Like most professions, education is not just about getting a job and then slogging it out from 9 to 5. You are constantly striving to better perform your daily responsibilities, to up-skill and to solve the myriad of problems that you face. It is not enough simply to hold a basic level of knowledge in the subject(s) that you teach, but rather you must consider the educational environment as a whole and pay attention to how differing facets interlock and affect learning.
As part of my own CPD (Continuous Professional Development), I recently attended a tri-borough training day on the 3 P’s:
- Playmates &
- Problem Solving.
In essence, we examined schools as places of structure that provide children with a sense of routine and consistency which is not always found in other aspects of their life. More than that, we discussed the frequency with which classroom disputes and disruptions follow playtime – a portion of the school day which is normally a chaotic and unstructured free-for-all.
If I’m totally honest, I don’t remember all too much from my primary school, playground days. I recall a large, grasses area where we where able to run around, play on a jungle gym or sit in groups to talk/ eat/ play a myriad of clapping and concentration activities. As far as I can recall, we were not blessed with a bottomless pit of toys and equipment (in fact, I don’t think we were given any) but we were rather expected to be creative enough to come up with our own games.
At my current school, on the other hand, children are at a total loss of how to spend the last 5 minutes of playtime when the balls, skipping ropes, chalk and other assorted equipment has been packed away. This was the essence of the training day – in so many schools today, we provide children with a chest of toys but little accompanying instruction on how to play.
We are so weary about cultivating bored, whiney children that we’ve handed them “solutions” on a silver platter. We bombard them with things and, in doing so, we remove their ability to operate without these things. We provide so many choices that decision-making skills are left to flounder. We stick plasters on the tiniest grazes and make ourselves the first port of call for any problem, big or small; we takeaway the need for our children to learn how to problem solve thereby increasing frustrations when things go wrong.
Whilst it is important for children to know that they must go to an adult when they have serious problems, they should also know how to find a tissue by themselves and how to talk out minor issues in their friendship circle. Children should be allowed to fall down and graze their knee once in a while, and they should know the difference between injuries which are close to hospitalization and those which just need a dab of cold water before returning to play. We need to teach our children the difference between big and small problems, and then equip them with the skills needed to solve the latter. We need to encourage games which are less competitive and require greater teamwork and co-operation. We need to be less concerned with boredom and rather foster creativity and imagination. It may be simple, but if we start taking these steps at playtime, we are helping to raise more rounded and capable children.