A Random DiaBlog from a concerned Mum and Primary School Teacher.
My first Primary School teaching job was ten years after the introduction of the 1988 National Curriculum, which was about bearable. I was an Art Coordinator; my lessons were as creative as possible, I had freedom, fun and autonomy to a point. We made time for Golden Time and if there was Wet Play with board games, paper aeroplanes, Connect 4, craft, etc then the children were ecstatic. A chance for them to just BE, share, collaborate and discover with their friends.
Now, though, the intensity and control in schools is quite overwhelming and quite out of touch with 21st-century educational research and thinking. While there is a big noise around the terms ‘mindfulness’ and ‘wellbeing’ I’m not seeing much evidence of it being practised or supported in schools.
My experiences and conversations with teachers reinforce that it’s constant lesson after lesson with little space and intense, time-wasting form filling in and marking.
The kids call me the yoga lady and I sneak in downtime: “Quick kids let’s just STOP and breathe for three breaths, and if you’re feeling rebellious you can close your eyes.” We don’t need more mindfulness; we need to shake things up and encourage more playfulness.
In some schools I still see kids sitting in corridors missing entire playtimes for being ‘naughty’.
Kids are playing up more I feel because they are so systemised and controlled. From the age of 3, cameras are uploading photos of them to add to a personal statement, judgements made about their performance on tick sheets. They are quite happy learning and playing, put the clipboard away. I was once advised by a forward thinking rebellious Headteacher, never to disturb a child when they were concentrating.
I see a few schools with outdoor learning provision for Year 1, but it’s rare to see a dressing up box, role play area or golden time box valued after Year 2, ‘we haven’t got time.’ What do kids do when they go home, do they catch up on this lost play?
My son was in a detention a while back, and I remember asking his teacher if anyone had taken the time to listen to him and offer him some guidance and to think about how he might have handled it differently. The response was ‘oh we haven’t got time for all that’. It’s often quite a punishment escalation system – name on board, then missed playtime, loss of this, loss of that- constant carrot and stick intervention.
What no punishment? Why not create a meditation space – a safe place, time out space for children to reflect and work things out if necessary with older kids or adults on hand to talk things over with and socially coach them with language, kindness, compassion, empathy, eye contact, sharing skills, manners, responsibility, self-control, etc.?
Why not trial a no rewards system? No stickers or house points or, ‘good boy’ remarks to work and behave well, no good or bad judgements, but instead foster a playful, self directed community where children are excited, engaged and intrinsically motivated to learn.
Playtime, Downtime, Be Time – it’s our kid’s natural state. Kids waste a lot of time filling in their confusing and controlling Steps for Success forms and writing paragraphs using prefrontal adverbial prepositional lobotomy phrases, how about we give them back their playtime and mind space and treat them like the kids they are.
But it’s what we’ve always done. It can’t possibly change. ‘They’ made me do it.
In my next blog, I will explain the simplest and quickest way we can help our children to find ‘space’ in these busy days.
There is always hope – a rebel alliance