Schools should be happy and safe environments for all children, whereby students are recognised as individuals and supported as individuals. Although many schools do endeavour to treat their students as individuals, some children still struggle to fit in, be it in the classroom or the playground or both.
Starting school is a big adjustment for the majority of children. It’s a new environment usually with many more children, teachers and greater responsibilities. Children settle into their new routines in their own time. Every child is unique and for this reason children should not be compared.
What happens to those children who do not benefit from how mainstream education teaches our children?
Is it acceptable for these children to fall behind or fail to be engaged because of the way they learn? It’s like trying to unlock a door with the wrong key. The door simply won’t unlock. You could become more and more frustrated with each key you put into the lock, but it’s not going to help you unlock the door any quicker. Eventually, you find the right key and the door opens. You finally have access to the room you have been trying to access.
Every child has incredible potential within them waiting to be tapped into. Isn’t it worth parents and teachers finding a way to unlock that potential? Imagine the feeling within your child when they gain an understanding for something they previously didn’t understand? It may take time. It may not be easy but what a reward for not giving up. If we don’t believe in them, how do we expect them to believe in themselves? It’s too easy to label people as being good or bad at something and just leave it at that. Children start believing these false labels as truths – other people’s opinions of them. Little Johnny will never be good at maths; he just doesn’t get it. Johnny then grows up, dabbles in a few different careers and ends up discovering his passion is mathematics. So from the outset we are restricting and limiting our children rather than seeing them as limitless beings. We need to stop the labelling.
A child’s self-esteem can be dented very easily.
Acceptance of self is something we all have to confront at some point in our lives. We all know children can be adorable one minute and cruel and nasty the next. Whether the nasty behaviour is intentional or unintentional the effects on the child or children being taunted can be devastating to their self-esteem.
As a kindergarten student I was taunted for my looks. I was called all types of names but the one that really hurt me most was ‘Monkey Face.’ You see according to the boys that labelled me as such, I looked like a monkey. As a sensitive child I didn’t take it very well. I bottled up the sadness and effects it had on me for a long time. When you hear something over and over again, you start believing it to be true, whether it is or not. I never liked seeing myself in the mirror because I was completely self-conscious. I was not happy at school. I did not feel accepted and even after I changed schools, my self-esteem was already depleted.
Words are powerful.
What people say and how they say it can have long lasting consequences. This applies to all people not just misguided children being spiteful but parents and teachers alike. I remember my mother teaching me the expression, “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” She had me repeat it over and over again. The truth of the matter was, at five years of age, I didn’t have the life experience or the maturity to really understand the expression or deal with the name calling appropriately. Intervention was needed and as far as I can recall, nothing ever happened. The only thing I knew too well was that the words were hurting. With children today being a lot more connected, the written word is just as powerful.
How can a child genuinely shine and be happy if they are down on themselves? They can’t. They may have moments of happiness but the cause of their unhappiness or poor self-worth is within them and this really needs to be addressed rather than left to simmer within them indefinitely.
Communication is key.
Talk to your children about their days. If they don’t really tell you much, try and dig deeper in a relaxed manner at an appropriate time.
Who did you play with today?
Did you have fun?
What did you learn?
Did you find the work easy or hard?
Was the teacher happy today?
Did anything exciting happen?
Encouraging children to speak more openly about how they are feeling and why they are feeling the way they are feeling.
The importance of our children feeling safe enough to be themselves and have good self-esteem is something that should not be overlooked. Experiences and how they affect our feelings, whether positive or negative should be something that is openly discussed within all classrooms. The reality is we live with our feelings and emotions every day of our lives. Why not talk about them in the classroom? Children may gain a greater awareness of how their behaviour affects others and at the same time learn how to express their emotions in a healthy manner rather than bottle them up.
If you know or suspect something is not quite right with your child at school than it is worth raising your concerns with the class teacher. Depending on the seriousness of your concerns, it may be wise to schedule an appointment with the school Principal. For the most part, our children attend school six hours a day, five days a week. We want them to feel happy, accepted and supported during this time both in the classroom and the playground. Their present happiness and future happiness after all, is important.
Hoping your children feel happy and accepted at school. Would love to hear any comments you may have on this important issue.