I’m going to begin this with a caveat; these are my opinions, on my blog and I am sure that some people will disagree with me! Bring it on!
Over the last couple of weeks I have been faced with some challenges (nothing new there!), mostly surrounding teenagers and this time not mine. It’s given me the opportunity to look sensibly at the way I have bought up my kids. I say sensibly because I have found that being a single parent leaves you, most of the time, wracked with doubt over your decisions mainly because you have no one close to bounce decisions off of.
My daughter, just reaching her last teenage year has been particularly vocal regarding my parental skills during this time and I have really appreciated it. Instead of looking at what I may have done wrong, I have been able to look and see what I have done right.
I have had the pleasure of seeing so many teenagers come through my door, family members, friends of family and even the odd waif and stray. I also volunteer with a group of 10-18 year olds and whilst I am not what I would consider a natural mother, I do enjoy the company and discussions this age group can start. Given the opportunity they are a passionate group of people.
And there’s the key… GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY!
It can go so very wrong with teenagers and my recent experiences have made me try and see why this is. I think (yep, this is only my thought, there is no scientific evidence to back any of this up) it goes right when children are allowed to find their “Thing”. Their “Thing”- the one thing they are good at, the one thing that gives them pleasure, that gives them a reason to get out of bed, that gives them belief in themselves, that gives them confidence to face the world.
This is not often found in schools (yep, there I go again, spouting my opinions). Michael Gove (MP for Surrey Heath) was sacked as Education Secretary this week and I could not be more pleased. He is married to Sarah Vine, columnist for The Daily Mail (urgh!). I find their xenophobic reporting about as vile as I perceive Michael Gove to be.
Children really need opportunities to thrive outside of school, especially for those where school and academic qualifications are difficult. If they don’t have interests outside of school, where do they turn when school isn’t working? When school friendships fall apart? When family life is challenging? When the pressure to achieve is insurmountable? It’s at this point that the teenagers in question fall apart, they fall through the net or they hit the tabloid headlines for one reason or another.
Not all children can achieve the coveted A’s or A*’s, that doesn’t mean they are not worthy individuals, but that certainly seems to be the ethos of education these days, especially under Mr Gove’s period in office.
Do high scoring GCSE’s make you a better person than the child who put in 100% effort and achieved a D or an E? Of course it doesn’t! Children are being drilled into thinking Results = Success and this is wrong. Effort = Success and you cannot possibly measure everyone using the same scale.
I have been on a low income for many years and yet I have given my children opportunities; you can find a way to do it if you are motivated enough. My daughter is passionate about dance, she found her “Thing” early on. My son has tried a few things and may be on the cusp of finding his. In both instances the benefit of friends and mentors outside of school and the successes (and failures) outside of school have helped them achieve in school and learn how to cope. By achieve, I mean to the best of their ability where they have worked hard and put in the effort and gained the results.
They have coped with the split of their parents, they have coped with difficult friendship issues, my son has coped with his diagnosis of autism and they have coped with family losses.
There is more to LIFE than school and as adults we know that, so why do we allow others to make our children think there is no life outside of school?
Helping kids (yours or others) find their “Thing” is about as rewarding an experience as you can possibly find. Some teachers are very, very good at this and they should be revered. I have been lucky enough to have encountered a few of these during my time as a parent. Of these excellent teachers, they have all without exception supported my child’s outside interests.
Makes you think. There really is more to life than school.