Sunday, October 29, 2006

Taking a step back

Okay, my eyes are in my PJ's this morning as the clocks have gone back, but try telling THAT to smalls! Their body clocks woke them up at the usual time with all cries for "bix" and "breakfakst!!" (no, not a typo!)

So darling dh has loaded me with caffeine and taken the little beaks to feed so I can try to download my thoughts.

Over the last ten days at school, we have had visitors from Tibet. Two Tenzins have been here creating a beautiful Sand Mandala , singing Tibetan songs and teaching Tibetan culture and thinkings. The encasement of their visit has been about Life being impermeable, life being too fast paced and materialistic and about how we are actually all impermeable. We are in control of how we choose to live life, BUT we must make that choice to actually LIVE it rather than just getting sucked along in it all (well that is the simplistic version!) We are probably all guilty of the latter and it is trying to take time to sit back and enjoy life that is the harder thing to do.

We have school conferences coming up in a couple of weeks time so prior to this I have observed all of my children over this week and last and it has drawn me to the conclusion that my children are very, very different characters and beings, from each other and from me. It has enlightened me to their behaviour within a classroom environment and helped me assess whether the child I see at home is similar or different to the one I view from behind the one-way mirror. It has also allowed me time to reflect on my own feelings of "letting go".

One of the hardest balances as a parent is to know exactly when to take a back seat and just BE the observer allowing for your child to make mistakes or sort out their battles without any intervention from us.

I am accutely aware that for some of my very close friends in the UK, this is the SAT year for our children and my heart is going out to the agonies that they are now starting to face with regards to the changes in their children's schooling this year.

It is hard in the harsh competitiveness of today's society to keep sight of the fact that at six, our children have hardly had time to play and enjoy the world when we are throwing them into school and for many tests and exams already! Pressure is mounting where the authorities and the "powers that be" are expecting children to react and perform in a manner that is probably way above their childish years.

We are suddenly viewing them with new eyes - if s/he doesn't do well in math or language or literature s/he will be labelled for life, s/he will not succeed, s/he will FAIL! But then surely that is just my point: if we give the child this label of "Failure", how can we expect them to perform otherwise. This works on the same premise as telling someone to "not think about the pink elephant!" What are you now thinking of? Kids aren't stupid, they know the red/blue/yellow table is the table for the performing at the "right" level/not performing at the "right" level table. They are sensitive to differences in themselves and their peers both physically and within their mental capacities at school. It is the story of the child called "It"
Conversation in the street becomes centred around how well x is doing at school, where he/she is in the class (by the window??), what their score was in whichever test for the next 10 years at least!
I appreciate, being an ex-teacher, that we, as teachers, need to have an understanding of where children are needing more help or are excelling and gearing work appropriately, it is important for teachers to liase with parents, but the problem I fear is that these baby exams are actually taking over their crucial developmental years, teaching children what the tests NEED them to know, rather than applied learning techniques and skills.
All of a sudden there is no more regard for how well children integrate with one another, how their social skills are developing, whether or not they know that if you take water and pour it on the ground and then jump up and down you can draw out the worms, playing marbles (they're even BANNED in some UK schools!) finding pleasure in rolling in leaves, because under all this, is the 1 hour of homework each night after a 6 or 7 hour school day.

But the pressure is not just on the child, but also on the parents too. No one wants their child to be a failure, no one wants to feel that they could have helped more or done things differently, no one wants their child to grow up resentful that their parents didn't step in to help out. The point is though, to find a balance, to allow our children to find their strengths AND weaknesses, to maybe assist to the point that we are not letting them fall behind and struggle, but accept that perhaps they are better in some fields than others. Allowing a child to realise that they are not always the best at everything and neither do they have to be, is actually setting a child up for less failure later on in my opinion, equally we are showing our support and pride in what they do achieve and saying "it's okay as long as you do your best" - I am open to hear your thoughts!

I think that what I am saying to you is this: take time to observe, take time to inhale. Before you know it your children will be grown, they will most likely be successful in their chosen fields, your duty as a parent is to allow them time to grow and nurture that growth and occasionally, that might be watching rather than intervening.

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