Teaching has inspired me since I qualified seventeen years ago. It has inspired me even more in the last four years working in a school that promotes a growth-mindset and focuses strongly on children’s social and emotional development, as well as academic.
As such, I have the privilege to lead P4C, Philosophy for Children, sessions in a class of nine year olds once a week.
This week, these wise kids stunned me with their insight and maturity about a topic which is close to my heart…
My role is to give them the topic – this session’s being ‘Caring is Everything’ – and to see where they take it. I might prompt them with questions but I don’t ever make any judgement, good or bad, about what they say. This particular class is fairly new to it which made their comments even more striking. The child-led conversation went like this:
Child A: Yes, ‘Caring is Everything’ because we have to care for our family, friends, pets and everyone to keep them happy.
Child B: We should care for things too. Otherwise we might drop litter or waste money if we have to buy things again because we’ve lost them.
Child C: Yes but you can care too much. If you care for a poor person on the street too much, you will give them everything and end up poor yourself. You have to keep some things for yourself.
Child D: And you have to be careful because if you care too much for other people it might make you sad.
Me: Can you build on that?
Child D: Well, if you always think about other people’s problems, then you’re too tired to think about your own. And then you get sad because your problems get too big.
Me: So who else should you care for then?
Child D: (looking at me as if I were a bit dim). Yourself, of course!
This is such a simple concept that, as adults, is often hard for us to remember. Whether we are too busy caring for our families; meeting the needs of our friends in crisis; or striving to make sure we give 110% at work, our own self-care is too frequently at the bottom of the list. In the words of Eleanor Brown…
“Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”
My nine year olds have got this worked out. Let’s hope they don’t forget it as they grow up!
Children from the same class, surprised me with their response to ‘The Learning Pit’, a great learning tool that was created by James Nottingham (this video sums it up really well in less than three minutes!).
Essentially, it helps students develop resilience because it reinforces these key concepts:
- In order to learn something new, I need to be brave and face the unknown.
- It will be hard and I will experience a range of emotions.
- I might need to try lots of different strategies to overcome challenges.
- In the end, I will make it; but it will be tough and that is ok.
Having shown my class this video, and discussed how we will use The Learning Pit in our lessons to support learning, I asked them to create posters to show their range of emotions as they work their way through the pit when facing a challenge.
Many of them said they felt proud once they got out of the pit; proud and ready to try a new challenge. I loved that response. As adults, I don’t think we are always ready to throw ourselves back into that pit straight away!
But it was this girl’s response that struck me most:
Her final words were: ‘‘In the end, when I get out I feel powerful and mighty because I solved a super duper hard problem.’’ I thought this was a great way to sum up the joy of overcoming hurdles in life. How wonderful that overcoming a problem can mean feeling ‘powerful and mighty’ and, sorry guys, but it was a particular pleasure to hear those words from a girl. They show strength, power, self-belief; characteristics that, all-too-often, girls lack more than boys.
Skills for Life
What I love about The Learning Pit and Philosophy for Children, is that they enable children to voice, express and share ideas and skills that they can use for life. As a teacher, I know that what I teach them in a computing lesson today, will be out of date by next year. Yet these skills will stay with them forever. Hopefully they’ll apply them to their relationships, their careers, their moments of joy, their traumas and everything else in between. Couple this with their understanding of self-care, these wise kids are already so well-equipped to deal with the challenges life will throw at them!
- How about you, are you well-equipped?
- Do you prioritize self-care?
- Do you throw yourself into the Learning Pit and do you have the tools to work your way out?
If not, maybe it’s time to try!