Don’t Look at The Elephant

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CC Image courtesy of David Blackwell on Flickr
  • 10-year-old with a brain injury  who was removed from  family due to physical abuse.
  • 11-year-old living  in a  shelter, on the run from mother’s abusive spouse.
  • 8-year-old with an STD
  • 12-year-old rescued from a house fire. The mother and sister  weren’t so lucky.
  • 11-year-old who found her sibling hanging from the backyard hills hoist, a few months after the father was arrested for murdering the child’s mother.
  • 9-year-old who cowered while the family was held in a siege.
  • 8-year-old who hid behind a tree as Martin Bryant shot people at Port Arthur.
  • 6-year-old whose sister was burned in a horrific car accident.
  • 7- year-old who visited his father in jail each weekend and wanted him home for Christmas.

These are just some of the children I’ve  taught  (details changed to prevent identification). Every teacher has stories they could share.

Domestic violence, drugs, alcohol, crime, trauma, tragic accidents, mental illness, misadventure, sickness – this is the world many of our children inhabit.

Meanwhile, teachers and principals are consumed with knowing our impact,  ensuring every child has a year’s growth for a year’s education, that no one is coasting, that standards aren’t slipping, that our impact is measured and our effect size is greater than 0.4.

And our education reformers focus on no excuses policiesmandatory phonics tests, literacy and numeracy tests for teachers, and how to deliver education on a budget.

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6 thoughts on “Don’t Look at The Elephant

  1. Corinne,
    I am hearing you loud and clear!!
    It is imperative that we take care of these darlings and give them strength & courage & hope for the future. We, teachers have a responsibility to build our future citizens and leaders. Our society needs to be a strong informed, caring one. It’s all about balance!
    Better start looking for a picture of an elephant balancing…because while teachers are being forced to respond to current demands their welfare is being undermined!
    Traumatised & stressed students are not able to focus on learning when they are barely surviving. A recent brain based learning webinar I attended made me understand far more deeply how these children do not have the facility to remember new learning because they are so stressed mentally.
    How do we affect the necessary change?

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  2. Corinne,
    When I spotted your Elephant out of the corner of my eye (flitting over Twitter when I should be getting on with some serious stuff) my brain did the quick 2+2=5, looking out for Jonathan Haidt’s pachyderm, (in The Righteous Mind – the happiness hypothesis; 2012 Pantheon Books). I agree with audreynay that we must work to build children’s strength, courage and hope for the future. In my work, shifting to the solutions focused world of strengths, successes and hopefulness and blocking the otherwise default focus on deficits, failure, illness etc offers one strong plank in the bridge to children’s brighter futures. Haidt’s ideas about how people read information emotionally before it gets the cognitive treatment is gaining support from neuroscience and links to the huge potential offered by the brains’s plasticity to enable change to happen, if we know and understand how to work this way. The medical model may say what children can’t do, with no suggestions about how to fix them. The social model is more interested in potential for growth, and the Solutions Focused coaching in schools that I’m training staff to do (and do myself) comes from this direction. Talking to the elephant is better than talking about it in my experience. Great blog as usual Corinne, thanks.

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  3. Could not agree more my friend. For some kids academic achievement is way down the list of priorities. It’s times like these we need to forget the politics and do what needs to be done for the child.

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  4. Unfortunately, regardless of education system we as a society have become focused on the measurable. For my school, that is the “value adding”. The focus is on the academic growth as opposed to the growth of the child. It’s crushing and I haven’t seen a school where the external pressure is anything but this.
    I find it even more amazing when this pressure comes from within – when this is the focus of the teachers within the schools. I understand when this is the focus of governments and lobby groups – I don’t agree with it but I understand it. When it comes from the teachers it blows my mind.

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