This has led to me thinking a lot about teaching and learning and some of the potential barriers to effective learning. Without solid foundations our pupils are, as learners, unsupported and they can flounder lacking the tools needed to be effective learners and to succeed not just in education but in life.
So the 3 Rs, responsibility, resilience and respect form part of a toolkit which if used effectively, I believe, enable our pupils to become more efficient learners.
Let's start with responsibility - how many of us frequently hear excuses from both our pupils (of all ages) and more worryingly their parents? Excuses for why homework isn't done, why they can't do P.E. why they haven't read at home, why they haven't completed projects and even why their class work is not up to standard. I'm guessing quite a lot of us. So why is this? Well I think is because we (adults) shy away from giving children and young adults responsibility. In fact we go to great lengths to avoid it on their behalf. I know when I was a young child of primary school age I had lots of responsibility. Ranging from getting myself ready for school, walking to school by myself, doing simple chores at home, being sent to the shops to collect essentials we had run out of making cups of tea for everyone in the family ...... All of these responsibilities gave me a sense of belonging, they raised my self esteem, they taught me to be responsible for my actions and not to take what others did for me for granted. Most importantly it taught me the value of hard work, if I wanted to be good at something I knew I had to work at it. I had responsibilities and I was responsible. My parents would not have made excuses for me but then I never expected them too or indeed needed them too. I knew my responsibilities and I got on with them. I understand the worries we have nowadays that result in parents reluctance to give children responsibilities. It is almost unheard of now for most pupils to walk to school alone let alone go to the shops for 'messages' as we called them. But I think that there are so many thing we as teachers to help give pupils responsibilities.
Next resilience or as I like to call it 'bounce back ability' - we live in an increasing blame culture. If a child falls over and grazes a knee in the playground or has a very minor bump or bruise we all rush around writing notes to parents and filling in copious forms. P.E. lessons are a minefield of risk assessments and many traditional playground activities such as handstands and cartwheels are banned for fear of the risk of injury. Add into this the increasing 'fear' teachers live in of parental complaints if they so much as look at their pupils in the wrong way let alone chastise them or laugh with them for fear of offending both the pupil and their parents. All of which has resulted in children who have very little natural resilience. Life, as we all know is tough. It is full of knocks, injustices and cruelty yet we do not prepare our pupils for this if we fail to encourage resilience. We all have to be able to 'bounce back' when life knocks us or when things don't go our way.
Finally respect - this is two fold, respect for the adults around them, including parents, teachers, the police etc, respect for their friends and peers as well as self respect. Now respect is a tough one due in some part to a growing culture of lack of respect in society in general. We don't respect our elderly, we mistrust the police, we are one of the few countries who don't really have respect for our soldiers, we distrust people of other cultures and have lost our sense of cultural identity. It is hardly suprising then that the word 'respect' is not a word or concept our children understand or are familiar with. If they do not see the adults around them showing respect then they will not understand how to show or give it themselves. Lack of respect for others then goes hand in hand with lack of self respect which then leads to lack of self esteem and we all know where that can lead our pupils to as learners and in all parts of their lives.
Now what frustrates me is that in classes all over the country, in primary schools, secondary schools and colleges teachers are teaching theses 3Rs every day.
Pupils are making HUGE progress in these areas. Developing the skills to enable them to be efficient learners and happier more rounded citizens. However, these essential skills are not measurable. Ofsted do not recognise them or care about them yet without them pupils are not as likely to make the measurable progress that Ofsted care about so much.
We, as teachers and educators must keep teaching these skills, we cannot afford to let our pupils down! Now I make this plea because I have heard teachers say:
'I can't possibly do circle time or PSHE, we haven't got 5 days to go on the annual residential trip, school council can only meet in their own time or I will not meet my targets!'
All of which makes me cringe. We are allowing outside pressures to dictate how we teach, to prevent us teaching those thing we have done for years and that we know are hugely important. There has to be time, the 3rs are essential!
Find the time, do what you have done for years, do not allow this ludicrous system turn you into robots. Be the best teacher you can be and your pupils deserve. Do circle time, discuss issues in the news, talk, talk, talk! Do PSHE, encourage School Council, give your pupils a voice, make them think about their values!
After all we are talking about pupils, children, young adults, not results, levels, Sats scores!
And with these essential tools guess what will happen? They will succeed, they will actually be more efficient learners but more importantly better citizens.