Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Inspiration and Education

Someone recently suggested that blogs should be about inspiration. It inspired me. In that spirit, this is what else has inspired me this week.

I don't know about you, but as a mother of school-age children, I am anxious about my children's education. I fear for my lads in the overcrowded, behaviourally-challenged state system and private school is not possible. Do I regret not having my children baptized, as now I can't get them into a Catholic school? No, I don't think so. Being an atheist converted from catholicism, my hypocrisy will only go so far. Mind you, I have been wrong about most other things that I have ever formed a strong opinion about. Like craft, for example. I used to be very anti-craft. I thought it was Fine Art's bogan cousin on a scholarship from a rural and regional area. I thought it was all Fimo earrings and appliqued wattles on windcheaters. And how wrong was I? So part of me is prepared to meet Jesus on the other side, shaking his head with a hint of a smirk that says 'I told you so' as he points me in the direction of the Inferno.

My concern had reached a peak last weekend after a very ordinary school report and being told by his teacher that my son "struggled with reading, but it was nothing to worry about" had inflamed a feeling of helplessness for my two boys. My boys are not your ordinary boy-sy lads, and I fear they could skate through a system in which, if you are not a high achiever or a naughty boy, you could potentially coast through, relatively education free.

Then a friend said "There is this video on the Internet, a speech by Ken Robinson, you HAVE to watch it." And I did. The speech is entitled " Why education kills creativity." Rather than furthering my despair, this speech gave me hope and clarity. A simple message 'play to their strengths'. Don't focus on their flaws, focus on their strengths. I dig it.

This philosophy is quite at odds with my childhood memories of education and family support. Being one of 7 children meant a rigid, nun-based education and in my belle famille mistakes were rarely left to pass unnoticed and the opportunity to take the piss was never left wanting. My mother recently joked about how I never wanted to go to ballet classes because I wouldn't get out of bed on Saturday morning. The way I remember it was being a 4 year old, all dressed up in my ballet pinks, loving myself sick, only to have the piss taken out of me so ruthlessly that I didn't ever want to don them again. My brother once kindly said that " a bikini on me would look like two rubber bands on an egg". But I'm not bitter ... much.

Any road, what I have taken from the witty Ken Robinson is this - observe your kids, see what makes them truly happy and facilitate their opportunity to revel in it as much as possible. All talents are equally important. Obvious stuff, I know, but my anxiety needed to be kicked to the curb.

I have also been reading Andrew Fuller's "Tricky Kids" which could alternatively be entitled "Out-of-Control Parents" but probably wouldn't sell as well. It is really a guide for changing parent's behaviour for better outcomes for your kids. I am inspired. Fuller promotes a simple mantra - 'Be positive and optimistic and be a fierce friend to your kids".

Note to self - Be positive and optimistic and play to your strengths. Life is more than your capacity to be 'successful' as defined by any one standardised test, institution, system or social expectation.

What's inspired you this week?

P.S. This post was not intended as a criticism of the education system or of teachers. The education this week has been all mine. What I have learned is that anxiety, my parental anxiety has clouded my judgement and has negatively effected the way I parent my children. Anxiety encourages me to focus on flaws. The problems I imagine and project onto the education system stem mostly from my fearsthat my children will not measure up within the system. The inspiration from Ken Robinson has begun to help dispense with this anxiety. The thing I hope for most for my children's education is that they find an adult or adults other than me and the luthier, a teacher or mentor who invests in them and their talents. Good teachers are the bees knees!


2paw said...

In true Ravelry fashion, I'm owning my disagree. I think good teachers not only foster, but also facilitate creativity and they can motivate children to learn, and to want to learn. It is the system itself which can provide hurdles. I just heard on the radio that all K-8 children must henceforth learn Farming and Agriculture. I would think there is more benefit in exploring learning styles, multi-intelligences, left or right brain-edness(!!) and giving children the opportunity to explore their abilities and practice the things they really need to learn.
At the moment my friend and her class are having a 'science day' and exploring through activity. There are some teachers who I think are there just to be going on with, but the majority of teachers are dedicated and innovative. I think some parents also devolve all responsibility to school- obviously you don't, so top marks and a big tick for being proactive. Being positive and optimistic is the way to go.
My friend inspires me!!
I shall step off my soapbox now!!

mrs smith said...

I love your soapbox! I agree with you. It is not school or teachers I object to, good teachers are the answer! it's more my own predisposition to focus on the negative. My son's report also said he was enthusiastic and had a go at everything. Why did I focus on the reading and maths?
Watch the Ken Robinson speech and see what he means by the title of his speech.

Thanks Cindy. I don't want to criticise teachers.

2paw said...

I think we are programmed to think that Maths and English are the only worthy intelligences. Thanks for your lovely reply to my comment!!

Loz and Dinny said...

Beautifully written and eloquently explored, G. I think your note to self is a mantra I could take on board too. I think in my own parenting I worry so much about the ways in which my wee girl may go off track - rather than delighting in the gifts she so freely revels in. If we support our children in finding the joy based in their own special talents, be it maths or singing, they will hopefully tread a path that leads them to positive experiences and interactions with the world around them. (weird that I used to tell my students this but have forgotten to apply it to my world) You have inspired me to relax and breathe a little!

evelouise said...

oh that Ken Robinson is a brilliant brilliant man! Glad you found it interesting xxx

Fer said...

Thank you for reminding me to relax. My girl is only 15 months and I can already feel the anxiety about school creeping in (mainly because my primary school years were just plain awful...). What you've said has been a breath of fresh air.

Oh and I do so love your definition of craft as "Fine Arts bogan cousin". Love it!!

Isis said...

this is interesting, because while on my first prac at a school last semester it occurred to me also that only the very good and the very bad get attention. the average ones just float on by. so i made a pact to myself that i would pay attention to each and every student and work on their needs, when i'm a teacher