“School is a scary place when you hate yourself. I spend each day so fearful and anxious that there isn’t the faintest possibility of me concentrating in class…. so I do worse… which makes me hate myself more and fear my lessons more.” Naomi, 13
“I stopped going to swimming club because I hate how everyone looks at my fat arms and short legs. I would always feel sick before club, so now I don’t go.” Sean, 10
Many years ago a headteacher, of long standing, said to me that ‘children do not suffer from depression’. This of course is not true, and was a rather naïve statement to make. Although to be fair, mental health conditions weren’t as widely recognised then as they are now. It is now accepted that children and young people can suffer from all manner of stress, depression, loss and anxiety disorders which may affect how they cope on a day-to-day basis, and can result in negative behaviour and thoughts which in turn can impact on their ability to learn and relationships with their peers.
With the new curriculum upon us, Rosemary Dewan of the Human Values Foundation explains how pupils can make terrific strides with an education that embraces hard skills, soft skills and intrapersonal skills...
Following extensive research (Lovat, Toomey and Clement, 2010, see below), education experts consider that “the best laid plans about the technical aspects of pedagogy are bound to fail unless the growth of the whole person – social, emotional, moral, spiritual and intellectual, is the pedagogical target”.
Chances are, you watched the occasional film in school. Dances With Wolves, Of Mice and Men, Chicken Run, Hamlet… there are plenty of movies that do the rounds. As such, I’ve suggested my own list of 10 films that I’d recommend using in the classroom, depending on the age group. Now, these are of course down to your discretion. I’d absolutely recommend checking out the BBFC descriptions for each one, and you may even want to watch them yourselves before putting them on for your pupils. Each of these films offer something useful for studying larger issues, and should be ideal for some very fruitful discussions afterward.
Given that pupils have to learn a huge amount, it can be easy to forget about their emotional wellbeing. The Human Values Foundation’s Rosemary Dewan discusses the importance of this matter.
What subject is dynamic, cross-curricular, student-centric and stimulates children and young people? This is a subject constantly arousing their curiosity, thereby enabling teachers to capitalise on pupils’ eagerness to learn, and affording plenty of practical opportunities for schools to work collaboratively with parents, carers and professionals who are involved in guiding and mentoring children. The answer is values education.
Young people growing up in today’s world are witnessing how individuals’ choices and actions can rapidly be broadcast via social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
It’s all the more important therefore that learning to make informed, principled, well considered decisions is an integral part of their education so that each of them can leave school with their reputation intact, confident of doing well, with a life-long learning mentality that enables them to maximise their abilities and with the desire to be responsible citizens, capable of making the world a better place.
Children and young people enjoy exploring the role of values in their daily lives because of the excitement as they begin to see more relevance in what they are learning. This awakening can help them experience the benefits of a positive mindset and how working on personal qualities, including resilience and patience, contributes to a greater likelihood of achieving their dreams and goals.
Many of us are probably not consciously aware of the degree to which we are driven by what we treasure and feel is important – in short, what we value. However, being more mindful of these influences is empowering
To help children and young people strive to be the best that they can be, they need to start with a vision of themselves.
Here is a simple framework that provides a brief and regular focus on personal progress using the VALUES letters as prompts. It helps to make each day as meaningful and productive as possible. During the course of a week the exercise captures the imagination of participants, allowing their ideas to shape their views of life and to persue high and lasting goals, both in the week ahead and in the longer term.
Keeping a journal helps with the daily discipline and enables children and young people to look back with pride on what they have accomplished.
How children and young people feel about themselves has a significant bearing on every aspect of their lives. The more they feel valued, the more likely they are to enjoy their schooldays and be able to succeed in reaching the highest level of their personal achievement.
Schools are expected to offer a stimulating, broad, balanced, relevant and, when appropriate, differentiated curriculum and have high expectations for every single one of their children so that they can achieve success and ultimately, as many of them as possible, have real options open to them when it comes to choosing pathways into their adult lives.
Please imagine the scene: two proud Year 2 pupils showing me Oatlands Infant School in Surrey. Head teacher, Pat Beechy had asked them to talk to me about what the school was doing to show its values. I was taken to the entrance hall to look at a fabulous display depicting the school's values as part of a beautiful tree. I asked them to explain to me what values are and was told by Sam, “Values help us to be happy and keep you out of trouble.” Sophie added, “They help you throughout your life…when you are angry they help you to come into a better mood.” I asked her which value she would think about if she felt angry and after a moment’s reflection she said, “Um…Peace!“
Such a discussion with children is powerful evidence as to why, increasingly, teachers and schools are teaching and modeling positive human values such as respect, trust, tolerance and responsibility.