‘We know how to keep calm and deal with difficult situations.’
Next week, our ethos theme is: ‘We know how to keep calm and deal with difficult situations.’ Following The Happiness Project, we asked the children what they had enjoyed most about the activities and workshops during the week. One session which received overwhelmingly positive feedback was the yoga and mindfulness workshop and the children acknowledged how calm and relaxed this session made them feel. Focussing on being quiet, noticing physical sensations and breathing steadily is really beneficial for children when they face difficult or stressful situations. In these situations, we tend to lose control of our breathing (and consequently our heart starts racing) and this triggers the rational part of the brain to switch off as we engage in our ‘fight or flight’ mode and we start to panic. By concentrating for a few moments on our breathing, the frontal lobe of our brain is reactivated and we can begin to reason with, and make decisions about, whatever challenges we are facing. This weblink provides five simple breathing activities you could try as a family at home this weekend. You can also find online guided meditation scripts to use with children and these provide a structured approach to finding moments of calm in a busy day – great for bedtimes!
‘We try to eat a balanced, healthy diet.’
Next week’s ethos theme is: ‘We try to eat a balanced, healthy diet.’ Given it will be Shrove Tuesday and pancakes will be in abundance, this is a timely ethos theme to link into Lent and to explore why some people abstain from sweet treats and other temptations. However, rather than trying to ‘give up’ something for Lent, a different approach might be to ‘start up’ something new to help improve our health and well-being. It might be enjoying a brisk walk after tea now that the light is returning, making time to read a book before bed, eating more fruit and vegetables, drinking more water or taking up a new hobby with friends. In our busy, stress-filled lives, these small but simple steps could have a positive and significant impact on our well-being (and continue beyond the Easter holidays!).
The Happiness Project
Mrs Stratford and a team of staff have been busy preparing a special focused week of activities exploring the importance of peace and happiness in maintaining a healthy mind. Our ‘Happiness Project’ week will take place on 11-15 March and will encompass lots of activities and opportunities to reflect on how we can take charge of our health and mental well-being.
The mental health of today’s generation of children is regularly mentioned in the press with charities such as Childline reporting increased calls from children struggling with mental health issues (Childline Annual Review). Research from Place2Be, a children’s mental health charity, indicates that more than half (56%) of children and young people say they worry “all the time” about at least one thing to do with their school life, home life or themselves.
School has a duty of care to equip children at Froebelian with the skills, tools and support to manage their mental and emotional well-being. We need to help them develop their resilience to face challenges with a positive mindset but also to create a ‘safe to fail’ environment and signpost where to go when they find things difficult.
‘We are working hard to achieve our own dreams and goals.’
Perseverance is the name of the game as the little girl in this video demonstrates: click here.
This video has been presented at two recent Headteacher meetings to exemplify how we need to encourage children to develop resilience and a growth mindset. The look of sheer triumph and elation on the girl’s face only comes as a result of her dogged determination to overcome the challenge she has set herself. It is so important that children recognise the value of hard work and persistent effort; the resulting success is all the sweeter.
Another important message in this video is one of personal fulfilment. The little girl doesn’t receive a prize; her reward is the fact that she was eventually successful. Here, I find myself torn. The educator in me thinks that sometimes (often?) children only try hard because there is a reward at the end of the process rather than to feel good about their personal achievements. Shouldn’t we try hard because that is the standard we set for ourselves, not because there is a dangling carrot disguised as a merit, a dojo point or a sticker?
However, the pragmatist in me transposes children’s effort in the classroom to adult’s efforts in the workplace. We work to earn a salary. Yes, there might be altruistic benefits to the work we do which can motivate us and provide us with job satisfaction, but ultimately our primary motivation is to make a living. Why would/should we expect children to work hard for no recognition other than self-satisfaction? It’s most likely a balance of both – one to ponder!
‘We help others to achieve their goals.’
Next week, our ethos theme is: ‘We help others to achieve their goals.’ We are in the midst of the awards season for films and this ethos theme reminds me of the actors and actresses who have been lucky enough to receive their Golden Globe, BAFTA or Oscar award. In their thank you speeches, these film stars always express their gratitude for everyone who has been instrumental in their success: their family, their agent, the writer, the director, the producer, the amazing cast and crew etc. All of these people have supported the star in realising international acclaim; helping them to achieve their acting goal often with little recognition for their efforts. Although only one person receives the accolade, it is important to acknowledge the support structure which has played a fundamental part in their success.
As FIV start to celebrate their Senior School successes, it might be an opportunity for them to reflect on who has helped them to achieve their goal. Their achievements are the culmination of many years of education at Froebelian and involve every member of the school community. They could not achieve these offers without their personal drive and motivation, the support of their parents, the expertise of teachers, the care and attention of the teaching assistants and the camaraderie of their friends. It’s a great team effort!
