Although simplistic, life is divided between those things that we love doing and those that we don’t. For some, their idea of a relaxing time may be cooking, fishing, gardening or a good book, while for others this would be an endurance! Some people love shopping, for others it is a chore, but with a clear goal, say buying things for a special occasion, we can still be galvanised into action. Young children are innately driven to actively explore and do and with skilled support, even so called chores can be made fun and engaging. You only have to look at Montessori practice and early years catalogues packed full of resources designed to emulate the adult world, to see this in practice.

Paralympic champion Danny Crates’ story of trials and triumphs certainly gave lots to inspire in a keynote last weekend. His message was clear, with vision and a huge amount of hard work and determination, you can achieve almost anything. For teenagers and young adults, unsure of what career path they’d like to take and all too aware of the many obstructions in their way, these three ingredients will be essential in reaching their potential. Young children too are not immune to their position in relation to other’s in the classroom and the hidden meaning behind the ‘Foxes, Tigers and Rats’ groups. Adult’s have a vital role to play in keeping children excited, confident and engaged as young learners. Key among this is recognising the many different forms taken by individual’s talents and interests, particularly young boys in predominantly female-dominated school environments. Another factor is ensuring that learning is embedded and real so that whilst number bonds to 10, fractions or times tables may not on their own excite and engage every child, real hands-on objects can add a whole new satisfying dimension to traditional learning. If Maths and other learning are rooted in real life experience then they take on a new relevance and excitement and become child-led. Take my six year olds recent line of questioning on what’s x person’s age plus or take away y’s age; x’s height take away y’s height; or x time plus y time. The learning from discussions like these is concrete, real and far impacting, shaping as it does mathematical knowledge and application, self-esteem and critical thinking.

Having a vision is key to succeeding in adulthood, so early years practitioners and teachers have the task of supporting children in developing the foundations for individual thinking within what Ken Robinson (Changing the Paridigm) describes as the confines of factory-like schools. With youth unemployment rising it is essential that children leave school resilient and feeling positive about their worth and potential. The development of qualities like these will be shaped by practitioners and parents’ own vision for children and plentiful opportunities for creativity and divergent thinking.

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