I wrestle with the future the faces my son and heir, @ethinkingjnr. I have no idea what might become of him, I just hope each day that he develops his backbone and learns to stand up for what is right. This was brought home this week when I attended a seminar outlining the work the Children’s Society has done on the well-being of children and how this has led to them to facilitate good childhood conversations around the country.
One interesting outcome of the research was a study of young people’s views of their own well being. It turns out that boys are happier than the girls in Liskeard. I must note the comparative here – One can only assume that both genders are pretty miserable and perhaps a better articulation would be that the boys in Liskeard are less miserable than the girls. Anyone who has spent anytime in Liskeard will have concluded that the best thing to come out of it is in fact the A38, which is one of the most lethal and god forsaken roads in the UK. Liskeard is an anagram for Dark Lies…..so to be fair anyone living there is fully entitled to be miserable and be quite happy about it.
Now this has caused me to wrestle with a long held and carefully nurtured hatred of the phrase well-being….. which often seems defined as a right rather than an outcome. Do kids have a right to a sense of well being on its own or the right to opportunities and challenges to develop a sense of well being as a by product of success? Educators allow people to feel OK about stuff they shouldn’t feel OK about: ‘I’m not very good at maths’ is an oft heard lament – the logic here is that its OK not to be good at maths so long as I’m not distressed by it. If I try hard then my teacher wont be upset…or more accurately ‘if i sit down and shut up and puff my cheeks out a bit then the teacher will think I am trying my best’. The truth is that in my world, if you are not good at maths and are intending to inflict yourself upon a group of children as their teacher, you had damn well better get good at maths and had better be pretty unhappy about the deficiency until it is fixed. Not, as one student recently entreated me, to take a register so that ‘I would know that they were trying’. They didn’t seem too thrilled when I explained that I didn’t give two hoots how much they tried…..they should be the ones wrestling with that given the money and sacrifices being made for the fees to be on the course. Some of the failings of the behaviour management tools of the teaching trade were outlined at the #tmbehaviour teachmeet run by Students here in Plymouth, how the rewards culture leads to children performing for rewards not because it’s simply the right thing to do. One of my students blogged a report here.
Here’s the truth, learning stuff requires your sense of well-being to take a hit……… here’s a diagram of it in the picture below. I am certain that many educators are complicit in enabling so many children to ‘grow a wish bone where they should have a back bone’ to quote an ancient Chinese proverb.
So we allow kids to get a sense of well being from trying hard, which is a bit like saying ‘its ok to be crap, so long as you work really hard at being crap we wont give you too much of a hard time’. The truth is that learning is a dirty business and it makes you miserable sometimes. The truth is that if you work hard you get a better outcome and that you should work hard and learn dirty to gain a sense of well-being – not a smiley sticker.
I don’t want this celebration of mediocrity for @ethinkingjnr. What I want for him is a community of all those who work with him and care for him; his parents, teachers, extended family, parents of his friends, his rugby coaches, the nice bloke on the hoe walking his dog (who isn’t a pedophile despite being a stranger and therefore dangerous) and random students that touch his life. I want that community to treat him with ‘loving authority’ to celebrate with him when he achieves, encourage him (not praise him) when he tries and challenge him when he fails or falters. Which brings me back to the Good Childhood Conversation from the Children’s Society, this strikes me as being a huge opportunity for communities to engage in the very important debate about how to raise the next generation, given that our children’s lives are ‘under assault’ as Hilary Clinton put in ‘It takes a village’ from all kinds of threats and misery. Now I don’t live in a village, I live in a city, but I have two pseudo villages to nudge into this discussion, his Rugby Club and his School.
I have to empower those around him to turn him into the kind of man he is capable of becoming, and not a self indulgent, risk averse token collector that the education system is designed to create. Then he will go on to achieve ‘greatness’ and a sense of well-being every now and again.