Sunday, 8 October 2017

The curse of being average

This little verse really resonates with me.  I think that being average in our system is somewhat of a curse.  This has been something I have given a lot of my thinking time lately.  The comparative nature of our current system, leads many to use the core areas of Literacy and Numeracy to establish that children that are below, at or above.  Those children that are 'at' would be those children we may refer to as average.  They are usually your quiet, biddable learners.  They have learned how the classroom works quickly and avoid too much attention by just getting on and doing what needs to be done.  They get good reports and are generally doing everything 'just right.'  In fact they are so good at dancing within our system that we probably can go a whole day without noticing if they are present or not.  In fact on some days their name has only probably been uttered twice, once in the morning and once after lunch when we do the roll.  

This sounds depressing, but very sadly true.  Don't get me wrong, we often hold these children in high regard, we adore them (but often forget to show them) and will speak highly of them to their parents, mainly because they don't challenge the status quo, they do what they are told and they often thrive on teacher direction.   In the hustle and bustle that are our classrooms and our lives today, they are just not the squeaky wheel.  They may have passions or talents, but these are certainly not being made obvious in the classroom situation.

Not only this, our current climate sees us identifying priority learners in what are deemed to be the all important areas of literacy and numeracy, will our average learners be a part of this group, not likely?

To be brutally honest, because this blog is about my own professional honesty...I have been just as guilty of missing these children, not taking time to truly get to know them, being hurried in a system that does not deem them to be priority learners...and something I am even more ashamed of...referring to them as 2D learners because there just wasn't anything outstanding about them.

The harsh reality for me in admitting this is that I was one of these average learners, I did not shine academically for any reason, however when I went to school P.E was a huge component of the curriculum, we were constantly outside playing and competing against one another, and my talent was in the sporting realm, so I was known because  my talents were made apparent.  Everyone knew me because I was outstanding and had many opportunities to display my talents.  The same was true for other children, in an environment where the arts still had a huge role to play, children had opportunities to develop and share their talents.  Having an area to shine in, made being average in other areas bearable, we still had confidence in ourselves because we had success and were seen.

With the narrowing of our curriculum these children with talents and passions have less opportunities to shine.  Add to this the pressure cooker we teach in, the opportunity to shine and be seen are more limited.  It becomes more up to us to ensure we are taking time to see everyone.

If we don't make an effort to change how our 'system' sees those children who we would often term average we will see children leaving school believing they have no talents, passions or gifts to share with the world..what a loss that would be.

Over the past two years I have deliberately concentrated on this.  Ensuring I am taking the time to see everyone, to allow them to explore talents and passions, to show them I care, and that is what this little excerpt is about, my what if?

Play-based learning has allowed me the opportunity to get to know each child.  To establish their individual needs and be able to work from here.  I am endeavoring not to compare them to 'averages,' but to simply appreciate the progress that they make, at their own pace.  Mantle of the expert allows us an opportunity to deliver a broad and fabulous curriculum with many opportunities for passions and talents to become apparent.

Have I got it completely right?  No not yet and I doubt I will ever be at the point where I don't have things I want to improve on, but I am becoming much better at making sure every child is seen and feels important and valued.  This continues to be my learning journey.

The undeniable reality is that children remember those that cared for them and knew them.  They want to learn for a teacher that sees them.  To be quite frank, what we teach them is far less important than how we teach them.  I can't remember a thing about what my favourite teachers taught me, but I can remember how they made me feel.  I can remember the confidence they gave me.  That is my wish, that I can be that person for every little person that passes through my class and then continue to be that person as the principal of my school.

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