08 Nov A solution to the problem
JULY 29, 2016 | SUE PIMLOTT
For the last year or so, I have become a bit disillusioned with teaching; saddened at the focus on testing and the moving of the goalposts again and again. Children appear to have become units of data rather than individuals with beautiful talents and skills. More and more children seem to enter primary school at a low academic level, but are being asked to perform at increasingly high levels; many didn’t reach the newly-raised bar and teachers, parents and pupils were made feel as though they had failed.
In fact, there seem to be increasing numbers of children with emotional and behavioural difficulties – perhaps due to rising numbers of family difficulties, or poverty, but maybe due to the pressure put on children by schools/government, by being told that despite working their socks off all year, they are still not good enough? No matter what has been put in place – whether 1-1 support, interventions, rewards or sanctions – those emotional and behavioural difficulties are still there.
I didn’t come into teaching for the pay, prestige or holidays (such as they are!). I came into teaching for the children – to see them flourish and grow; to encourage opportunities to succeed; to be creative and engender creativity; to help children be the best they can be – and to make a difference. It has felt harder and harder to do that.
In order to do that now, a change in mindset is needed. Geoff James (@GeoffJames42) recently led a 2 day course on Solutions Focused Coaching, and it seems that this approach could really help. The approach works with the person, not the problem; it’s about having a positive outlook rather than focusing on what is wrong and what the consequences will be. And it is about “having hopes and dreams, and achievable plans to make them come true” (Geoff James). I tried some of the strategies with a handful of children – those who really seem to struggle emotionally day in day out. The transformation in them was incredible. The end of term was always going to be a difficult time for them, but they all had wonderfully positive last days.
However, I can see that this approach can also be taken on board as a school, working in some way with all children. Every day, we ask children to correct and improve their work. But how often do we ask them “What has gone well today?” How often do we look for their resources, rather than their deficits?
The 3 core beliefs of solutions focused coaching are believing in: people’s resourcefulness, their successful past, and their hopeful future. I can’t do much about the overly-high expectations for children of primary school age, or the insistence that high percentages of cohorts must be secure in those expectations. But I can keep these beliefs at the heart of what I do, and in leading others in what they do. I can work 1-1 with particular children to support them in changing their behaviour; but I can also keep these beliefs at the forefront in the work I do with all children. Maybe, just maybe, I can still make a difference….
OCTOBER 28, 2016 AT 6:44 AM
What a great story – maybe you’re already making a difference, thinking about ‘the transformation was incredible’! Maybe we can’t change the world but we can change how we see it. Very best wishes, Geoff