of not teaching them everyday the following year.

I just wish for once that parents and schools could work as teams, we’ve all got children’s best interests at heart after all. The whole holiday in term time debate is just another angle for which teachers can be criticised from. It’s such a shame. If we all had a report card about collaboration I imagine it would say…..could do better.

I have also written a post about Gove’s proposed longer school days and shorter holidays which you can read here.