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Schools Could Be Cool If…

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I’ve never felt the urge to bang my head against a concrete wall so badly in my life! I just stepped back into the classroom, after about 18 months away, to do a short contract. I’m working with a lovely group of colleagues and administration. The high school is equipped with more than adequate supplies and resources and is situated on a large block of land with plenty of nature to enjoy. The students, are a nice group of kids and 60% of them don’t give a flying f*ck about school.

I’ve been seriously scratching my head… why don’t these kids care? Or why CAN’T they care? Well, I have a few ideas why…

1. Kids Can’t Learn When They’re Stressed
School CAN be an awesome place… but not if a child is stressed. No matter where the stress comes from; home, diet, school itself, peers, too much TV, screen time or video games, or even self inflicted worrying, a child can’t learn if they are tired, run down or stressed. Until schools embrace programs in their curriculum that address the emotional and psychological needs of a child, there will always be a huge majority of students missing out on their full learning potential, simply because a kid can’t think if they’re brain is clouded by stress! Kids NEED to be taught, in gentle, loving ways, on how to deal with their stress and negative emotions. So many of them are turning to write my essay help sites, purely because their workload is too high, and their stress is far too unmanageable.

Some really simple things to start with are doing some sort of yoga or meditation, which will both relax and energize the kids. I had a class full of lovely year 12 students, who were tired and didn’t feel like working. We did 3 minutes of some breathing exercises, which literally brought the oxygen back to their brains, and afterwards, they immediately got into their work, even though some of them were not interested in the topic. I’ve taught many students a stress relief programs, called the Youth Empowerment Seminar (YES), through the Art of Living Foundation and I’ve seen, first hand, the enormous improvement in a child’s behavior and academic performance when their overall stress is reduced. If kids have more energy and are less stressed, they may even find it in them to learn about subjects that they usually think they would have no interest in. It’s no secret that kids are often stressed, especially high school students. Even they know they’re stressed… seriously, just ask them.

2. Kids Need to Use Both Sides of Their Brains to Optimally Learn
Can YOU sit through 5 or 6 hours a day of number crunching, language analyzing and interpreting new data? Um… I can’t (without complaining or falling asleep)… how can a child? The left side of the brain is for logic and the right side is more for creativity and intuition. Society has put such a huge emphasis on ‘academic learning‘, but we have forgotten that learning is not just ABCs and 123s. Singing, dancing, painting, drawing, creating and play are all HUGE avenues for learning. Most curriculums *try* to integrate some right brain, fun activities. But more often than not, teachers are left scrambling for enough time to fit content into their lessons (which are bombarded with distractions and interruptions in the first place). In the end, there is little or no chance to do any of the fun stuff. In some schools, you have time and resources to get around to the ‘extra‘ stuff, but not in most of the schools I’ve seen.

3. Time of Day Affects How Well Children Learn
When I was at a Steiner school, doing a five day workshop, we went through our days exactly as the kids would do in a typical Waldorf school. Dancing, moving and singing in the morning, main lesson in the middle of the day and some sort of craft in the afternoon. This schedule of reserving the main academic learning for the middle of the day is exactly in line with ayurveda’s explanation of how the day has a certain rythm. You can’t teach a kid a new mathematical equation first thing in the morning or at the end of the day as efficiently as you can if you teach it in the middle of the day. Think about it… the middle of the day is when you’re supposed to eat a big lunch, so it’s when your metabolism (and brain) is working best! Rearranging a child’s schedule to fit into a daily rhythm that coincides with nature, could make HUGE improvements on just about everything!

4. Kids Need to be Loved Unconditionally and Accepted For Who They Are
From the day a child is born, we teach our kids that they are ‘broken‘. “Hurry Up! Figure it out yourself, Get out of the way, you’re doing it wrong, color in the lines, follow the rules, sit up straight, don’t make a mess, (ok, now clean up your mess), you’re being naughty, that’s not nice, DON’T DO THAT! You’re always so loud, you’re always so rude, you’re being obnoxious, you can’t do it because you’ll ruin it, or, you can’t do that because you don’t know how!” The negativity is sometimes more subtle than not, and may even be delivered politely. Over the slow and torturous years, by the time most kids reach high school, they already begin to believe that they are no good (it’s called brainwashing, by the way). We tell them everything that they shouldn’t be doing, and then, we tell them that the only way to prove that can do ‘something‘ is if they can pass a test! Yeah, I would be over it too…

What if we, as a society, told children, right from the start, that they ARE WORTHY and that their ideas are worth listening to?! What if we did it from the day a child was born? What if we responded to a baby’s cries with compassion? What if we responded to a toddler’s temper tantrum with love? What if we answered as best as we could the over enthusiastic questions of a four year old? What if we let an eight year old try to bake you a cake with the chance they would make a huge mess? What if we could let kids know that they are loved and that they can ‘mess up‘ and it’s ok, because it’s just a chance for them to learn.

