It’s hard to be a kid…

Is being a kid in the 21st century harder than we’ve ever known?

You think about what children, and I mean all ages, have to put up with today. It’s become quite rare to see children playing in an environment that doesn’t involve technology. Turn on the TV and all you will see is news about terrorism or nations spouting out about who has the biggest toys flying into space. What’s worse, is at the dinner table, an extra seat is put aside for a tablet or phone ‘just in case’ one of our photos has received a thumbs up from someone we haven’t even spoken to in the past 10 years.

Call me melodramatic, but all of these mixed messages and (anti) social experiences that kids today are receiving cannot be good for their long term development. If I take you back to the American election last year, I know of Year 5’s (Grade 4’s) that were discussing what a tragedy it would be if Mr T came into power and that WWIII would be imminent. For real? Now comparing life today for a child to my own in rural Ireland back in the 90’s may be a bit pointless but I’m sure I was more concerned about what teams we were going to have for football at lunch and whether or not one of the girls in the class fancied me or not. Turned out I was playing up front and no she didn’t!

But that really was the extent of our worries at the time. Is it a good thing that kids are more connected now than ever? That they are aware of what is happening all over the world? I think education and parenting is at a pivotal corner stone where educators and parents have to be ever so careful about how we raise our future generations. We have a duty of care more so than ever, not to protect and alienate our children from what’s happening in the world around them, but imperatively, to allow them to be what they are. Children. Something we can all too quickly forget.

There are endless studies and talks from some incredible people around the world about our Millennial generation (If you haven’t seen Simon Sinek yet, where have you been?) and the importance of teaching 21st century skills. And although we all want what’s best for our kids, are we doing everything we can day to day to allow our children to flourish and learn these skills?

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I see it at home in Ireland, UK and UAE, that it’s hard to instil values in children that inspire children to become aspirational. It is hard, but do children really have too much to their disposal in our western world? I’m one of Malcolm Gladwell’s biggest fans and he portrays a startling picture in one of his books (David and Goliath) of just how hard it is to set the right environment for children to become rounded, aspirational, young people that we would love them to be. We may never have been as under prepared to accommodate their emotional needs.

The world is moving so quickly that we too ourselves are getting caught up in the world wind of events that are happening around us and many of us are as concerned as our kids if our picture doesn’t hit 100 likes before midday. Before you deny it, look at the amount of time you see your partner, friend, colleague etc on their phone in any given day. Look around them. Whilst surrounded by others, we still crave that endorphin rush from someone commenting on our picture that’s been filtered that many times, it doesn’t even look like us anymore. Somewhere in the background, our kids are often found doing the exact same thing.

So what to do about it? I’m not a parent so I can’t comment on how parents should bring up their kids. But I am a teacher who spends a hell of a lot of time with children, perhaps more so than their parents do in a given work week. Never have I heard of children that appear to be as unsettled by what appears to be anxiety or some sort of general worry than ever before. And I’ve got to wonder, where this all stems from?

What I do know, is that our world is quickly changing and it’s not going to slow down any time soon. What I do believe, is that now, more so than ever, we need to be socially streetwise. I believe we need our kids to be able to appreciate what is really important in life, the people around us that matter to us most. A sound understanding and adherence to family values. I believe that instead of having ‘FOMO’, we need to be present in the presence of others that we share in the now. The company that’s around us, that’s not through a screen. I believe in time we will become more aware of what is really happening in the world around us but only through practise. Not the one that’s on our screens, but the one that’s in front of our eyes, and with this, we will be better prepared to cater for our children to do what they do best.

Be children.

Another year beckons!

Doesn’t matter how long the summer is, it always ‘flies’ doesn’t it? Having said that, it has been brilliant. One of the best things about being a teacher? July and August!

After a great, long, summer break for schools in the UAE it’s back to business and getting ready for another year. I managed to attend a couple of course during the summer break, one of which was hosted by Michigan State University (MSU) in the National University of Galway (NUIG). As part of their Masters studies, students hosted this one day conference event for educators and it was inspiring to see what they get up to in their classrooms. Some of their ideas I have completely stolen (Copyright approved :)) and am incorporating this year with my class.

First and foremost, the beginning of year activities. It’s always something we think long and hard about and often revert back to the tried and tested activities that have been completed in the past. Here are some things I hope to do next week with my lot.

Flipgrid videos

flipgrid

A funky, new app is on the market that we used for the kids to share their summer stories with us before they met us. A nice, little ice breaker where the children can upload a video of clips, voice overs etc to allow us teachers to get to know them a little better. First time using it this summer and it’s been a hit. We will be using this again throughout the year.

Describe yourself using no more than 20 emojis

Emojis

Simple, relevant and enjoyable. Be it on a device or on paper, this activity is a great one to get the kids thinking about what makes them unique and allows them to have a bit of fun while they are at it.

My Crest

Crest template

These templates are plentiful and can be adapted for devices too. A picture of the student in the middle and pictures surrounding it of things that make them who they are. Pics of family, sports they like, pets etc. Can be completed like a coat of arms too.

Lollipop names

Lollipops

Multiple uses for these. Can be used for random name picking but as an introductory session, the kids complete the design on their lollipop, place it into the pot and then pick someone else’s at random. Once they have done this, they have to interview that person to find out 3 interesting things about them to share with the rest of the class. Nice PSHE session to start the year off.

Birthday Green Screen Pics

DoInk

Cool way of displaying the kids birthdays by using Green Screen from DoInk. A handful of props, a whiteboard for them to write their birthday on with a green screen behind them and that’s it! A little gem the kids love.

2 Truths, 1 Lie

2truths 1 lie

Always a classic and never gets old. The kids come up with 3 statements about themselves that they share with the class. 2 are true and 1 is a lie. A nice way to get to know the kids and have a laugh along the way.

I know some teachers prefer to get on with lessons instead of having a couple of days to get to know the kids, but I think it’s great. It’s not often you get to allow the kids to spend a nice chunk of time enjoying themselves, having a laugh without worrying whether or not they have achieved their L.O. at the end of it. Enjoy it while you can! 🙂

It’s time to get Blogging!

Let’s get cracking!

I’ve really started to love Twitter. For my initial teaching years, I spent hour upon hour exploring the web to find new and innovative ways of delivering lessons or concepts to my kids. It really was incredibly laborious and given the nature of teaching in a high performing school in inner city London, one that I was not able to find time for. Consequently, I relied on books and previous materials or the odd splash of inspiration from colleagues to spruce up my lessons.
Moving to Dubai opened up my eyes to the incredible variety of teaching styles there are. They don’t particularly possess a name as such, but it is more so the manner a teacher has with their students and the relationship they have with them that allows them to learn essentially. My move from a British Curriculum school in London to an International Baccalaureate (IB) school in the Middle East was just what the doctor ordered. Observing teachers that facilitate children’s learning and encourage the child to take ownership of their learning is something that has stood with me to date. I love conceptual based learning (Project based learning) where children are empowered with the resources and aid they require to learn. Not so much content, but 21st century skills.
My new colleagues introduced me to Twitter and it took me a while to buy into it but it really is fantastic. Pintrest is something else that is beginning to grow on me, but Twitter is really my ‘Go to’ for classroom ideas. I cannot count the amount of articles, links and blogs I have used in the past couple of years and applied them to my own setting. Hence, what I am doing now, blogging. I have stolen so many fantastic ideas from other bloggers, that I now want to share some of the things that I love doing.
It’s time to start giving back.

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