The ABC of Child Whispering: T is for Tension

Children are no strangers to stress and tension. Because they are ‘time-poor’ they have very little down time to process their feelings and concerns. The tension we feel as parents and teachers is unfortunately shared with children.

Our obsessions with their academic results and exams have caused children to question their self-worth, their intellectual ability and to doubt their ability to cope with school.

Stessed  children learn less so everyone loses!

I have assessed many new children over the last 3 months and a common thread runs through most of these sessions – tension.

So many kids are tense, worried, tell me they are failing and CAN’T DO their work. They describe themselves as “dumb” and “stupid” and really cannot perceive they could possibly be smart, successful or able to overcome their difficulties.

Sadly – something all these children share is average to high intelligence and incredible gifts in:

  • music
  • gymnastics/dance/sporting ability
  • the ability to generate amazing ideas for writing
  • really high artistic ability
  • high problem solving skills

Their creative thinking skills are off the scale and yet they know we don’t value these gifts!

Why don’t we?

The world needs these creative gifts like never before!

Why do we consign these brilliant kids to the educational trash heap?

Sure – they often DO learn differently.

This means I have to think differently when I plan their lessons and I have to teach differently. I get kids writing and spelling words in bright colours, tracing them in sand-pits, on a giant white board etc and I’m happy to provide all these learning tools because this is HOW they learn. So, if children learn differently we all need to teach differently. We can’t keep consigning these kids to the educational rubbish bin.

I LOVE working with these super-smart kids. and I have to help them let go of the tension and negative thoughts they have built up around their academic achievement. It is a privilege to work with them.

I teach them to physically relax using kinesiology exercises, learn to adopt a positive mind set and  I utilise art and journalling therapies to help with self-expression .

Its only after they can relax and drop the tension around academic matters that our children can truly start the remediation process. These kids need to be healed from the very education system that was supposed to help them!

We owe it to the future to roll back the tension levels kids feel. it just makes the learning process so much slower. ALL kids can be helped to see their own skills and to realise they ARE smart they DO matter and they CAN succeed.

 

 

 

 

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The ABC of Child Whispering: T is for Telling Tales

Telling tales is considered to be a very “un-Australian” behaviour but let’s face it- as adults we often call it “whistle blowing” and often admire the truth tellers!

Children tell us “tales” for many reasons.

For sure they might be seeking to get their siblings or classmates into trouble. They also might be trying to become more popular with a teacher or to in some way weild personal power.

However- over my career I have often found these 2 reasons to be more evident-

  • Risky behaviour has been witnessed – behaviours we would DEFINITELY want to be told about.
  • A child has been bullied and is frightened and definitely want the behaviour to stop.

So- the message is- listen carefully and don’t just send children away before listening to them. At least listen and if their tale telling is inappropriate tell them why BUT do not tell them they cannot come back if something is important and needs to be communicated.

Children must ALWAYS know they can depend on parents and teachers to be there and to listen in troubling and problematic situations.

The following link raises some important points. Sure- especially as teachers, we get sick and tired of tales but we need to look closely at the reasons for the tales and consider if some action needs to be taken- even if it is just to be a receptive listener or to encourage a child in a situation that is bothering them.

Children Bullying and Telling Tales: The Link

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High-School Worries for Year 7 students.

Recently I have had a spate of year seven students who are suffering extreme anxiety and are obsessively worried about getting assignments done, homework up to date and studying for what seems to be a  never ending round of tests!

The problem as I see it, is that while it does benefit children of year 7 age to have specialist teachers and to begin learning subjects in greater depth; these kids ARE still kids and do not all cope well with the pressures of high-school life.

I know there are many primary teachers employed in highschools to help the transition to be smooth and this is GREAT but the kids I am seeing are being treated like year 8 kids and-

  • are expected to do at least 2 hours homework each night
  • forget where the toilets are
  • are terrified of the “big kids” and suffer lots of teasing and bullying
  • have to carry around all their books and files on their backs like human snails because they can’t find their lockers or want to have EVERYTHING with them in case they’ve forgotten something and so on!

They are not being nurtured and helped to cope and in many cases schools are not paying enough attention to the needs of these younger students.

The transition should be made as seamless as possible but these children who were only just coping at primary school are now absolutely sure they are failures! How sad!

