The teacher I never had

The passing of a true gent

Safe, cared for, inspired and valued are some of the most frequent words, terms and phrases parents use when describing what’s most important for them when looking for a school for their child. Sorry for using the dreaded ‘O’ word, but isn’t a school that nurtures such values what really makes an ‘outstanding’ school?

I’ve had some sad news this week about a great leader that I have known all my life, who happens to be my mate’s father, that passed away this week after a long illness. And although he was not a teacher (Postman actually) by trade, he was a sports coach part-time, who probably taught me more than any teacher I ever had. He abided by great principles and his dedication to what he did was nothing short of incredible. As he took charge of our under 10 football team, taking us across the county on a mini bus to matches, parents took comfort in knowing that their children were being looked after by someone really, quite special.  Someone that kept their kids safe, inspired them to do their best and made them feel valued.

Now, remembering that this same person had their own job during the day and took charge of his team in the evenings during his own time, really indicates how committed he was. He had some help from the club of course, but he was the driver of it. Sunday morning practice sessions to sharpen up and develop our skills. Games mid-week. No financial incentive, and a family to go home to at the end of the day. Year on year, team after team. Thankfully, he led us to the holy grail in our senior years where we won the clubs first senior title for 36 years which probably only he could have done. We were a difficult bunch of lads at the best of times! There are not many people like that anymore, that I know of anyways.

In a recent interview I sat, I was asked about leaders that I looked up to and why. I really could have spoken about him for an hour, so great was the impact he had on me, shaping the person I am today. In my leadership, with my class and with my team, I try instil the same values that were instilled upon me. I hope I’m doing him justice. I’m sure he’ll give me a nudge here and there when needed 🙂

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I’m very lucky. I work in a fantastic environment with fantastic staff, fantastic facilities and fantastic kids. A school where kids and parents feel their kids are being nurtured to become well-rounded young people. Grades are important for sure, but only after you have all of the other boxes ticked first. From the passing of this great man, it’s given me an even greater perspective and appreciation of what’s important in life, the people around you and the impact we have on each other. Core values that are entrenched within our families and friends most dear. We run a buddies program at school where our Year 5 kids have a buddy in Year 1 that we spend time with reading, playing and learning with. It’s really special. And as I preach to the kids, ‘Never underestimate the impact you have on others’, I too need to remind myself of my own words from time to time as it is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle that is life.

I’ve got a great role model that I will continue to aspire to be like and I will remember him with a smile on my face. Rest well, you will be so dearly missed by many.

 

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.