What is childhood?

Artist Raindropmemory from www.wallpaperswide.com

Artist Raindropmemory from http://www.wallpaperswide.com

Reading the comments below this blog post on extra-curricular activities for children has got me thinking – what is childhood?

Are those who say “let children be children” and “XXX is being robbed of his childhood” a bit disillusioned? It’s only in recent decades society has romanticised childhood. Before the war and for hundreds of years (and in many countries even today) children were/are expected to work in factories, not have an education and provide for their family doing laborious, and very dangerous, jobs.

Children now in the Western world have never had it better. Education, toys, technology and more all on their doorstep. No longer are they shoved up a chimney or whipped to fetch a pail of water. Most are privileged to have loving families, a school system to help them succeed and to participate in extra curricular activities, which more often than not, are fun.

A fair number of parents shake their heads disapprovingly at the latter. When a parent is prepared to pour their time and money (not to say it always requires money) into educating and bettering their children, how can that be a bad thing? I see and hear about parents who don’t read to their kids, aren’t fussed about homework and let them play on the streets until dark in the name of childhood. Letting their child fall out of education without a plan in place, because you know, little Timmy is still trying to work out the path he wants to take.

Children get stressed when they have too many choices. Choices should be arbitrary (“would you like a custard cream or a digestive?”) not about serious life decisions. No child will ever volunteer themselves for maths tuition (or anything else that requires effort quite frankly), but that doesn’t mean it’s cruel to enrol them. DS1 started Kumon workbooks I bought from Amazon from aged three and they were a game to him.

At aged five, DS1 has been enrolled onto the Kumon course for three months now. He gets home from school, has a snack, does his 20 page Kumon worksheet in approximately 15 minutes, practises reading with his daily book from school and then he is allowed free play. He understands the routine, there’s no fight, no shouting, no tears. The misconception that a strict routine entails negativity from the parent is wrong. He is praised for his efforts and excited for the sticker at the end. Kumon hasn’t only taught him sums – he’s learnt routine, concentration (even when the task in hand isn’t brightly coloured and flashing to get your attention like most activities – that’s another blog post for another time…), to work autonomously, self-correction, seeing things through to the end, pencil control among many others.

The key to success is to be relentless with everything you do. I try my best to instil good habits from an early age, so as they grow up my children are hungry to achieve for themselves.

Textbook, not Facebook.

Today’s public announcement by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) warned that there would be consequences in having a Facebook account accessible to pupils. This has caused a somewhat mixed response; some say teachers’ should have the same liberties as you or I, and others expect them to keep their personal lives hidden.

I think to impose a ban on Facebook would be almost impossible to regulate and would merely add to this ‘nanny state’ the Daily Mail loves to rave about. Schools should advise new teachers of the repercussions, so they are made very aware that their images and wall posts are in public view. It is then the teacher’s decision whether or not to have a social networking website, to change their privacy settings or to use a pseudonym. If the contents of their website are misused by pupils, then they are culpable. To have images manipulated or comments made in class, ultimately loses the teacher’s respectability. If a teacher does not have the respect from their pupils, they will not succeed; thus, giving a school a valid reason to remove a teacher from their post.

I find it odd how perceptions have changed; once teachers were the pillars of society, but now they are seen to be ‘one of us’. As a parent, I want teachers to be smarter than me, well-educated and have a high standing in the community. They should be reserved and informed, happy they have chosen a vocation where they have such an influence in our children’s lives; not living for the weekend, where they intend to sit pint in hand in the local Wetherspoons. They have an obligation to uphold this demure exterior and ensuring their reputation stays intact.

I do not agree with schools imposing rules, but I do think teachers should want to be perceived as professional, in and out of school. If politicians and celebrities can live their lives without writing on each others’ walls and tagging photos, I am sure teachers can. Your memories are your own.

Sell out.

Clegg launched a manifesto pledge at Barnardos to introduce a Pupil Premium which would raise the poorest childrens school funding to private school levels.

You would think that as time moved on, I would start to get over the deceit and bury the memories of being cheated for my vote. A hundred days later, Clegg still stands by his sham of a government, stating in The Observer; ‘we will govern for the long term and we’ll stick to our plan’. I almost find this quote comical; what is this plan you speak of? I am very sure I watched you live on television, listened to you on the radio and read articles reassuring our nation that you were eager to protect our schools and our public sector. Why is it now that we find ‘Building Schools for the Future’ scrapped, less university places are available and the inevitability of privatised universities? I wonder how many more times we will find Clegg negating his policies in favour for a bigger pay check.

I will be forever resentful that my first vote was not towards bettering our country, but to aid the rich in getting richer. Clegg, you sold out.

So sign me up and toss this key, ’cause for now, we’re living.

Today I found out I graduate with a 2:1 in English and American Studies. Boom. I can’t explain how gratifying it is to finally get what I’ve been working so hard for. DS has been an inspiration to me to get back on track and really focus on getting my degree. He doesn’t even know.

I spent the day at Sandwich Technology School conducting questionnaires to year 9 and year 10 students, as part of a temp researcher job I’m doing. I really do enjoy this job, it’s a shame it’s not permanent. This was the fifth school I’ve been to in the last month, and each one has been so different. I’ve really learnt a lot about schools, education and how both will really suffer with the cuts put in place. Schools all over the country are struggling as it is with the budget they have to work with, and to have more cuts, less resources, sufficing with run down buildings and incompetent staff – It’s a travesty. Teachers need a higher calibre and a passion for teaching. What I’m seeing now is an overwhelming surge in the number of graduates who move onto doing a PGCE just because their degree on it’s own is inadequate. It’s not a good enough reason to become and teacher, and it shouldn’t be so easy.

I’m quite excited for tomorrow – I have my second interview at a place in Whitstable. I would like to get the job, obviously, but I do have two other interviews lined up in the following weeks I have high hopes for.

Looks like it’s all systems go!