Whether or not there are sufficient staff or funds, schools CAN-

  • Be kind and welcoming to all their kids and ensure ALL teaching and non-teaching staff are aware of potential problems that might occur for these younger children.
  • Ensure teachers from different subject areas have an effective  communication system in place so that kids do not have too many assignments to do each evening
  • Be very aware that children in year 7 may have more need for home-room contact and access to counselling
  • Understand All year 7 children need regular help to develop the positive growth and mindset skills that will help them with their studies and high-school life.

This IS serious. These kids are not just presenting with academic issues. These difficulties can lead to potentially very serious mental health problems.

We all need to think back to our own childhoods and remember that daunting, terrifying day we went to high-school.

I remember the year 12s at Albany high-school looked like GIANTS.

I can still recall the smell of donuts cooking in the school canteen but being terrified of lining up with the giants to buy one! It all sounds funny and silly now but at the time was TERRIFYING!

Taking our year 7 students to highschool was never going to be easy- let’s use our emotional intelligence and just plain commonsense to ensure we don’t shred their self-confidence and kill their enthusiasm and enjoyment of education!

Please call me on 92777596 or 0409911135 or email me on victoriacarlton@iinet.net.au if you would like extra help for your child.

Here is some extra information and interesting thoughts on successful transition to highschool.

http://https://www.news.com.au/national/nsw-act/year-7-students-suffering-high-school-anxiety-need-help/news-story/bdc611cee79fe033cab7f0a8b6939394

http://https://www.tes.com/news/children-struggle-year-7-no-one-secondary-knows-child-well-we-do-primary

 

 

 

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NAPLAN NONSENSE

Finally, my colleagues are vindicated in their anti-NAPLAN comments! This morning’s news featuring the report from Dr Ainley showing:

“There has been no improvement in maths and reading among students in a decade and the results of disadvantaged students have declined sharply, a major report obtained by the ABC reveals.” (link at end of this blog)

I train teachers around the country and many outstanding educators have privately shared their NAPLAN concerns with me.

These concerns include:

  • Having to teach to the test- not the curriculum.
  • Reducing child development to grades and benchmarks and not taking learning styles into consideration
  • Children’s fears and anxiety around these tests.
  • Parents making children work on endless worksheets that purport to give better marks- a whole industry has grown up around this reduction of the education process to grades and numbers!
  • Children are pretested,  post – tested- they are tested so often there is little time to teach!

I regularly give workshops to SE Asian teachers as well, and my Singaporean colleagues have asked me why we have so many national exams.

Singapore has very high standards of education and has been very exam oriented in the past but is gradually injecting more creativity into the curriculum.

We NEVER had to go this way.

Sure- literacy and numeracy standards needed to improve and we needed more rigour in our education process.

This could have happened with a tighter curriculum, more effective professional development and extra teachers and assistants to work with children.

NAPLAN was always a broken, inferior tool to mend an education system that needed serious improvement.

Read more about it here-

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-03-07/naplan-call-review-after-report-reveals-no-change-in-decade/9519840

 

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THE HIDDEN CONCERNS OF NAPLAN

 

There are emerging concerns about children’s high stress levels during NAPLAN testing but the hidden, huge concern is massively increased teacher stress load and this is being largely ignored. Teachers are deliberately staying quiet and not commenting in the media for fear of their jobs.

We conduct a great deal of professional development around Australia with thousands of teachers and I can assure readers they ARE experiencing severe stress. Their time is taken up with administering and marking many practice tests – especially in term one where they get kids ready for this testing. Traditionally this was the term to thaw out Aussie kids’ brains from the long, hot summer baking and help them become receptive to the knowledge they will receive in the new school year.

Naplan years are now practising test papers instead and even “off year Naplan testing” is happening as enterprising companies have devised test papers for children in other grades.

Of course this is educational insanity and takes time away from good teaching. We are likely to drive our education standards down further as we know that quality teaching is the one factor that can make a difference.

