My youngest child brought home a letter this week informing me that she will shortly be participating in the National Child Measurement Programme (the height/weight check for Reception and Year 6 pupils). I immediately thought of all the current focus on healthy eating, exercise and the rise in obesity in children, but then also considered whether as much attention is focussed on improving the mental health of our children (and indeed ourselves). I have experienced first-hand the multitude of mental health issues which children, and those who work with them, can experience. I myself left the teaching profession because I was aware that it was having a negative impact on my mental health and affecting my family life at home. I have seen colleagues leave the profession or need time off because of the stress and anxiety of working in education. My own children, and others I have met during my career, have exhibited a range of mental health issues. I have seen lack of self-esteem, uncontrollable anger, despair, grief, anxiety, eating disorders and socialisation difficulties. What I now realise is the frequency with which I noticed these issues, on a daily basis, which makes me wonder what the wider picture is. Today our lives seem busier than ever. Educators juggle the demands of their career with family life and have their own ongoing battle to care for their mental health. Meanwhile children are reacting to pressure from peers, trying to please, care for, or rebel against parents (whilst undergoing constant academic assessment). There seems to be opportunity to share problems or take time out to listen, speak or help. We assess academic achievement, we measure children’s height and weight, but do we ever check children’s mental wellbeing. If tests could be carried out nationally, what would it tell us? Perhaps just as many schools have adopted ERIC time (a slot when everyone takes time out to read) there should be a move to have a slot each week when everyone has chance to share their troubles, check up on each other, or just to celebrate being happy. I think I’ll try it at home, a weekly family mind time, and see how it goes!
Ever changing, ever growing, social media seems to be tightening its hold on my children. There’s new apps I’ve never even heard of and phones/tablets seems to be constantly flashing and pinging with notifications. Facebook, twitter, Instagram are the ones I am familiar with and feel able to support my children in ensuring they keep their accounts private. Others like TikTok and Houseparty are a bit of a mystery and I feel concerned that I don’t know enough about these and other apps which appeal to our younger generations.
It seems an almost impossible task to keep up with the current trends and new apps as they appear. As parents, educators, we want to be able to guide and support children, but this is difficult when they often know more about these apps than we do. Esafety is taught throughout school, but is this enough? Perhaps I’ll just turn the internet off for an hour, so we can all have a break!!
Another Sunday spent trying to ensure that homework is all completed to a reasonable standard before Monday morning!
Homework certainly has its value and can be an essential supplement to the work done during the school day, but I am a strong believer that homework should be relevant, valued and purposeful. All too often my own children have completed homework only for it to get a single cursory tick (or worse still not marked at all).
We have completed projects on building Viking ships, or making games to practise maths skills. However, I often find that these ‘projects’ often rely of the input of parents to succeed, rather than the children. The competitive element appears, as parents vie to ensure that their child’s homework is the best (or at least not the worst in the class).
Reading, spellings, learning tables are all key elements of the primary curriculum and frequently form a significant proportion of homework. Spelling and reading are still valued at secondary level but then the other homework tasks become more varied and indeed vague. I have heard of homework which is to ‘revise’ (what and for how long is not specified), or homework this week is to watch …. on YouTube! The value of this type of homework – I am yet to be convinced.
These days children seem to spend more and more time at after school activities, or glued to some type of electronic device. Perhaps a new approach to homework is needed in this modern age? Tasks which are engaging, purposeful and that actually benefit a child’s education are needed – not just homework for homework’s sake!