Stress in the Classroom – Part 2

 

 

Following our blog below – my colleague John has set the following challenge for teachers.

 

1  Think about your actions in the first 15 minutes of the day.

    What ‘cues’ do you send to children that might impact their ’emotional well being’?

As highlighted in the previous blog – a smile can make a big difference.

 

2   Ask the children how they would like to start the day.

    How do the children feel they can be helped into the right emotional frame of mind for learning?
    What ideas do you have. Often the day can start in a very busy way – does that help prepare everyone best for a day of learning?

 

3   Find out more about the messages you send.

    Ask children to tell you more about what you do that sends a ‘message’ that has an impact on their ’emotional well being’ (both positive and negative).

 

Have a go and do let us know how you get on – ask@equippingkids.org

 

Stress in the Classroom

How does my teacher feel today? 

There is lots in the news at the moment around the pressures that teachers in school face. We wanted to find out whether children in school were aware of their teachers well being, whether their teachers emotional state mattered to them and whether the children felt they could impact these feelings in any way. 

 

So we asked children in three schools and this is what we discovered. 

 

Children were very aware of their teachers emotions.

 

This started right from the moment they came into school in the morning. One child explained that they could tell ‘what kind of day it would be’ as soon as they entered the classroom. It reflects both a level of awareness and anticipation as they assess from their teachers interaction with them what might lie ahead. In another school – we can see that same process of assessment this time considered through the simple acts of whether their teacher smiled at them and said good morning. Both of these actions were understood as signs she was feeling happy – with positive connotations for the day ahead. 

 

Positive emotions could be encouraged in their teachers through the children undertaking activities that believed ‘pleased the teacher’.  This is not surprising, however it does raise an important question. How do children define what ‘pleases’ the child. If this is defined, as it was for many in relation to ‘being quiet’ and ‘following instructions’ then this could have a particular impact on the nature of the learning space itself and subsequent learning experiences. 

 

Indeed the children were well aware of the way in which a teacher feeling ‘stressed’ could impact on the learning for all. Adults having a ‘shorter temper’ – means children are given ‘less slack’. This was interpreted in another school as adults ‘rushing’ or being ‘more blunt’. Significantly, these responses connect ‘stress’ to the implementation of restrictions in the classroom, narrowing the potential for learning, as children react… ‘sometimes [it] makes me scared [or] worried incase I do something wrong’, ‘we get stressed too’. As well as resulting in a shutting down of collaborative activities it also impacts on the time teachers might take to engage with the learning journey (‘they rush’, ‘they don’t explain things as well as usual’). 

 

Notably it was up to the children to change how their teachers felt through improved behaviour or by trying harder. Indeed one group reported how they simply reminded their teacher, who they felt found it hard being away from her baby daughter that ‘you will see [Abi] again soon’! 

 

What this small investigation shows is that…

 

  • Children are constantly reflecting on subtle emotional cues from adults, as they seek to make an assessment of how adults are feelings. 
  • Perceived adult feelings do impact on their expectations for what the day holds. 
  • Children believe themselves to be both the main cause and the solution of adult stress in the classroom. 
  • Perceptions of what pleases the teacher have the potential to narrow learning experiences. 

 

In the next blog we will look at ways in which both adults and teachers might respond to the challenges of ‘stress’ in the classroom. 

Why Social Learning?

A primary school principle explains that social learning is something so much more than a ‘wishy washy’ chat about ethos.

But what makes it different?

Our work with schools starts with a ‘Discussion’ – a report that using the voices of children and adults paints a unique picture of school.

How the report had an impact.

Want to find out more about our Starting Point Discussions – please get in touch – ask@equippingkids.org

Giving Children a Voice

Our New Book!

 

 

‘Youthquake’ was the Oxford English Dictionary’s 2017 word of the year.  Its selection clearly  marks a growing recognition of the power of children’s voices to influence change.

 

Giving Children a Voice reflects that awareness of the role that children can and must play in shaping our communities. It offers a practical framework for adults to think about how they can create meaningful and effective opportunities for children to participate in shaping the world around them.

 

One of the most significant barriers to children’s participation are adults. This book, therefore, looks at ways in which adults can partner with children to enable rather than restrict children’s engagement. Step 1 of course is for adults to ‘revitalise their thinking’. A mental ‘detox’ invites adults to question and challenge assumptions about children. It is a process that allows us to see that the way in which we think about children matters as it informs the nature of the practices that adults offer that ultimately shapes children’s experiences.