‘WE HAVE A POSITIVE ATTITUDE’
Next week’s ethos theme is: ‘We have a positive attitude.’ I found this short story (here) which explains the importance of acknowledging all the positives in our lives rather than focusing on the one or two ‘black spots’ which seem to dominate or taint our happiness and well-being.
One day a teacher asked his children to prepare for a surprise test. They waited anxiously at their desks for the test to begin. The teacher walked around the class and handed the question papers with the text facing downwards.
Once he handed them all out, he asked the class to turn the page and begin. To everyone’s surprise, there were no questions, but just a black dot in the centre of the page. The teacher saw everyone’s bewildered expressions and said “I want you to write what you see.”
The perplexed children began to do what they had been asked to do. At the end of the class, the teacher took all the answer papers and started reading each one of them aloud in front of all the children. All of them with no exceptions described the black dot, trying to explain its position in the middle of the sheet, etc. After all had been read, the classroom silent, the teacher began to explain.
“I am not going to mark this test; I just wanted to give you something to think about. No one wrote about the white part of the paper. Everyone focused on the black dot – and the same happens in our lives. This is exactly what we tend to do with our lives. We have a white paper to hold onto and enjoy, but we are so busy contemplating the dark spots we see.
Life is a special gift and we will always have reasons to celebrate. It is constantly changing and renewing – our friends, jobs, livelihood, love, family, the miracles we see every day. And yet we insist on focusing only on the dark spots – the health issues that are bothering us, the money that we need, the luxuries we don’t have, complications in relationships, the disappointment with a friend and so on. You need to realise that the dark spots are very small and only few; and yet we allow these to consume our energy.”
Next week, I will be talking to the children in assembly about how having a positive attitude can really make a difference to our resilience when things get tough. I am not suggesting that problems and challenges should be ignored but explaining that taking a step back and putting these hurdles into perspective is an important part of managing and resolving them. Take your eyes away from the black spots in life. Count your blessings, not your problems.
‘We can work well with a partner or in a group’
Next week, our ethos theme is: ‘We can work well with a partner or in a group’. The soft skills of teamwork and collaboration will be vital in the future workplace which is why one of our Froebelian Flyers is ‘Collaborative Colin’. The World Economic Forum has published a list of the ten skills which will be needed in workplaces of the future as part of its report, The Future of Jobs (link here). The skills can be condensed into four key areas: critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration. These are the skills that robots and artificial intelligence still can’t do as well as humans.
The WEF believes: ‘Deeper learning takes places when adults debate, discuss and learn from each other and share their knowledge and experiences. This is sometimes referred to as ‘social learning’. Embedding group-based learning into the fundamental architecture of education is essential to encouraging sharing behaviours. Sharing and working in groups develops communication and collaboration skills.’
The ability to communicate, co-operate and compromise takes time to develop in young children so we try to create opportunities every day for them to practice and develop their collaborative skills in their learning and in their play. Teamwork divides the tasks and multiplies the success!
It’s OK not to be OK’
Next week’s ethos theme is: ‘We keep trying even when it is difficult.’ For schools and parents, this is a fundamental attitude we need to instil in our children. Our focus on social and emotional skills through our ethos themes and PSHEE lessons is really important for children’s resilience. Helping children to understand themselves, supporting them to manage their emotions, and ensuring they know how to seek help when necessary underpin our pastoral provision and build resilience. Recent mental health campaigns often quote: ‘It’s okay not to be okay’ and so teaching children to accept that a full range of positive and negative feelings are acceptable enables them to express things such as frustration or anxiety rather than bottling them up. Resilience doesn’t just mean gritting your teeth and getting on with it! The stiff upper lip for which the British are renowned can actually be quite damaging as we suppress our emotions to save face. Instead, resilience is about being confident to seek advice and accept support when required, helping us to normalise the range of experiences we all have, including on bad days.
School staff and parents have a role to play in modelling positive approaches during stressful times. Children learn (taking verbal and non-verbal cues) from the adults around them, so adults should be mindful of how they respond to stressful situations and demonstrate the skills needed to overcome challenges. Adults can also play an active role in supporting children during stressful times, such as the forthcoming Entrance Exams for FIV. By identifying problem-solving steps to work through situations positively, with practice children can embed this approach so they are able to more resolve difficulties independently. Discussing what happened afterwards and reflecting on the approaches used can also help to reinforce the learning; reminding the child that positive outcomes are possible even when the journey has proved a bit difficult or stressful.
The Importance of Compliments
Most people are prone to a little grumpiness now and then! We all have those days when we get out of the wrong side of the bed, we’re feeling a little bit off our game or under the weather. The next time you find yourself in that state of mind and you spend the day muttering under your breath, take a look around and try paying a compliment to the first person you see. It’s often easier said than done, especially when the storm clouds of life are looming large overhead, but if you can stop yourself in that moment and say something pleasant and unexpected to a family member, friend or colleague, the day ahead for both of you can turn on a sixpence for the better.
