Have you ever seen a group of soldiers marching in time, a mass of bodies with not one footstep out of place as they clump obediently to the tune of the Sergeant Major, LEFT RIGHT LEFT RIGHT… not daring to misalign or appear out of place for fear of condemnation and punishment!
The marching soldiers may be analogous of our education model, a system asking us to be obedient to quite strict approaches to learning. If we don’t fit into such educational methods, are we open to being labelled a failure, stupid, or rebellious? If education leaves many people disengaged, anxious and despairing, then it may be time to reassess how we implement such a foundational aspect of our lives.
Almost four in five (78%) teachers have seen a pupil struggle with a mental health problem in the past year, with one in seven (14%) cases involving suicidal thoughts or behaviour. (1)
Such statistics should make us stop and consider how we offer schooling to our children to support them through the intensity of modern life.
What would such health outcomes (as above) be if we had more flexible, open educational methods – approaches that recognised the untapped genius in us all?
If you ask a small child to draw a picture of the sky and they paint it the colour green, does that make them wrong, or is there no right or wrong, only the child expressing their own way? We often look on the child as just immature and not yet intelligent enough to paint with ‘correct’ colours, but perhaps we overlook the wisdom that shines out in that offering. Maybe the child has tapped into knowledge and wisdom that symbolises everything they want to share in their chosen palette.
Instead of cherishing that, we look to squash out the green and replace it with our accepted blue. It’s a process of erosion, taking place over years, slowly suppressing the magic found in the child with the green tinted brush.
We look to replace that wisdom with a blue brush, every child holding onto that uniform brush tightly, for that is their accepted medium. And this is where we fail with our educational ways in that it doesn’t allow space for that colour to shine. Instead of bringing out our qualities, we are asked to all like and be good at the same way of thinking and learning.
No question there are certain things to be taught within formal education, but there is something inspiring in considering a teacher’s role is foremost to guide a child, to listen and connect with the individual, to engage by being attentive and understanding; to encourage each person to feel valued and able to contribute in their unique way; to cherish and offer confirmation as the precious people that we all are. Such an approach may also greatly support the teachers within such a system.
Educational experiences can be magical when we place importance on this wisdom and inner knowing. It’s time to say yes to flexible learning, say yes to valuing individual expression, and say a big YES to the child with the green tinted brush!
- Campbell, D. (2019). Children face mental health epidemic, say teachers. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jun/23/schoolchildren-facing-mental-help-epidemic [Accessed 15 Apr. 2019].