I’m trying to move house at the moment which is quite stressful. It doesn’t help that the whole prospect of thinking about housing reminds me constantly of that time when I was 18 and living in a hostel, having to concede defeat by becoming acquainted with the new reality that I wouldn’t be going to university; my A level grades tanked following months of having to work late into the night after college to support myself (I’ve written about this before and you’d be surprised at the number of callous comments from educators I get over this), plus I just couldn’t afford to go really. This blogpost is about how educators see childhood through the prism of their own experiences, not thinking about how certain lesson types might actually be detrimental to disadvantaged children.
Anyway, I was sporting a temporarily furrowed brow recently (after the children had done home) and a colleague commented on it. Actually, she was not impressed at all at my lack of upbeat demeanor. Said colleague is quite wealthy and like most teachers had had a middle class upbringing, therefore wasn’t exactly familiar with any of the everyday stresses that us ‘normal’ people put up with. Of course, I assured my colleague that I wasn’t allowing my own tribulations to affect the quality of teaching and learning in the classroom, but I couldn’t help but think that this trite request to ‘just be happy’ is very much a slap in the face when you’ve got ‘life stuff’ to think about.
Naturally, this led me to think about how this kind of ‘just be happy’ attitude might affect children in the classroom. As you know, I am concerned with the education of disadvantaged children and while it is good that we have young and worry-free educators who can give that little bit extra in terms of time, energy and ‘sunshine’ to the lives of children, it might not be so good when it comes to lesson design and experiences. Teaching standards, consultants, missives in the TES and god knows what else always implore us to make our lessons fun and different, so we slave towards the never ending Holy Grail of ‘unique experiences’ with lots of groupwork, discovery, resources, moving around, carousel etc etc. I’m wondering whether disadvantaged children really do love all this ‘Guess what we’re doing today kids!’, or whether they might appreciate something a little more laid back and routine.
Simply put, I know for a fact (because I’ve been there) that children who are just that little bit more emotionally spent because of their home lives do not necessarily respond to ‘fun’ in the way that your pampered middle class child does. If there is little they can give in terms of energy and enthusiasm, then we must use this efficiently, so as to give this child the best return on their effort, ensuring that they themselves can see how their effort is rewarded with the true feel-good factor of increased knowledge. Expecting them to burn through their personal bank of smile credits during that ‘fun’ discovery lesson, knowing that they lack the vocabulary and general knowledge to discover like their middle class friends is a big waste of time; it is not simply a case of saying to these children ‘Just be happy’.either.
Who’s with me?