Next week, our ethos theme will be: ‘We know how to give and receive compliments.’ We are often very good at giving other people compliments but we can often become shy, dismissive or tongue-tied when we receive them; trying to somehow brush off the compliment or being self-deprecating. Compliments are like verbal sunshine; they cost nothing and are excellent for positive self-esteem. As Mark Twain said: ‘I can live for two months on a good compliment.’ Teaching children the benefits of giving compliments is important, but equally so is teaching them how to receive a compliment graciously. As mental health issues pervade the news and social media, we can all do our little bit to make each person we encounter feel good about themselves and perhaps walk a little taller for the rest of their day. I know, as part of their kindness agenda over the next few weeks, the Juniors will be thinking about how a kind compliment can make a positive impact on those around them.
Here are some great reasons to make a compliment to someone every day:
It shifts focus
By breaking off from your own worries, stresses or troubles, you’re momentarily shifting your focus from all the things going wrong in your day and placing it on helping make someone else’s day a little brighter. A ripple effect can be created as the person you complimented might then in turn to go on and compliment someone else. Your few seconds of pleasant and thoughtful words can spread joy much further than you might imagine.
Sincere compliments build trust
The desire to be acknowledged is part of the human psyche. When someone else comments positively on even the slightest thing about another person, it tells that person that they, or their work, has not gone unnoticed. It’s a little boost that reignites our confidence and self-esteem. The sincerity of the compliment is key. As we grow older, we can become more sceptical about people’s motivation when they do things for us. We all need someone in our lives we can trust, and the more we build up others the more we’re also building up ourselves.
What goes around comes around
When you give a compliment, you’re more than likely going to get one in return. That moment could be enough to carry you the rest of the day and keep you happy and productive. You’ll be happier and in turn your friends, family and colleagues might benefit and in turn they will be happier.
Smiling burns calories
Smiling often brings laughter, and laughing burns even more calories.
Compliments are FREE!
‘We try to solve problems.’
Next week, our ethos theme will be: ‘We try to solve problems.’ Children face a range of problems every day, from academic challenges to issues in the playground, from personal organisation to making difficult choices. Teaching children how to navigate these problems, and in turn develop their resilience, is a vital component in our teaching at Froebelian.
Some children who lack problem-solving skills may shy away when faced with a challenge. Rather than investing their energy into solving the problem, they develop avoidance tactics instead. Other children might jump into action too quickly without considering their options e.g. a child may hit a classmate who pushes in front of them in line because they are not sure what else to do. Those impulsive decisions may lead to even bigger issues in the long run.
When we provide children with a clear process for solving problems, they’ll feel more confident in their ability to ‘have a go’.
Here are some steps to problem-solving:
1. Identify the problem
Just acknowledging the problem out loud can make a big difference for children who are feeling stuck. Help your child state the problem, such as, ‘You don’t have anyone to play with at break time,’ or ‘You aren’t confident with fractions in Maths.’
2. Develop possible solutions
Brainstorm possible ways to solve the issue. Emphasize that all the solutions don’t necessarily need to be good ideas (at least not at this point). Even a silly answer or far-fetched idea is a possible solution. Help your child develop solutions if they’re struggling to come up with ideas. The key is to help them see that with a little creativity, they can find many different potential solutions.
3. Identify the pros and cons of each solution
Help your child identify potential positive and negative consequences for each potential solution they identified.
4. Pick a wise solution
Once your child has evaluated the possible positive and negative outcomes, encourage them to pick a wise solution.
5. Test it out
Tell them to try a solution and see what happens. If it doesn’t work out, they can always try another solution from the list that they developed in step two.
|Make sure the children understand that you respect their capacity to solve problems as well as demonstrating that adults have problems to solve as well. Practice brainstorming solutions as a family. You’d be surprised at how creative they can be.||Don’t prevent your children from experiencing failure. If we’re unwilling to see our children fail at a task, then we’re unwilling for our children to learn. Success and failure are the opposite sides of the same coin – the children need to experience both to better appreciate them.|
|Do allow for natural consequences which may also teach problem-solving skills. So when it’s appropriate, allow your child to face the natural consequences of their actions. Just make sure it’s safe to do so.
This can lead to a discussion about problem-solving to help them make a better choice next time. Consider these natural consequences as a teachable moment to help work together on problem-solving.
|When problems arise, try not to be a ‘helicopter parent’. Give your child some space. Whatever age your children are, allow them to make mistakes and teach them how to move forward. Offer guidance when they need assistance, but encourage them to solve problems on their own.
Road Safety Week
This week, we are marking national Road Safety Week in school which is an initiative by Brake – the road safety charity (http://www.roadsafetyweek.org.uk/).
This Road Safety Week we are shouting about the safety of those on two wheels and encouraging everyone to be Bike Smart.
We can all play our part in raising awareness about the importance of protecting those on bikes and this year’s campaign will focus on:
- drivers being Bike Smart by looking out for those on two wheels, driving safely and slowly and giving bike riders plenty of space
- cyclists and motorcyclists being Bike Smart through safe riding behaviours and appropriate training and equipment.
