Global events, our personal life experiences and our early childhood environments have a direct impact on us. Some of these life events can be small, whilst other larger events can have a far-reaching influence throughout our lives. These experiences on both sides of the ledger have the potential to define us and in many unfortunate cases they do.
How scary is it to think that things that happen prior to your birth could be the very thing that shapes your life? Negative or positive patterns are sometimes passed on from generation to generation in a never-ending loop. One child may have a parent who highly values education and another who has a toxic attitude towards it. One parent may be consistently affirming the worth and potential of their child at home, whilst another may be self-centred, undermining and critical in their communication. One parent may be overly ambitious for their child whilst being too busy to spend any significant time with them. Another may have low or high life aspirations for their child, yet provide their child with what they need emotionally to feel loved, safe and happy. These home/life experiences have the biggest impact on a teacher’s job in the classroom.
Two of the biggest challenges teachers face – that they have little control over, is meagre parental support and excessive pressure from overly ambitious parents who see their children as a means to measure their own success. Both cause damage to the child and are on the increase. Teachers are reporting more and more cases to child protection, which is a huge cause for concern. The lack of mental health in our schools has reached catastrophic levels and parents have an instrumental role to play in their children’s wellbeing.
Whether a child is born with a silver teaspoon in their mouth or they start life out at a disadvantage, one thing is guaranteed – they will equally be subjected to unavoidable setbacks and negative life events during the course of their adult life. The number of adults ‘not coping’ with life is on the increase and they are asking for help. If they had been ‘better prepared’ for life instead of being forced to only achieve academically, they would undoubtedly have a better chance at a successful and happy life.
I believe that even though our genes, our upbringing and our environment all play a critical part in who we become; we always have the power of choice and the ability to rise above these factors. How we empower teachers and parents with the skills to make this a reality for their children is the question we need to ask. It is imperative for a child to have a constant presence of a dependable adult, who is going to affirm their worth and potential and provide the right emotional support that gives them the strength and encouragement they need to believe in themselves.
Part of the solution is for our school curriculum to change; by finding a healthy balance between ‘academics’ and building the character of a child and nurturing their emotional state, whilst providing them with life-skills that enable them to be ‘life-ready’. We need to address the needs of the whole-person so that the child is prepared to play a positive role in society when they leave school. Schools must become places where parental education is a central pillar (no longer a nice value add on), possibly of equal importance to the child. A culture of lifelong learning for all. We need to create an education system that is relevant and that adds value to the life of every child and parent.
This starts with reinventing our education system, the teaching profession and the output that we measure for pupil success.
United Education Group