As we go back into the classroom this week to get ready for school, I’m doing some thinking around a phrase that I hear quite frequently in educational circles: the need to “prepare children” for the next grade. Recently, I started to look at this phrase through a Self-Reg lens, and this led to an epiphany.
When I see someone writing or speaking about “preparing kids,” I can actually feel myself getting dysregulated.
- My stomach clenches.
- My hands close.
- I push down the desire to scream.
Why? It was only recently that I started to dig deeper into my reactions to this phrase, and tried to figure out what’s causing my upset. And it’s in exploring the “why,” that I’ve actually started to look at this phrase from multiple perspectives.
From a child’s perspective, I worry about the message that we’re sending to kids. When we focus on “preparing kids” for the next grade, are we more focused on the child or on the expectations? What if the child is not ready to meet these expectations yet? What if he/she needs a different approach? I can’t help but wonder about the cognitive stressors at play, and the additional stress load that we might be inadvertantly placing on kids when we create a classroom environment and activities that do not meet their needs. Is this why their behaviour exists?
From a teacher’s perspective, I wonder if a desire to “prepare kids,” has us losing sight of them. Are all of our activities developmentally appropriate? How are kids responding to what we give to them? Do we also start to question ourselves as educators? When we try to think about what comes next, and then kids do not respond as we hoped, are we then feeling the effects of failure? What if other educators meet with more success than us? What makes them better? Imagine the cognitive stressors at play, as educators inadvertently try to measure up to each other. What happens to the kids in all of this?
And from a parent’s perspective, I worry if our message to them about where their child is at or needs to be, has them questioning their success as parents. Why isn’t my child “good enough?” What if my child never gets to where he/she needs to be, or gets there behind everyone else? Do I need to put more pressure on my child to meet with more success? As parents begin to compare themselves to each other, and question if their actions are to blame for their child’s results, even more cognitive stressors come into play.
Then I begin to wonder about the impact of multiple dysregulated individuals interacting with each other. Are we compounding the stress at play? In an effort to support kids, are we actually limiting their growth? Imagine if we got rid of this desire to “prepare children for the next grade,” and instead just “taught children where they’re at.” If we used the question of, “how do we support each child in moving forward?,” would we stay child-centred enough to meet with more success? I’m not suggesting that we attempt to minimize growth, but when we keep the focus on individual kids and individual needs, I think that this preparation will happen more naturally. With this approach though, there will likely be fewer cognitive stressors at play, as decisions will be made with the child in mind. What do you think? How can we change this “preparation dialogue” in schools, and what might be the benefit(s) in doing so? Next week, our classrooms are going to be full of kids. Children that need us. Those, for which, we can make a difference. Let’s find ways to put them first.