- policy-makers being Bike Smart by implementing a safe systems approach, mandating lifesaving technology and prioritising cycle friendly infrastructure
On Wednesday, children in LKG and KG will be enjoying a Beep Beep! Day with lots of fun craft and baking activities based around the importance of road safety as well as a session learning how to cross the road safely. On Thursday, a member of the Leeds Road Safety team will be delivering an assembly to the whole school as well as some training workshops.
We have also been advised that the area around school will become a 20mph zone as part of a city-wide initiative to improve safety in and around Leeds’ schools. The school will continue to work with parents in ensuring the safety of our children as they make their way to and from school and we urge everyone to follow the rules of the road and drive and park respectfully and considerately. Thank you in advance of your support.
Next week, we are marking national Anti-Bullying Week in school which is co-ordinated by the Anti-Bullying Alliance (www.anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk). The timing of this week dovetails perfectly with this half-term’s PSHEE topic of ‘Celebrating Differences’ and next week’s ethos theme which is: ‘We know how to help if someone is being bullied.’
The theme for this year’s Anti-Bullying Week is ‘Choosing Respect’ and the aims of this week are to support children to understand:
· The definition of respect;
· That bullying is a behaviour choice;
· That we can respectfully disagree with each other i.e. we don’t have to be best friends or always agree with each other but we do have to respect each other;
· That we all need to choose to respect each other, both face to face and online.
On Monday, we are holding an Odd Socks Day which is being supported nationally by Andy Day, cBeebies star and front man of ‘Andy and the Odd Socks’. It’s a chance for primary schools across the country to celebrate Anti-Bullying Week in a positive way by asking pupils to wear odd socks to school. All you have to do to take part is wear odd socks, it couldn’t be simpler!
Bullying is always an emotive issue for children and families. All schools experience bullying of some description but it is important that the children are able to recognise what constitutes bullying behaviour, and to understand the difference between this and having playtime squabbles and falling out with their friends. So what is bullying?
The Anti-Bullying Alliance defines bullying as: ‘the repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power.’
The NSPCC says: ‘Bullying is behaviour that hurts someone else – such as name calling, hitting, pushing, spreading rumours, threatening or undermining someone. It can happen anywhere – at school, at home or online. It’s usually repeated over a long period of time and can hurt a child both physically and emotionally. Bullying that happens online, using social networks, games and mobile phones, is often called cyber-bullying. A child can feel like there’s no escape because it can happen wherever they are, at any time of day or night.’
The school takes any accusation of bullying very seriously and our Anti-Bullying Policy can be viewed on our website (www.froebelian.com). Each week in our staff meeting, staff are reminded to report allegations of bullying to Mrs Stratford. Mrs Stratford then undertakes the necessary investigations to ensure that we can support both children in understanding the impact of bullying behaviour on others and help the children in repairing their relationship. Of course, we are only able to investigate when we are made aware that bullying is taking place so another important aspect of our work is to ensure that children know who to talk to if they feel they are being bullied.
The Learning Charter
12 October 2018
During their PSHEE sessions, each class devises their own ‘Learning Charter’. The Learning Charter sets outs the expectations (and rewards) for positive behaviour alongside the consequences for failing to meet the expectations. It’s a balance sheet of sorts and the aim is that by making expectations clear at both a class and whole school level, we can create a harmonious learning environment.
Of course, children are children! They don’t always follow the rules, meet the expectations or behave in the way we would wish. Just like with their learning, children need to make mistakes to help them to learn effective lessons. Behaviour is always a matter of choice; most of the time we make the right choices but we occasionally suffer from poor judgement and make the wrong choices. It’s not always a conscious decision as children are often impulsive and they don’t realise they have made the wrong choice until it is too late.
Young children do not always understand or appreciate that their actions have consequences. When they make the wrong choice, they need time to reflect about the impact this has on themselves and those around them, and consider how they would approach a situation differently next time. Next week, our ethos theme is: ‘We choose to follow the Learning Charter.’ We will be talking to the children about making the right choice and doing the right thing and having the courage to face up to consequences when they do not make the right choice. Your help in reinforcing this concept of ‘choice’ at home will be of great help.
5 October 2018
Many of you may have seen for yourselves the amazing Redwood trees in America which stand taller than any other living thing on the planet. Have you ever wondered how deep the roots of such giant trees extend into the ground? Probably 200 feet? Maybe 300?
Try closer to 60 or 70 inches! The secret to scraping the clouds as the world’s tallest tree has nothing to do with its individual roots. Instead, it’s the roots of the Redwood next to it that help each tree maintain balance. The roots intertwine with each other to form a close network of Redwoods that’s nearly indestructible by any force of nature.
My point? Collaboration is powerful.
Collaboration is an essential skill in a child’s on-going development. Children who co-operate and participate in collaborative activities develop a greater sense of social awareness as well as self-confidence. By learning to make friends, working together in team activities and supporting their peers, what children learn in the classroom is vital preparation for adulthood.
