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Modern realities of education and parenting

Teaching at present is very different from when you and I were at school.

The classroom infrastructure and space may be similar but when we were at school, the teacher was viewed as the ‘fountain of all knowledge’ and was respected and listened to because he/she passed down knowledge that was never debated. Most of our tests required us to recall rote learnt information – one fact, one mark.

Today, however, we compete against Google which has far more ‘knowledge’ than any teacher could possibly have. Therefore, the focus of teaching in the classroom has had to be adapted. The teacher now has to encourage thinking skills, the ability to be creative, to argue, debate, test, analyse, listen, question, suggest, weigh up and collaborate. It is also important for us to explain that it is ‘okay’ to change one’s mind or opinion if another’s reasoning is better or if modern science proves what we thought we know actually doesn’t. I think in this regard of Pluto, the mass of matter in space that was once a planet in our solar system, but now is not classified as such any more. Therefore, many of the activities that are happening in the classroom are not just worksheets and teachers passing down knowledge but rather us motivating and urging the pupils to practise the above mentioned skills.  We aim to get the pupils to empower themselves by using their brains in different ways. These skills require practice and progress over many years. The pupils may not fulfil each task perfectly first time around.

Education is no longer just about knowledge but about skills and characteristics that instil success and value in later life. It is imperative that parents start stepping back a little to teach their children resilience, responsibility and persistence and it is essential that children learn organisational skills, punctuality, accuracy and thoughtfulness. It is okay that our pupils don’t always win, that they make mistakes, forget and do not do well in the odd test or homework assignment. It is equally important, that parents, stop whatever they are doing and offer advice, structure and support to their own child on a daily basis. I believe a priority for all parents should be to try to set aside at least half an hour a day to discuss topics outside of school work with their child in order to allow them opportunities to consider the why, what, when and how of things they may have heard or thought about.

Whilst this is exciting and new, we are raising children in a world of social media.  During the journey through Primary School, our pupils slowly become involved in this, however, the sad reality of this generation is that social media distorts reality.  Many young peoples’ entire self-worth is dependent on social media (how others see them and their public profile).  The problem with such social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is that children and adolescents start to see and value themselves according to how many ‘friends’ they know or how many likes or shares they get rather than how many genuine friends they openly communicate with in person. In the early High School few years, they constantly need to do more and more on this public profile to be noticed and get attention. We are in danger of our children constantly trying to present a false / public self that will be noticed and ‘liked’ rather than working on their true, inner selves and their morals, beliefs and values.

Moving back to when we were growing up, everything was at a much slower pace, both parents in one household did not always have to work, families played board games, ate together and most importantly prayer together. Children rode bikes, climbed trees and played with friends.

The pace and stress we are living under is huge and frantic and no matter how much I disagree with it, we almost have to keep up to ensure we can compete with other schools and other people. Still, if we don’t make time to truly get to know our children – and them us – the rest is pointless.

One of our core Marist Principles is ‘presence’. By that we don’t just mean being in the same room or home but actually being 100% present to a child for a few minutes a day. My challenge to both you, the parent body, and me, as a father, is to make time to genuinely sit down, enquire, look our children in the eye and hear them for who they are, what they are thinking, share their school based successes and disappointments and actually stop and see them.

Mr Tony Williams
Principal – Primary School