 

Step 2 encourages us to explore how the way we think about children is reflected in the spaces that adult and children share. It is, for example, of limited value if we have a progressive view of the child if that is restricted by the policies of the place within which we work. Does the family friendly restaurant provide the space for children to be heard? Does the children’s museum actually invite children to have a meaningful say? To what extent are children’s voices a real part of our actions in school, care settings and beyond? Giving Children a Voice offers practical steps through which a conversation can begin that brings rhetoric and reality into line and offers a platform for children’s voices to play a part in changing communities for the better.

 

How we talk about participation and what we mean by it, also impacts on the nature of the opportunities we are able to create. Step 3 offers adults a guide to developing a language for participation that can be shaped and framed, with children, in the context of their organisation/ community – for example a youth group, a health care or criminal justice setting. An important element of this is freeing children to shape the agenda as they are encouraged to develop research related skills.

 

Step 4 looks at the nature of opportunities themselves. It is all well and good us encouraging effective opportunities but what does an effective opportunity look like? By considering the ingredients of an effective opportunity it opens the door for both adults and children to pursue  the provision of opportunities that are meaningful and have the potential to result in positive change.

 

Advocacy relating to children has been driven by adults speaking out for the child. Giving Children a Voice challenges this approach to advocacy as it argues that it is only when adults work with children that the most effective outcomes can be found. Step 5 therefore looks at the role of adults in presenting and supporting children to be involved with a process of change. It lays out frameworks through which adults can construct an advocacy project that is focused on releasing the power of children’s voices to better inform and shape practices within a given context.

 

Giving Children a Voice states simply that effective advocacy with children is shaped by establishing the voice of the child and then creating the platform on which that voice can be amplified and heard. Effective advocacy does not need to be about widespread change, it is just as relevant in encouraging those small changes to the everyday settings where children and adults mix. A changed perspective of a teacher, parent, caregiver can have a significant impact on a child’s experience.

 

Giving Children a Voice is important at home, school, in care settings, criminal justice and court rooms, health care , shopping centres, recreational spaces and the list could go on. This book offers adults the chance to create opportunities for children’s voices to play the part they should in shaping communities for the better.

 

To buy or find out more click here

Whose standards? What disadvantages?

Whose standards? What disadvantages?

 

A relevant question for 2018!

 

Standards are  important. However, if we wish to raise standards in education we need to know what standard we are looking to raise and who should be responsible for raising them.

 

What is clear is that our current definition of standards and our desire to raise ‘them’ is not having a positive impact on those children we might label ‘disadvantaged’. Notably some academics have assessed that concepts such as  ‘creativity and understanding’ sit outside of our current focus on standards in schools.

 

Encouragingly Ofsted are now focusing on the richness of the curriculum as they react to findings that the curriculum is narrowed for ‘disadvantaged’ children.

 

Sticking with the current system reflects, in the words of Professor Diane Reay that ‘England does not have an education system that is serious about realising the potential of all children…’ indeed she goes on to highlight the issues that children who carry a label of disadvantage face – click here for more.

 

It is, therefore, time to go beyond the targeted use of terms like ‘disadvantage’ and to think about a more generalised language arounddisadvantages’. For, in much of the work we are developing at the moment the focus is on recognising that we all face challenges in our learning, no matter who we are. Yes some children will face greater learning ‘disadvantages’ but by making disadvantages a term we all openly discuss in the classroom it removes a stigma and increases the opportunity for the practical search for learning strategies that can make a difference to the individual’s identity as a learner, a difference that can result in the individual increasingly taking control of raising standards for themselves!

To find out more about our training seminars – get in touch – ask@equippingkids.org

Awe and Wonder in Outdoor Learning – follow up

Following the launch of our new outdoor learning programme the children prepared a report on the day which you can find by clicking the link below.

New Experiences – Our Day Learning Outdoors

This was how their teacher summed up the experience.

‘Our outdoor learning day provided the opportunity to watch children thrive in a new and provoking learning environment. An environment where children had a say, children had a choice and children asked the questions! All children were supported to try something new and share their experience in their own way. Carefully tailored challenges and activities incited all children to move beyond their comfort zone and supported them to take steps, at their own pace, towards developing confidence and communication. Particular skills such as, perseverance when faced with a problem, confidence when trying something for the first time and valuing the ideas of others, are continuing to support all areas of our learning in class.’

Emma Corrigan – Year 4 Teacher –  Maplecross Primary School