Collaboration is just like any other skill; it has to be taught. There are three main aspects of collaboration: communicating with others, resolving conflicts, and managing tasks. In 2015, the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, added interactive tasks that gauge how well students can develop shared understanding of a problem, take action together to solve it, and maintain a team organization. The ability to collaborate with others has become one of the most sought-after skills in the workplace.
Caring For Other People’s Feelings
28 September 2018
It can be challenging for very young children to understand and empathise with their peers; the concept of ‘walking a mile in someone’s shoes’ requires higher order thinking skills. Young children are generally ego-centric and inclined to think about themselves and their own needs.
Many of our friendship and playground squabbles are a direct result of a lack of empathy between children. When staff intervene in these fall-outs, we focus on resolving the situation through acknowledging the impact of the negative behaviour on the feelings of the other child; helping the children to understand that their actions have consequences e.g. ‘How do you think Billy felt when you snatched the ball from him?’ rather than ‘Don’t snatch the ball. It’s not nice.’
Developing a sense of empathy is an important developmental process and the benefits can flow through into adult life. Evidence shows that empathetic adults may experience:
- greater personal and professional success
- higher levels of happiness
- an ability to understand and relate to co-workers or clients
- more satisfying relationships
- improved skills in conflict resolution
- lower levels of stress
Modelling empathetic behaviours is so important; children learn so much about social behaviour from watching the adults around them. As Maya Angelou said: ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’
‘I’m Having Nun of It’
21 September 2018
I have been thinking about habits this week. We often think about habits as a negative behaviour such as biting our nails, procrastinating, watching reality tv or drinking too much coffee. There is a widespread belief that it takes just 30 days to break a ‘bad habit’ and, although scientific research suggests it takes at least twice as long, the time frame is still short enough to be inspiring, but long enough to be believable.
I am not about to share my personal bad habits but I am endeavouring to develop some ‘good’ ones! The time frame to establish a good habit must surely be the same as it takes to break one. Drinking more water is high on the list as is avoiding checking my phone for at least an hour before bedtime.
All this has led me to think about what good habits we could encourage the children to adopt as part of their on-going personal development. Next week, our ethos theme is about respecting everyone’s right to learn. Below is a list of the good habits the children should try to develop versus the bad habits they should try to break. Any help with this would be appreciated!
|Good Habit||Bad Habit|
|Actively listens||Waits for a gap in the talking so they can speak|
|Puts up their hand to speak||Interrupts|
|Takes turns/shares||Dominates others in the group|
|Respects each other’s ideas||Wants their own way|
|Manages distractions||Creates or engages in distractions|
‘It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.’ Ann Landers
Our school motto is: ‘Giving a flying start to the citizens of tomorrow.’ I have been thinking recently about what ‘tomorrow’ holds for our children; given the pace of technological growth, the ‘shrinking’ of the world and the subsequent uncertainties of the future workplace. What will tomorrow be like and how can we prepare our young children to face its challenges with courage and independence?
When we teach our children to ride a bike, they usually start with stabilisers and, as their confidence grows, we remove the stabilisers until they are cycling solo. They usually fall off a few times until they find their centre of balance but that feeling of elation and success when they look over their shoulder and see you waving from the distance is one of life’s precious moments as a parent.
This scaffolding of support is common in all aspects of our children’s lives but sometimes we forget to remove the stabilisers and our children end up relying on us too much. All too often, we hear the excuse that, ‘My mum forgot to pack my kit’ or, ‘My dad didn’t sign my planner.’ At Froebelian, we are constantly reminding the children of their personal responsibilities and encouraging them to be proactive in their organisation, even at a very young age.
Over my career, I have seen many parents who, out of the deepest love for their children, want to do more, not less, for them. They believe that the more time, energy and attention they can devote to their children, the better. They carry their bags for them, check lost property for things they have lost, hand in letters at the office, unpack and repack their sports bags (guilty as charged!), tying their shoe laces etc. Some parents even do their homework for them – we can always tell!
We cannot expect our children to learn the skills of independence if we are always doing things for them. Every time we do something for our children that they are capable of doing for themselves, we are telling them that we can do it better/faster/more efficiently than they can. Sometimes, the pace of our busy lives dictates this – we tie their laces for them because we are late and need to get work. Making children taker greater responsibility for themselves involves taking a risk, on both sides. Parents can be desperate to step in as soon as the child starts to struggle, instead of leaving them to try to solve the issue they face. For the child, it can be too easy to give up rather than persevere if they know mum or dad will do it for them.
It may be hard to hear, but there are times when your child is better off without you! Wonderful things can happen for children when they are away from their parents, no more so than when they are away on residential. We have a number of trips coming up over this half-term and they are excellent opportunities for the children to develop their independence skills.
It’s a paradox: a 19-year-old member of staff at a residential centre – a stranger – is often better at getting a child to pick up their clothes than the child’s 39-year-old parent is! Why? Because the child knows it won’t be done for them. Making beds, clearing tables, preparing lunch, packing their rucksack, taking a shower – these are all things we expect from our children on residential. They will do it because they can do it and they are expected to do it. No excuses!
