Earlier this week parents took their children out of school in protest of the Government SATs tests. It has been reported as an “unprecedented strike”. I have to say I disagree with that report in view of the fact that I lead my own strike at my school in the late 70’s!
I was in the 5th form at school in 1977 and at that time teachers were staging a work-to-rule protest that included a refusal to supervise pupils during lunch-breaks. Only the 5th form pupils were affected as the dinner ladies supervised the younger years – this meant that myself and my peers could not take a lunchtime break in the school restaurant.
I did not see this as fair so I got together with some of my friends about forming a picket line and going on strike – and we did it – we got the all the school 5th formers out on strike. The school had never known anything like it before, even the local papers covered it! We held a meeting with the headmaster where we put our side of the story across and successfully negotiated getting cover that would enable us to have our lunchtimes back.
Some strikes are effective and I am not against people making a stand. Indeed, I encourage people to stand up for their rights just as I did back then as a young lad – but this parents strike about the SATs tests bothers me.
I am a parent and my son is currently going through the very same SATs test process too. So we are fully aware of the situation and how it may affect both children and parents alike. We also know how crucial and formative these years are for children; this is where the vast majority of their values and beliefs are formed. The things they learn know will influence how they live their lives for years to come. It could even be forever. My wife and I take massive responsibility for creating an environment that positively challenges my son; we both believe that this enables him to grow and gain confidence in his own abilities. All the time we are conscious of ensuring that we motivate him and encourage him, and we keep our messages positive.
As the saying goes: Energy flows where attention goes.
Every day I am aware of what I am asking my son, so instead of just saying “How was today?” I will say something like, “What was brilliant about today?” or “What are you going to enjoy most about today?” The emphasis is always on what he enjoys and what is great. This keeps his attention on the positive aspects of his day and ensures this is where his energy goes.
Of course, there are times when things do not feel so great for him – we do not ignore these times, but equally we do not dwell on the negativity. I always get him to think, “How can I do this?” rather than “I can’t do it!” – if he has had a result he didn’t want or expect then we always encourage him to look to see what he has learnt from the experience. We do not fear any kind of failure. It is at these most challenging times that people learn and grow the most; there is always something positive to learn.
Our children learn all the time from us, and not just from what we say, but from what we do. We must be clear that we are giving messages and signals to our children all of the time. Our actions and words indicate to our children how they should show up in the world. Are you clear on what you are showing to your children?
This is why the parent’s protest bothers me. Are the parent’s beliefs limiting their children’s growth?
Look out for my next blog on this subject where you’ll find out exactly why some of the parent’s actions over this protest are bothering me.