I’m not saying we should let kids do whatever they want, and we don’t need to be their cheerleaders. Children certainly need reasonable boundaries and need to learn about natural consequences. And, some kids flourish even in the worst of scenarios… But, how much squashing of enthusiasm can one little person take before they start believing that they are no good? A child who is given trust, love, compassion, understanding and all the other positive human values, will soon start exhibiting these same qualities in themselves. One candle lights the others…

What We Can Do To Help
We can stop blaming schools, we can stop blaming teachers, dare I even say we can stop blaming it on bad parenting??? We can stop trying to change the curriculum every five years because the old one isn’t working. We can stop talking about bringing back corporal punishment. There’s nothing wrong with most schools. There’s nothing wrong with the majority of teachers. Dare I say that there is nothing wrong with most parents (gasp). All parents are doing the best that they can with the support and information that they have. Even the worst parents are suffering from some sort of stress or addiction (meaning, they really need outside help and intervention).

Schools and society can’t be perfected overnight, but the situation can quickly be improved with just a little bit of knowledge about human nature and with a little awareness on how to bring value back to education. Nurturing, caring and understanding would work a thousand times better than what we’re doing now. What do you think?

***This post is not about ALL schools… but it IS true for a more than a few high schools I’ve seen around the world over the past seven years***

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6 Responses »

  1. I loved school from day one, because I looked forward to the lessons. I was top of my class since that day. In comparison, the other kids used to complain for 12 years “I hate school, this is a waste, why do I have to learn this” didn’t do as well. It is their attitudes which need to change to make them open to learning, especially in Queensland.

    The other thing that makes schools awful and kids kill each other is all of the judgement they lash out on kids. They decide who is cool, who is weird, who is the clown, who is the richest. If they could be taught not to be so judgemental and to be more inclusive (like my sister’s classmates), shy kids would feel free to blossom, cool kids would play with uncool kids and treat them with respect, all kids would feel accepted and would thrive and enjoy school, and thus be easier to teach. With judgement, the kids who feel left out the most are the ones who come back with guns.

    Reply
    • Some kids really really love to learn and they really love school. It is such a shame how kids treat each other… my dream would be to have kids who are confident and secure in themselves (and not stressed) in the hopes that they would treat other with respect!

      Reply
  2. I love this post.
    Not long ago I was at an info night where the speaker was talking about schooling system too, turns out he is heavily involved with the schooling in your home country. And he was talking how he goes into schools and figuring out how the teachers can better connect with the students. He was talking about how they have to fulfil their “highest desire” it’s ingrained in them. And their highest desire may have nothing to do with maths, grammar, english, physics, etc. So he teaches the teachers how they can teach all those subjects in a way that is appealing to the children and how it suddenly forms a connection of the teacher’s highest desire to the students, and as soon as this connection is there, the kids crave to go to school and learn. It was very interesting. I loved it,… I guess can be applied anywhere

    Reply
  3. I love your ideas for a more positive school experience! I absolutely agree that stress relief, and perhaps some mindfulness training, would be great for kids. I have to say, I was pretty ‘successful’ in school, as in getting good grades, but I found it all so unfulfiling and soul-crushing, especially high school. I think one thing that would have helped would have been having more freedom to research and learn about particular topics that interested me, doing more self-driven work, etc. I’m not sure how this could be implemented, but it’s certainly something that has attracted me to the idea of ‘unschooling’. But even more than academic freedom, I think schools need to foster an attitude of inclusion and community. I know some do, but more really need to jump on the bandwagon! Kids shouldn’t have to deal with all the harsh, judgemental, clique crap that goes on in so many schools!

    Reply
    • Some schools are actually quite good at allowing the students to semi-choose their own pathways. I didn’t mention any ‘unschooling’ type ideas, as in too much child-led learning, because I actually think that the schools are pretty good with letting the kids go down a pathway that is interesting to them… it’s just a matter of certain kids dealing with stress! And, also, inclusion with the community… I would love to see community service being implemented as part of the curriculum!

      Reply

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