In order to grow in the ways they need to grow, children have to take the lead, and usually away from us. Every child needs opportunities to practise being independent, and every parent needs to step back to provide those opportunities. Independence is like high jumping: you have to run and jump and sometimes fail, and then put the bar back up and run and jump again. As a parent, you’ll wince when your child hits that bar, but you can’t jump for them.
‘It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.’ Ann Landers
‘Honesty is the best policy.’ – Benjamin Franklin
Children are the light of any parent’s life; they bring so much joy and happiness. Parents have high expectations and aspirations for their children and they all want what is best for them.
Education plays an enormous part in shaping children’s futures. Working alongside parents, schools endeavour to equip children with the learning and life skills they will need to be successful adults. Engaging in an on-going dialogue with parents about their child’s progress is vital to ensure that we are all pulling together and heading in the same direction.
Parents’ Evening is a fantastic opportunity to bring together teachers and parents to work for the good of the child. Teachers relish sharing stories of success; celebrating each child’s achievements and strengths. However, to balance this, it is also important to share with parents the areas in which their child needs support and encouragement to develop their skills. Year on year, the expectations for each cohort of children grow and the demands made on them for homework, learning behaviours and personal organisation ramp up; ultimately preparing the children for a successful transition to, and experience in, secondary school.
At Froebelian, the teachers are encouraged to be honest with parents. If we truly want to make a difference in the lives of these children, we would be doing them a disservice by sugar coating the issues. Honesty really is the best policy. Sometimes, it can be hard to listen to what your child cannot do yet, but the key word here is ‘yet’. We teach the children about having a growth mindset which centres firmly on the ‘yet’. The children are not failing; it’s not that they can’t do it, they simply need a little more help, guidance and support to be successful. In your parent consultation, your child’s teacher will have highlighted a number of areas of development – there are next steps identified in the notes. Teachers will have shared with you what they plan to do to help your child move forward and may have also suggested what parents can do to support this at home.
Parents and teachers working together brings out the best in children. We firmly believe that parents having a clear picture of what their child can do has much more benefit than masking over or brushing off any issues they may be having in their learning and personal development. All members of staff at Froebelian, teachers and teaching assistants, are dedicated and highly-experienced practitioners who pride themselves on knowing the children in their care extremely well. And, just like all parents, we have your children’s best interests resolutely at heart.
You may have heard your children chatting about their ‘dojo points’ since the start of this academic year and been wondering what on earth they are talking about! If, like me, you were a child in the 1980’s, the first we knew about dojos was from Mr Miyagi in The Karate Kid!
As part of our development of the Promoting Positive Behaviour Policy, the staff wanted to reboot our reward system and bring in a fresh and dynamic approach to help motivate the children with their learning and social behaviour.
After extensive research and liaising with colleagues in other schools, we decided to set up ClassDojo; an online based reward system which promotes positive learning behaviours. The main benefit of the ClassDojo system is its positive support and approach to behaviour and learning. It is a predominantly a reward system not a punishment system.
Mr Finan and Mrs Smith trialled the ClassDojo in the Summer Term and the children engaged with it instantly. From September, each class from Remove upwards now has their own ClassDojo and each child has chosen their own avatar. Throughout the course of each day, children are awarded positive reward points when they demonstrate desirable learning behaviours such listening attentively, being organised, showing resilience, handing in homework, working collaboratively etc.
Points can be awarded for whole class, individual children or small groups. All the children’s points combine to create the class total and teachers set targets for the class to aspire to each week. All members of staff in school can acknowledge positive behaviour so conduct in the playground, in the corridors, in the Dining Room and at Breakfast Club/HAC all counts towards the total score. Along with positive reward points, there is also a stock set of negative target points for areas which ‘need work’.
Points are then tracked by the teachers and reviewed regularly by the class and class teacher so they can reflect on the past week and improve upon target areas for the coming week; giving pupils further ownership of their behaviour and learning.
The response from the children has been fantastic and because the rewards are instantaneous, the children are continually driven to perform to the very best of their ability. As with all new initiatives, we are monitoring the system closely and further work has now started on how we can harmonise dojo points with merits.
Childhood amnesia? Or just the wrong question?
‘How was your day at school today?’ or ‘What did you do today?’ are questions posed by so many parents in the car on the way home from school. For many children, the standard response is: ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I can’t remember!’ A typical day at Froebelian is jam-packed with exciting lessons, thought-provoking assemblies and fun activities. Every day should be memorable in some way or another!
So why can’t they remember? The problem is not the child’s capacity to recall the events of their day. The problem is often that the question is too generic.
By asking more precise questions, the child has to zone in on a particular element of their day and provide a specific answer. It’s also important to give the children some thinking time. Typically, when we ask a question, only a few seconds go by before an answer is expected. Children need a little time to reflect on their day and process the question you have asked before they can come up with a response. Try giving them ten seconds before they reply – this makes them work harder at giving an answer.