Teachers simply cannot do their jobs as so much time is taken up with test preparation.
Any education system that uses testing as a major aid to check on levels of attainment is putting out a clear message- we don’t trust our teachers!
If the Government really does not trust teachers to be able to help children reach their potential we need to address this. Why this lack of trust? Does this lack of trust existing in other professions?
We need to honour our teachers, nurture them, show trust and provide the tools they need. A huge number of our attending teachers pay their own fees for our courses and report they have to buy their own JOLLY PHONICS and JOLLY GRAMMAR handbooks. Their salaries are not high- less than most professions and that sends a clear message- you are not worth it!
We can carry on down this destructive and negative pathway and increase teacher and student stress or we can look at truly successful educational models such as the one in Finland and start to trust our teachers, provide higher quality training for them and stop the massive waste of energy, time and money related to NAPLAN testing.

 

 

 

 

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OVER TESTING LEADS TO UNDER TEACHING

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So now Year Ones are to have a new test to determine who has problems.

By this time of the year Grade One teachers have already identified these youngsters and doing all they can to help them catch-up and have success with basic literacy and numeracy skills.

The money to develop this new test could be used to put extra teacher assistants in the classrooms and purchase adequate teaching resources. (Teachers buy their own!)

Australian kids are over-tested and under-taught!

There are problems that results from this over-testing:

  • Parents naturally worry about the tests and are concerned the results will affect their children’s futures. According to parents, judgements about who can enter certain private schools are sometimes made using NAPLAN results.
  • MANY schools are holding time-consuming NAPLAN coaching sessions for entire classes and teachers who attend our professional development sessions are concerned about this.
  • Every time teachers coach kids to pass a test they are not teaching to the needs of their classes.
  • Students are really worried- we have so many year 3 children who are really frightened of NAPLAN
  • Parents are buying assessments books by the dozen and coaching kids at home. Kids are not getting to play and relax. This leads to stressed kids learning less in classrooms.

NAPLAN has always been a very expensive, ineffective and time wasting stick to try to scare teachers into somehow drilling facts into kids in Dickensian “Hard Times” scenarios.

I had a parent tell me her Pre-Primary son has been identified as at educational risk because he counted to 100 and missed 89 and became mixed up!  This is the result of teacher stress reaching out and affecting children.

We taught this particular child with some extra “hands-on” sessions. He had NO problems at all – in fact his maths intelligence was very strong.

We need to regain our sense of perspective and look at what actually DOES work. We say we do this but Finland is a leading light and they have very little testing.

Singapore is known to be a school system that is reliant on rigorous testing but I am regularly asked by my colleagues there why we have SO MUCH testing in Australia- and yet very little effect!

We need to honour and trust our teachers as professionals and give them the resources and help they need to help ALL youngsters reach their potential!

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A safety net of love and understanding

130514_dkidgirlwallclimbing

At Church today the Pastor talked to us about how God’s love provides a safety net for us and enables us to move forward with confidence knowing we are loved and cared for so fully.

Alison told us that when the Golden Gate Bridge was built, a safety net was put in place, allowing the workers to move about more confidently and safely while incidentally increasing productivity.

This made me think about children in our classes. When children know they are loved and safe to take risks, try new learning techniques and learn from mistakes, test scores and academic performances improve. To put it simply: Happy, supported children learn more.

The safety net that can be built in all educational environments needs to emulate a healthy home environment. Children must know they are loved and safe and not all expected to achieve at the same rates. Without this safety net children will just take the safe path and not take any risks with learning and this means they will not be giving of their best.

A truly high quality system will always encourage students to “stretch” their intellects and go for gold- even if they fall down sometimes. The safety net of love and encouragement will help students stand up quickly, improve their “bounce factor” and learn from their mistakes.

So how do we weave such a safety net? To my mind these factors are crucial:

  • Teachers need to LOVE their students- not in a soppy meaningless way but in a way that respects children and understands that kids make mistakes- they are after all LEARNERS!
  • Teachers with challenging students need real assistance to be able to provide that loving safety net as there are always kids who try the patience of even the most loving and understanding educator.
  • Teachers themselves need a loving safety net of respect and understanding from their admin teams who in turn need it from their departments. Teachers who are not free to try our new techniques and whose only concern is to get kids to pass tests will NEVER get the best academic results from their students. Fear is a very poor teacher.

A loving safety net to help all students feel cared for, respected and affirmed could absolutely transform all education environments- and lift education standards without the pressure and cajoling that occurs so often.

We notice how often children who do our EQ4KIDZ course surprisingly get higher academic results. We really should not have been surprised, given the strong correlation between self esteem and successful learning.

