Picture the scene – A warm summer’s evening at the infamous, end-of-year ‘School Production’. Disaster strikes! The multicoloured coat (a quintessential ingredient for this particular play) is missing! It is needed on stage in approximately fifteen minutes and I am given the task of retrieving said item – off I set, a man on a mission.
I enter the classroom where all the outfits have been laid out. I am met by two children from my class, a boy and a girl. Immediately I ask the girl if she knows where to find the coat. The girl is extremely ‘bright’ and helpful; in fact she is labelled as ‘gifted and talented.’ She searches the classroom for a couple of minutes and when I ask if she has found the coat she confirms my worst fears, regretfully informing me that it can’t be found anywhere.
I then turn to the boy who is labelled Special Educational Needs (SEN). I ask if he knows where the coat is but before he can reply the little girl innocently interjects - and what she said has haunted me since. Her polite reply was… “If I Don’t Know – He Won’t!”
It is clear that both pupils were abundantly aware of the implications of the labels that we, as educators, had attached to them. Perhaps even more significantly, I also asked myself; why did I ask the girl first? Was this an insight into my own subconscious thinking or merely chance? The answered saddened me.
This day was five years ago and it was a turning point in our thinking about pedagogy. Needless to say, we have learned our lesson!
The Thought Weavers
This phrase seems to have lost its novelty value of late; five years ago education seemed to be aiming for this. The problem, from a governmental perspective, was that this idea seemingly got in the way of standards. As with most educational policy, if it’s not measurable it’s not worth bothering with. And as all expert educators will know, there’s not a unit of measurement that will calculate how ‘lifelong’ a bit of learning was.
There was and still is arguments that lifelong learning or ‘soft skills’ are woolly (again this notion results in the fact that these soft skills cannot be measured)
It could be argued that these skills/habits should be woolly. Life is woolly. If someone asked you how your day has been, the answer is rarely “well according to my ‘afternoon index calculation’ it’s about 5.5 which means I’ve added value when compared with this time last year;” life is not like that!
When planning for lifelong learning in the classroom it is important to remember that ‘lifelong’ begins NOW, not when children become adults; or as Sir Ken Robinson puts it “A 3 year old is not half a 6 year old”; from a different perspective a 40 year old is not a 50 year old in waiting and so on…
We use Guy Claxton four Rs as basis for lifelong learning in our classrooms, over time this has helped pupils become happy, independent and creative learners; statistically were can’t prove what we see, day in, day out in our classrooms and whilst the ‘standards’ are indeed high, this would be the wrong unit of measurement; so you’ll just have to take our word for it!
The Thought Weavers
Today we went to prison. Our aim was to help inmates think a little more philosophically about life. Our first session was to investigate the nature of wisdom.
The enthusiasm shown by the prisoners was immense, they had wonderful suggestions about what having wisdom meant. One felt that wisdom was being regretful, whilst others thought it came with experience. The one hour session flew by and the prisoners can’t wait for the next session.
From a moral standpoint, some people may feel that giving prisoners an enjoyable experience is too far detached from ‘punishment’. However one of the prisoners, at the age of 24, had lived in over 70 foster homes in his lifetime.
One thing we can be be sure of as educators is that being able to think, early in life, is vital to a fruitful and happy future.
The Thought Weavers