Make sure your focus is on the good stuff. Through your questions, actively seek out the positive behaviours you want to promote to your child such as sharing, politeness, helpfulness, kindness, honesty, determination and co-operation. By encouraging positive dialogue about your day, you will reaffirm with your child that school is a happy and nurturing environment. Focus on what your child has done well and celebrate it, rather than spending time on what another child in the class might have done or said.
Next time you’re in the car going home, why not try one of these suggested conversation starters?
- What was the best thing that happened at school today?
- Tell me something that made you laugh today.
- Tell me about new word that you heard today. What does it mean?
- What did you have to try especially hard with today?
- Tell me about three different times you used your pen/pencil today at school.
- If I phoned your teacher tonight, what would she tell me about your day?
- How did you help somebody today?
- How did somebody help you today?
- Tell me one thing that you learned today.
- When were you the happiest today?
- Tell me something good that happened today.
- How have you demonstrated this week’s ethos theme today?
- What do you think you should do/learn more of at school?
- Who in your class do you think you could be nicer to?
- Who do you play with the most at break times?
- Who is the funniest person in your class? Why is he/she so funny?
- What was your favourite part of lunch?
- If you got to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you do?
- If you could switch seats with anyone in the class, who would you trade with? Why?
- Which Froebelian Flyer have you tried to be today?
In our house, happiness comes when wriggling into freshly laundered sheets at bedtime. Clean sheets are gently fragrant, smooth and crease-free and seem to promise a refreshing night’s sleep!
For me, the start of a new academic year is a time for fresh starts and resolutions about what we hope to achieve in the coming school year. Children, parents and staff are full of optimism and expectations for what the year will hold. It’s like having a big, white sheet of paper to draw on – a day full of possibilities! It’s like 1 January all over again.
Optimists believe that we should live every day as a fresh new start. We should not be held back by what happened yesterday. It is really important that children have a ‘clean sheet’ as they move into a new class. No matter what mistakes they may have made in the previous year, a new year in a new class with a new teacher provides the perfect opportunity to start again with a blank sheet of paper; to write a new ‘story’, to redefine who they are and what they want to be known for.
The future is spotless; enjoy your clean sheets…
Look For The Helpers
Television, radio, the internet and social media make it very difficult for parents to shield their children from upsetting stories such as the attack in Westminster last week. Despite the best will in the world to protect them from horrific and potentially frightening news, children will undoubtedly become aware of these events through relentless news feeds and even through chatting with their friends.
For parents it’s a real dilemma. How much should we tell our children? How do we stop them from worrying or panicking? How can we help them to understand why these things happen?
Winston’s Wishes, a charity for bereaved children, has produced useful guidance for parents in how to talk to children about upsetting news. Click here to access the guidance which will be relevant to any situation, not just last week’s attack.
One of the best pieces of advice I have come across was from Fred Rogers, an American television personality, who recommends that adults should guide children towards seeking out the ‘helpers’ in these dreadful situations. The heroes who come running to the rescue, the good people who stop to try and help those who are injured or distressed. Whilst the news bulletins will focus on the facts – the whys and wherefores of the event – the footage will usually show humankind at its best. Teach children to focus on those people doing ‘good’, showing care and compassion, as a way of restoring their faith that the majority of people in our world are decent human beings and that we should not be afraid. Someone will always be helping.
DIRT – Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time
What is DIRT?
John Hattie is a world-renowned researcher in education. His research on the Visible Learning theory states that pupil self-assessment is one of the most effective tools teachers have for accelerating the learning of their pupils. This is further supported by research from the Educational Endowment Foundation which recognises the positive impact of high-quality feedback in improving learning outcomes for children.
Providing feedback to pupils through verbal and written feedback is integral to effective teaching. Equally, gathering feedback on how well pupils have learned something is important in enabling teachers to clear up any misunderstanding and provide the right level of challenge in future lessons.
To strengthen the impact of our marking and feedback in accelerating the children’s progress in learning, we introduced DIRT to the school timetable in September. DIRT stands for Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time and these sessions give children a daily opportunity to:
- reflect on their learning and progress
- make improvements through reviewing and editing processes
- tackle further work to either consolidate their understanding or extend them towards mastery of a given skill.
So what are the benefits of DIRT?
DIRT is an effective way for children to act upon the feedback given by their teacher. Teachers spend a significant amount of time every day marking books and making comments. DIRT ensures that the time teachers have invested in the marking process is maximised as the children have to actively engage with the feedback. Making the time to review feedback within the classroom routine helps to focus the children’s minds on improvement and enable it to be a meaningful component of the children’s learning journey. Valuing the process of improvement also teaches children to continually strive for their very best and puts them in the driving seat of their learning.