Thanks Alison Gilchrist for your sermon today! I’m going to check our safety net for International Centre for Excellence and make sure there are no weak spots!

 

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HAPPY CHILDREN = BETTER ACADEMIC RESULTS

New mindset new results motivational phrase sign on old wood with blurred background

Our EQ4KIDZ course leads to better academic results. This is because children develop an I CAN attitude and therefore stop holding back in the classroom.

They are more positive, resilient and improve general self-esteem and develop an I CAN attitude.

This course teaches kids to understand themselves and develop more positive attitudes.

EQ4KIDZ is offered in Australia and SE Asia. Our goal has always been the same: To help all children reach their potential.

Students are led through art and drama activities, proven to help them understand themselves and others.

Training is also available for schools. We can provide trained teachers to run this transformative course in schools and we are also available to go into schools and train staff.

Readers who are interested in enrolling children in this course can contact ICE on 9271 4200 or email International Centre for Excellence iceinfo@iinet.net.au

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SAD CONVERSATIONS

bambino disperato si copre il voltoAlmost everyday I have sad conversations with parents and children about school work and homework they cannot understand.

A little challenge is healthy but to be constantly confronted with work they have no chance of succeeding with is just plain depressing. Then – just to rub salt in the wound, the NAPLAN results arrive and another nail is driven into the coffin of self-esteem!

F grade and a sad smilie, written in red letters in a spiral pad, shallow DOF

Of course there are curriculum guides that tell teachers the content expected to be mastered at different grade levels BUT a teacher’s task is always to take a child metaphorically by the hand and lead them through the curriculum. If they have not reached a certain stage you cannot just MAKE this happen. Children need to be given work they CAN do and then be shown how to get to the next level.

Children are not machines to be suddenly accelerated by a switch. They are wonderful gifts from God for us to nurture, love and lead gently through the education maze.

There is NOTHING more demeaning than to not be able to do school work all day (with classmates teasing and goading) and then to be given homework that you can’t do either. Schools need to be aware of how many families spend hours on homework tasks every night with resultant frustration and tears. These kids are not getting time to play, chat, daydream and generally be kids.

There is very little evidence that copious amounts of homework help children at all. Reading, practising basic spelling, phonics and times tables is appropriate. Any more than 30-40 minutes per evening is too much and children under 8 should have even less.

We need to stop robbing children of their childhoods and help them at point of need.

That’s why tuition that targets specific skills not understood, and that builds self-confidence and self-esteem really works!

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NAPLAN WASTE

brain 1So there have been no significant gains in student results this year.

So what?

Can we measure the more intangible but more important outcomes with tests?

E.g.

  • Curiosity and wonder about the world
  • Formulation of ideas, dreams and goals
  • Ability to socialise and communicate
  • Determination to overcome difficulties
  • Fresh, creative writing
  • Ability to think logically and problem solve
  • Children’s ability to empathise with others and ability to manage their own strong feelings
  • A feeling of self-worth and optimism?

Of course we can’t! You need careful observations and skilled teachers and parents to identify the above qualities.

All teachers know how important the above outcomes are to children’s lives and yet we concentrate on such a narrow band of abilities.

Why do we think education is always about measurable results?

Why are we so scared of aspects of education we cannot pin down?

A good education is so much more than the results in the areas that NAPLAN measures.

Once again, children are being likened to machines that just need information rammed in tightly.

NAPLAN completely ignores the fact that children have at least 8 intelligences. Children who lack skills in maths and literacy feel like complete failures.

We see children with amazing art ability and aptitude for thinking deeply and logically. We see children who know so much about science and have “out of the box” ideas for helping our environment. These kids are still consigned to the rubbish heap.

We have not come very far!

So many years and so little progress!

“Now, what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts; nothing else will ever be of any service to them.”
Charles Dickens, Hard Times

The money spent on the development and administration of NAPLAN could so easily have been provided to schools for extra teachers, resources and ongoing professional development of teachers. That would have contributed to long lasting benefits for all Australian children!

Charles Dickens had it right- “There is a wisdom of the head, and… there is a wisdom of the heart.” – Hard Times

Hard Times ahead for education if we don’t get our heads out of the sand and stop applying flawed pedagogical principles to the education process!

 

 

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