Sunday, March 19, 2017

What Should Schools Really Teach?

Over the last two weeks there has been a huge amount of comment and articles in the media about the concept of consent and in general about sexuality and relationship education and whether it is the job of schools or parents to teach this. In a school we often hear both sides of this argument. We hear from one group of people that they want us to leave all of this to parents and concentrate on “the curriculum.” And we hear from the group of people who think schools should teach everything and anything that goes wrong with teenagers in society is because schools haven’t done their job well enough.

I’m not sure it’s that simple. Parents are absolutely our children’s first teachers, and should continue to be this for their children even after they enter the schooling system. But the school system, by it’s very nature a social institution, can perhaps harness a part of social education more difficult for some parents to access and if the school system and the family system worked together on this- imagine what could be achieved.  In fact many of us in schools would say that teaching a dispositional curriculum- in partnership with whānau whoever possible- is the most important thing we do to prepare todays young peoples for their futures.

A leader at Haeata sent me this blogpost this morning. It’s all about relational aggression. We are seeing a lot of this at school at the moment. 

In teenage boys it tends to manifest itself in physical aggression, and a bit of a pack mentality- you offended my friend so now we are going to gather support and get you.  Normally this can be dealt with. It takes a lot of time, and preparedness to address things and move on for all parties. Restorative practice by it’s very nature is not quick or one-off but over time will pay huge dividends.

In girls the relational aggression is often more insidious. Sometimes it is physical threats and intimidation but often its more covert than this. Exclusion of people, silent treatment, “taking away” friends etc. I re-watched the movie Mean Girls last weekend. It’s not complete fiction. I see those scenes playing out in front of my eyes every day. These forms of aggression are not as easy to deal with as the physical aggression, especially when its often followed with “I was just kidding,” or other such phrases quoted in this article. To restore a relationship you need to be prepared to accept you ahem done something to damage it in the first place. You need to have some empathy for the person you ahem damaged. Sometimes this is a lot easier with physical aggression than it is with more insidious forms of relational aggression.

There are some great suggestions for helping- both parents and teacher in this article
I love the suggestions of actively teaching our young people to be upstanders, distracters and supporters. If we are being reposbive to our students current needs then teaching some of these skill will become our next ‘curriculum,” because fi they develop those skills then they will be better ready to access other parts of the curriculum.

We all have a responsibility to help our teenagers work through their issues and find better, more healthy ways of working through this aggression than the strategies they may currently have. That is the only way they will break this cycle as adults. And that is the responsibility of an entire society- school absolutely, whānau absolutely, but we also need help and support for some young people- more help than is sometimes available at schools or in homes.

I think the most important statement in the article is:
Never say, “That’s just girls”, or “boys will be boys” for that matter. We can be better than that. Or at least we can try.

Let’s work together and aim to help all our young people grow up to be the very best people they can be- not just learners, not just family members, but the very best people they can be. That's our true curriculum.

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