DIRT allows children time to reflect/act upon the comments that have been written, as feedback. Therefore, we are ensuring the feedback is being put to good use and is supporting the progress of the children. Children initial teacher comments to acknowledge they have read them. The general idea here is that children don’t accept that the first draft is the only and final draft of a piece of work. Whilst we are not striving for unrealistic perfection, we are encouraging the children to find ways in which they can improve on their first attempt in learning. Making mistakes is proof that children are trying; if they are not making mistakes they are not trying hard enough. We celebrate mistake making – it encourages the children to take risks in their learning, build their resilience and dismantle their fear of ‘failing’. As Thomas Edison once said, ‘I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’
Children need to be able to view their own, and other’s, work with a critical eye. By giving them dedicated time for this, regularly and often, we are enabling them to improve independently. Can they improve anything? Have they missed anything out? Can they identify what they found difficult and what they found easy? Can they attempt something more challenging? Not only do the teachers have high expectations of the children, but the children are encouraged to place high (and realistic) expectations on themselves.
DIRT sessions can take as long as teachers feel necessary. As well as specific slots on the timetable, they can form the starter of a lesson or for longer pieces of work (such as editing and redrafting stories) may take a whole lesson. This dedicated time allows children to get the most out of chosen learning activities; embedding and extending knowledge skills and understanding.
A great way to show the progress of the children and enable them to see the improvements that they have made, is to get children to complete the ‘DIRT’ work in a different colour. We use a ‘Purple Polishing Pen’ to demonstrate easily where children have responded to their teacher’s feedback.
What has been the impact of DIRT on the children?
A recent monitoring exercise in school by governors involved a pupil conference where children were asked specific questions about how teacher feedback helps them to learn. The children understand the purpose of DIRT and could explain the types and range of activities they undertake each week to improve their learning. The children’s work was also shared with governors and it was clear to see the on-going dialogue between the children and their teacher and the impact this was having on improvements in learning.
We shall continue to monitor the impact of DIRT on the children’s progress but hope you have found this a useful explanation of the purpose and benefits of a rather ‘unusual’ acronym on your child’s timetable!
Children’s Mental Health Week
6-12 February 2017
This week is Children’s Mental Health Week and in school we shall be focusing on this year’s theme of ‘spreading a little kindness’ (#alittlekindness)
You may have noticed on the internet and social media that there are a number of movements across the world, such as www.randomactsofkindness.org all of which encourage showing kindness towards others.
From their beginnings in Lower Kindergarten at The Froebelian School, we teach the children the value of kindness and its importance in a caring and civilised community; modelling this in our daily interactions with them. However, while our children generally treat each other kindly, some children are not showing this kindness towards themselves. They may say that they are rubbish at maths or spelling or state they feel stupid when they don’t understand something new. They can be quick to criticise themselves if they do not perform as well as they hoped in a lesson, a test or a sports fixture. As they get older, social media can reinforce these messages as they start to compare themselves more critically with their peers.
Just as charity starts at home, kindness must start from within. Developing a growth mindset and growing the necessary resilience or ‘mental toughness’ to meet the challenges they face, is a life-skill learning opportunity for our staff to address.
You may be thinking that children at our school are not at risk of developing mental health issues. Increased rates of mental health issues in children have been making national headlines over the last year or so and the statistics are worrying:
- One in ten children aged between 5 and 16 years (three in an average classroom) has a mental health problem, and many continue to have these problems into adulthood.
- Over 8,000 children aged under 10 years old suffer from severe depression.
- Over half of all mental ill health starts before the age of 14 years, and 75% has developed by the age of 18.
- More than half of all adults with mental health problems were diagnosed in childhood. Less than half were treated appropriately at the time.
- Children are less likely to suffer from serious mental health difficulties in later life if they receive support at an early age.
Growing evidence indicates that promoting positive mental health also improves a range of positive school outcomes, including attitudes to learning, better attendance and improved behaviours.
Dame Benny Refson, DBE, president of Place2Be – a national charity providing emotional support to children in schools states:
‘During their first eleven years, one in five children will experience a mental health difficulty. Children who are distracted and unable to deal with their worries will not be able to engage with their learning and reach their full potential. We all need good mental health to engage positively with our lives, have a sense of hope and optimism and develop the resilience we need to cope with life’s problems. These are vital life skills to help us through childhood and into adulthood and underpin successful relationships, engagement with learning and ultimately help us develop into thriving, flourishing adults who can face the world with a sense of confidence and self-belief.’
The practice of mindfulness, a key component of our PSHEE Jigsaw Scheme, is partly based on the concept that true happiness comes when we demonstrate kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others. As well as being mindful, our children also need to be ‘kindful’ as psychologists believe that the ability to empathise, connect and co-operate is just as hard-wired as our ‘fight or flight’ response.
Kindness is a soft skill that we can practise and grow. Next week, we will be talking to the children about proactive ways in which they can put kindness into action. We will be posting our activities through the week on Facebook (@FroebelianSchool) and Twitter (@FroebelianS) – watch out for your children flexing their kindness muscle at home too!