I quote from my book Lanterns and Lunch Tins, first published in 2010, “Comparing yesterday’s children with those of today, I find today’s children far more worldly wise and technologically capable. However, in my opinion, children seem to be not as emotionally stable as the children of yesteryear.” If that was my findings in 2010, and it has proved to be correct, can you just imagine the state of our children now, next year and the years beyond?
The number of children being sent to psychologists because of anxiety today is frightening! There is a proverb which says “Anxiety in the heart causes depression.” Could this “epidemic” of anxiety eventually lead to a time when most grown children will be living in a depressed state? Is this what we are preparing our children for?
Recently, within a matter of days I had 7 parents complain that their children were suffering from anxiety – the children ranged in age from 5 – 10 years. I have personally observed one of the 8 year olds, who is very bright, change from a happy, relaxed carefree, independent little boy, into a child who is so anxious. The teacher reports that, “although he is bright, his “work” does not reflect this – as a matter of fact, he dissolves into tears when new work is introduced in class, and it’s getting worse,” she says! What is going on?
In another section of my book I write “The classroom seating pattern, the method of teaching, the denial of a new age and the denial that technology and creativity underpin success are but a few cogs hindering the wheel of education today” and I warned in 2010 that “In this new age of technological marvels, where children have knowledge at their fingertips, and at the press of a button, the teacher’s role may become obsolete unless we as teachers, and the system of education, change radically.”
In all fairness to teachers, there are many barriers to learning, and I’m not visiting these in this talk. I will be looking at one thing at this time and that is the curriculum – the curriculum that is set in stone, the curriculum which is one of the greatest barriers to learning in this age, the curriculum which is outdated in this new age of technology, the curriculum which is demanding too much from teachers and children, the curriculum which is causing stress in teachers and resulting in many fine teachers leaving the profession, and most importantly, the curriculum which is causing untold anxiety in children because it is overloaded!
The curriculum demands the pace at which teachers have to run in order to win the race to complete the syllabus by the end of the year. And what about the children who are expected to run the race and keep up, with her? These are the ones who are left suffering as they lag behind because their legs and muscles haven’t had time to develop enough to run with her. They haven’t had time to grow and practice their new found growth. They have been forced to grow almost overnight.
New facts given in a lesson must always be based on prior knowledge and practice, practice, practice is the name of the game. But the set annual overloaded curriculum says there is no time to consolidate what you have just been taught, there’s so much else you need to learn. It’s like force feeding – open your mouth and swallow it quickly. There is no time to digest it before the next mouthful is given so just swallow. In the end the chid has had a gutsful so to speak- nothing has been digested and he is uncomfortable without realising why. We feel emotions in our gut –that’s why adults say “I have a gut feeling”, that’s why little children often complain of stomach ache. So, the child with the gut feeling and stomach ache feels that he can’t cope, that he’s not good enough, that children shouldn’t make mistakes otherwise they get a big red cross in their books – he doesn’t know how ese to get these feelings out so he becomes anxious.
Consequently, children are being discouraged about school, are forming negative opinions of themselves because they can’t keep up the pace, parents are faced with a stressed child who has mounds of homework, looming tests and continuous assessments. And the result? Anxiety! Why the need for so many tests and assessments? This is part of the stress children are being faced with today.
A good teacher should be able to judge, and cater for, the different Intelligences in her class. There are many intelligences but Howard Gardner has identified 8 but from experience, I have added a few more. This subject will be in my next podcast where I discuss the intelligences and how to cater for them, whether you are a teacher or a parent. However, school today teaches us that there are only 2 kinds of intelligences – the rest doesn’t matter! This too is causing anxiety and a feeling of hopelessness.
A good teacher always teaches in groups according to ability in every learning area. Consequently, groups will vary according to capabilities and particular Intelligence, so you may find a child in the top group in Maths in the lowest group for creative abilities and vice versa. This way children do not have the chance to form a negative concept about themselves and their intelligence. They realise their strengths which are made evident.
Unfortunately, too much hype is created around Mathematics BUT we need to bear in mind that the 21st century requires new skills – and visualization and creativity are only two of the tools that are needed for future success. The new and exciting age is here but the system of education has not changed to keep up. On the subject of Mathematics, the reason why so many children are “afraid” of this subject and don’t do well, is because there is no chance to consolidate the knowledge before another spoon has been dished up, causing more indigestion.
The importance of a solid foundation on which children can build can never be over-emphasised. By providing a solid foundation and an enriched environment on which future learning can be based, teachers will prevent future calamities for the child like low self- esteem or school drop-out and anxiety.
The rushed life of children today allows no time for them to breathe or to play. After school there are sporting activities and homework. On top of this, many children are being sent to Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy and extra lessons No wonder the children of today are suffering from anxiety! They are overloaded – they have had a gutsful and don’t know how to say “Stop! Let me digest and work through, consolidate and understand what I’m equipped for.
Children must play, explore, get fresh air and sunshine and be given opportunities to learn from their own experiences. They need to chew before being forced to swallow.
So … what can we do to bring children back to normal?
- Revolt until the Education Department devises a new curriculum with teachers who are experienced with the capabilities of different ages, and who understand what is needed in this new age. Do you think this will happen?
- Train teachers to recognise and cater for the different Intelligences, in order to facilitate personalized learning and reduce anxiety. Is this possible?
- Home school our children where there will be a balance of learning and free play, where new-found knowledge can be consolidated and extended by the person who knows where the child is at in his learning. Children need to learn at their own pace and to compete only against themselves.
Visit the Academy of Home Based Learning @www.aohbl.com to listen to Dr Grossi’s PODCAST and for more information on the AOHBL.