I have come to the conclusion today that a change of mind set is needed amongst many teachers and teaching assistants. In our school, we have done a lot of work about promoting “purple learning” amongst our children: we are teaching them to be proactive in their learning, to push themselves to be in the “challenge zone” and to evaluate their own effectiveness in lessons. In our classes, the word “hard” is banned: work can be “a challenge” but never hard. It may just be semantics, but the connotation of the two phrases is completely different. If work is too hard, it is seen as a negative: a barrier. But challenging work is different: a challenge is an obstacle which can be overcome.
The children know this rule, they know that they are not allowed to coast through the lessons, they know that they shouldn’t push themselves into the panic zone, but they should always be challenged. It has taken time, but they have gradually changed their way of thinking. They like a challenge, and they realise that finding work easy all of the time will not help them to learn.
So why, then, do the staff all comment on how hard the work is? “Ooh, they found that hard,” has been heard many times this week, after completing some of our new assessments. How can it be good for the children to hear us saying this? It goes completely against everything we have been teaching them. Yes, the tests were challenging, some far more so than others, but with the right attitude, the children can get through and even enjoy them. Today’s test was one of the more challenging ones: even I took a sharp intake of breath when I looked inside. But, we joked about it together, I constantly reassured the children that it was meant to be a challenge, and we all treated it as a learning opportunity. It was a chance for them and me to find out where their strengths lie and where we need to improve. I am sure the children have all performed far better than if I had told them how hard the test was.
As a profession, we need to stop viewing our children negatively. We constantly look for where they are failing and talking about them in this way. Of course we need to know what they can’t do, but surely it’s an area for development rather than a failing? And whose failing is it, theirs or ours?
If nothing else has come out of me writing my blog, I have changed the way I view everyday life. I made a promise to myself that this blog was going to be a positive celebration rather than an opportunity to rant or moan. I think this way of thinking has also rubbed off on me from day to day: I try to view everything with a positive slant. I’m not saying I wander round with rose tinted glasses all of the time, but I do try to find a positive in most things. Yes, I’m well aware I sound like Mary Poppins, but she hasn’t done too badly for herself, has she??! Maybe we could all take a leaf out of her book, after all, she does talk some sense:
“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and snap, the job’s a game. And every task you undertake becomes a piece of cake A lark, a spree, it’s very clear to see”
Come on, let’s be honest here, who sang along in their head as they read the words? And who managed a tiny little smile as they did it? Yes, she definitely does see the world through very pink lenses, and it’s an extreme way of thinking, but we could all be a little more like the super nanny and look for the positives. Let’s practise what we preach and celebrate the challenges in life. Our children (and Mary!) can surely lead the way for us.
P.S. I had no idea when I started this post that it would end up quoting Mary Poppins! I can only apologise!!!