Most people pre-Covid-19 spent a lot of their time rushing around getting to the next thing without having a moment to themselves. This is certainly still the case for most teachers in schools where the unrelenting expectations for performance give little space for reflection. So the academic year rushes by following the same process year in year out with pupils reacting in the way they normally do throughout the year.
The pattern was set and could be traced each year, small changes were really the only option as a large secondary school takes a lot of effort to steer towards an alternative direction. Incremental change was often the best that could be achieved in most schools until Covid 19 forced our hand and everything from lessons to well being had to be reassessed.
The link with behaviour and student wellbeing has never been so real and now we have the chance to do something about it.
Teachers’ and leaders have backed a petition calling for £10 million government funding being set aside for a pupil behaviour improvement programme to be spent on their mental health support instead.
The Department for Education’s £10 million behaviour hub programme, being led by pupil behaviour tsar Tom Bennett, involves 22 high-performing schools working with schools that are struggling with poor discipline.
The DfE says the scheme is being launched at a time when “a minority of pupils may need extra support from their schools to re-engage with education following the pandemic”.
But campaigners, who are among the 4,600 signatories to the petition on change.org so far, say a pandemic is not the time for such a programme.
Teacher trainer Lucy Harding, who started the petition, said: “As teachers and teacher educators, we are asking …why [Tom Bennett] thinks, in a pandemic, children need consequences for poor behaviour rather than support, care and love?”
She is asking, instead, for the money to be put towards dedicated counsellors in schools. Please click on the links above to read the full article by Dave Speck and click on the petition if you want to sign.
I wrote about a school “Happiness Scale” pre-Covid 19 where the teachers and pupils felt proud to be part of a happy school that was always constructive, encouraged learning and felt good to belong to.
It struck me that few teachers and pupils had time set aside to ask the question, “is this a happy school”, “am I proud to be part of the school”, “do I feel like I belong in the school”, “does this place encourage me to explore learning, help me to be creative and do I feel valued”?
Never has there been a better time to encourage pupils to ask these questions of themselves. Before falling back into the habit of rushing from one class to the next to learn the detailed syllabus for the detailed test and exam results.
It is well known that taking a moment on a regular basis to reflect, to focus on the now is very beneficial. It is something few of us did because we were always busy or reaching for a mobile phone if there is a pause in the normal frenetic day.
So why should schools encourage their teachers and pupils to regularly stop and simply reflect even just for a moment?
Intellectual growth and learning are clearly a key aspect of school life. Schools have (sadly diminishing) time allocated to sports, physical activities where pupils can run around and let off steam. There are also regular breaks in the day were children and staff can play, laugh and joke with each other which helps with their emotional balance and then there is the other bit.
The spirit the thing that drives us all, our essence and tells us what is right. How often do teachers and pupils get the opportunity to invest in themselves to reflect to catch a moment of peace to close one’s eyes and clear the mind, to be conscious of the now. The balance of ones intellect, body emotions and spirit is fundamental and is often out of kilter with the demands of modern life but there is really no need for imbalance, it is a matter of awareness and taking the moment to reflect on the present.
Sounds obvious that we all need balance and it is clear that excess of work without the opportunity to play and engage one’s emotions, body and spirit ends in discomfort or stress and generally not being on top of one’s game. So as a teacher calling time is not only a great lesson to teach pupils so they can reflect on how they really are, it is an essential aspect of learning and working regardless of sector or profession. Schools have the opportunity to encourage mindfulness and wellbeing and focus on the now which will lead to greater contentment for pupils and teachers in school and at home.
Eckhart Tolle, “the Power of Now”, explores this wonderfully in his book in particular in respect of ego and just capturing being. It is clear to me that reflection and capturing the now for children is something that will help them immensely and all those under pressure in school who typically don’t get the chance to reflect. Taking a moment in the class to reflect in silence will not be easy to start with but it will catch on once a few of the pupil’s experience and feel the benefit.
NOW is the time to make mindfulness a reality in schools and create good habits to last a lifetime.
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