I went for an early morning run today, not that early and not that long, but just enough to clear my head, breath in some fresh air, raise my heart rate and return for breakfast with my spirits lifted.
It’s going to be a full day. This afternoon is going to be spent with a team of Governors, supporting them as they appoint a new Headteacher. Before that I have a leadership coaching session with a group of expert teachers and to end the day, a conference via “Zoom,” with a the SLT of a high performing trust, who are considering the next part of their growth strategy. Just writing this makes me feel privileged to work with such a committed group of professionals, leading teams in schools during such difficult times.
Before all of this started though, I had one more call to make and that was to Claire. Claire is a great mother with a seven year old son who is currently not at school but instead, learning through a combination of remote lessons, worksheets, project tasks and parental support. Claire was not in a good place. Frustrated with the lack of progress her son was making, worried the support she was giving was not what it should be and confused at how a class teacher can cope with thirty different pupils and yet she was struggling with just one. Her son was finding it difficult to concentrate at home, always asking her questions and demanding her time, and constantly wanting to know when he could have lunch and go out to play. So at this point we can quite easily substitute Claire for thousands of other parents who are all trying to do their best in an uncertain world, with no real end point in sight. So my message for Claire and all other parents in the same boat is don’t worry and don’t be too hard on yourself.
My message for Educators however, is a different one. Let’s worry! If the purpose of Education is to equip pupils with the skills necessary to thrive in the future, then the ability to work and think independently has to be of paramount importance. If we taught these skills alongside subject knowledge then where would be with home learning now, surely in a better place? Pupils would know how to organise their learning, set deadlines for themselves, understand where to find resources and use measures of success to self-evaluate. Parents could be offered guidance about how best to support the development of independence at home and schools could be confident that a consistent approach to learning is being engendered. Instead, we run the risk of children returning to school far more dependent on adult support than ever before. Schools will have an immediate uphill struggle to enable pupils to cope without having the one to one support that many of them are receiving right now at home.
We can’t blame the parents because most of them went through the same antiquated systems that many pupils are still experiencing in schools today. Parents just do not have sufficient advice from schools as to the variety of strategies they can use to support their children to become better independent learners at home. As terrible and devastating as Covid is, it is a wake-up call for many things. For me, it is confirmation of the need re-evaluate just how well we are teaching our young people to learn in school and not just what to learn.
So Claire, don’t worry. Let’s chat tomorrow and come up with a plan that that starts to ensure the experience of learning is a shared one, with your son taking as much responsibility as you. Perhaps then, you can take that well earned coffee break, or by the sound of it perhaps something a little stronger.