The Good Old Days?
“It’s not like when I was in school….”
How often do we hear a parent or grandparent say something like this. An odd time they are lamenting the “good old days”, but usually they realise that school is a far better place nowadays for all children. Some children still say they don’t really like school, but usually that is only because it interferes with the freedom that they have during holiday time. The vast majority of children are generally positive about school, most come to school willingly and, more importantly, children feel safe in school. In fact, occasionally school can offer the kind of stability and structure that can sadly be missing at home. Some adults might be shocked to hear that school is actually “fun”, now there’s a concept that would be very strange to our grandparents. With access to I-Pods, laptops, dance, music, sport, chess etc sure it’s a wonder everyone doesn’t want to go back to school. It’s certainly one of the reasons why I don’t want to leave anyway!
All of this does not mean that schools are perfect places where everyone goes around all day with beaming smiles; that kind of place does not exist on this earth and even if it did it would not prepare us for the real world outside. As I said, it is very important that children feel safe in school, but it also important that they learn to deal with the real life situations they meet that call for common sense, kindness, understanding, courage and self-belief. As well as the ordinary curriculum schools actually teach all these things through subjects like Religion, SPHE and English, but sometimes children have to learn these lessons for themselves when dealing with difficult situations that crop up from time to time. It is so important for children and adults to learn how to deal with conflict, how to stand up for themselves and how to be understanding of other persons’ points of view.
In our school we teach the S.A.L.T programme which presents children with real life situations and then gives them the skills to try to deal with the issue. It gives them practical ways and words to deal with awkward situations. However the overall message is always that children should seek support or help from a responsible adult if their own efforts fail or if they feel frightened or intimidated.
Children nowadays are much more likely to stand up to others (either other children or adults) and have the confidence and the vocabulary to express their feelings clearly. This is again partly due to excellent programmes taught in schools. That does not mean that bullying does not occur, but children recognise it, can name it and hopefully know how to deal with it.
I hope many people got to see the excellent TV programme recently on life in our neighbouring school in Coolcotts. Watching it I was struck by how similar most schools are. The ones I know are trying their best to meet the needs of a huge variety of children, in an ever-changing world and with cutbacks regularly on the horizon. Are all schools the same? No, each one has its own ethos, its own positives and its own negatives; in general they are trying to make a difference to every child in their care, while making sure that those same children are safe and happy. That can be a tall order at times. So the next time your child comes home complaining about the school or a particular teacher (or principal), listen to them, reassure them, but don’t jump to conclusions. Talk to the teacher in an open manner and you might be surprised with the positive outcome you can achieve together.
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