Tag Archives: future

Life is for living

I first published this post two years ago. I am sharing it again as I continue to hear of similar things happening. I apologise to those who may have read it the first time around. 🙂

Many would agree that to enjoy life to the full we must live in the present moment, appreciating what we have and being mindful of our surroundings and others.

Most would also agree that a certain amount of preparation for the future is necessary to both enjoy and deal with what lies ahead.

marshmallow 5

In previous posts I have referred to related ideas including The importance of emotional intelligence and the ability to delay gratification, for example when studying towards a degree or saving to purchase a car. Recently I wrote about future-proofing kids by preparing them to embrace the future. Schooling is often considered a preparation for the future, for ‘what you want to be when you grow up’.

firefighter and nurse

Are the concepts of living in the present moment and preparing for the future contradictory?

Generally I would say that a balance is needed. We need to live in the present while making some preparation for the future. Hopefully the choices made can still be appreciated now and enjoyment is not all delayed until the future “When I . . .”

Recently I read an article that caused me some concern because, it seemed to me, there was little balance between appreciating the present and preparation for the future. Of greater concern was that the one for whom balance was lacking was not the one making the choice.

 

The article described a situation in which a 3½ year old was being taught to use scissors by an occupational therapist. The teaching, which had been occurring in regular sessions for over seven months, began before the child was three years of age.

Like I did, you might assume the child had a developmental delay which required regular sessions with the occupational therapist (OT). However no mention of that was made in the article.

The parent, writing the article, described feeling sad while watching the child experience difficulty in using the scissors.  Additionally, it was mentioned that the child had not been requested by the parent to use scissors at home as it just made the child miserable.

After seven months the parent finally broached the subject with the OT, asking why the use of scissors was being pushed at this time.

It was the reported response of the OT that caused me greatest concern.

The OT explained that when the child entered kindergarten at age five, the ability to use scissors appropriately would be expected. The lessons in learning to use scissors were being given to avoid the child being behind when beginning kindergarten. The OT went on to further explain that the use of scissors was not developmentally appropriate until age five!

The OT, presumably a trained professional, who believed it was not developmentally appropriate for a child to be using scissors until age five, began teaching a child to use scissors before that child was even three years of age!

The child was miserable when using scissors and the parent was saddened when viewing the attempts!

If using scissors is developmentally appropriate at age five, then when the child is entering kindergarten, unless there is a development delay, coordination or muscular problem, that child will easily learn to use scissors appropriately, without the need for lessons from an OT. Forcing a child to practice a skill before developmentally ready is definitely not in the child’s best interests.

Think of the wonderful things about a child of two or three years of age; the things they are learning and doing. I am always amazed at how quickly children learn and progress. They grow up so quickly and are only little for such a short time. Why try to pressure them through to stages beyond their current development? These years of enormous growth and potential are precious. We are adults for most of our lives. What is wrong with appreciating the special two-ness or three-ness of a child? It will not matter in the future if scissors can be used at age three, age five or age seven.

If the child is constantly pressured to perform in ways that are not developmentally appropriate then feelings of inadequacy, loss of confidence and self-esteem may ensue, resulting in an ‘I can’t do it attitude’, a fear of failure and unwillingness to have a go. I believe many perceived behaviour problems are problems only because the expectations are not relevant to a child’s stage of development.

When adults strive for a child to achieve beyond the age expected norms they are not appreciating, but rather showing a lack of respect for, who the child is and for the stage of development. This is not living in the present. It is attempting to live in the future, which can become very scary if one does not feel it can approached with confidence.

One may hope this scissors example is an extreme and isolated incident, but sadly pressure placed upon children by expectations that are not developmentally appropriate is far too common.

Teaching colleagues here in Australia often express their dismay that children in the first three years of school are crying every day because they find the expectations upon their learning and behaviour too great.

I hear similar stories about trying to rush the children through from the UK, Canada and the USA. Maybe it is happening in other places too. Sadly the pressure of unrealistic expectations doesn’t achieve anything positive for the students, the teachers or the parents.

How different would schools be if, instead of being considered a preparation for life, they were focused on living life now? If three year olds were appreciated and respected as three year olds, five year olds as five year olds, and eight year olds as 8 year olds, rather than as apprentices for the adult they will one day be, how different would their school situation be?

An affirmation song I used to sing with my classes is one by Anne Infante called Just the way I am.

The song is made up of a series of verses about appreciating oneself just as one is – now, not in the future – including characteristics such as responsible,  lovable, confident and friendly; for example:

I am beautiful and I like me,

I am beautiful and I like me,

I am beautiful and I like me,

Just the way I am.

I have written about using Anne’s songs of affirmation in previous posts, here and here.

What do you think? How have you seen developmentally appropriate programs in action? How have you seen them disregarded? What have been the effects?

Further reading: The Cost of Ignoring Developmentally Appropriate Practice

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

 

Are you ready to embrace the future?

 

The flash fiction challenge posed by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week deals with the future. What a perfect prompt for a teacher, for is not education firmly focused on the future?

We educate ourselves so that we will know more, be more skilled, or be able to do more in the future than in the past; we may learn new skills that keep us up-to-date with the changing demands of society or technology; or we may seek to improve our employability or income possibilities.

We educate our children so that they will be independent and contributing members of society, able to participate in the world of the future, and having the knowledge and skills to enable them to achieve their goals.

We educate for the future, but we are unable to predict the future, so the challenge to making decisions about education is difficult and highly-charged, attracting many different opinions and suggestions for solutions.

Forbes Magazine featured an article in 2012 which queried the purpose of education.

A 2013 TED conversation about the purpose of education, related to a talk by Ken Robinson, Changing education paradigms, attracted many and varied comments.

In 2014 Tony Ryan hosted an online seminar about Future-proofing Kids. Tony says,

“Many of the children alive today in Western societies will still be around in the 22nd Century. How can we possibly predict what they will experience between now and then? And if we can’t do that, then how do we best prepare them for whatever is up ahead?”

I think of greatest importance in preparation for life, all of which will be in the future, except for the present moment, is the development of attitudes and character traits including:

  •  Confidence
  • Persistence
  • Resourcefulness
  • Resilience
  • Able to seek solutions to problems
  • Openness to new ideas and possibilities
  • Creativity
  • Divergent thinking
  • Questioning
  • Optimism

In addition to the character traits, a certain level of skill is required in both literacy and numeracy, and especially an ability to locate and critically evaluate information.

The title of Tony Ryan’s seminar, Future-proofing Kids, to me belies the value of the content Tony shares. To me ‘future-proofing’ indicates that the future is something to be protected from, like water proofing protects us from water; something perhaps of which to be scared. But Tony’s seminar is far more optimistic and future-oriented than that.

We don’t know what the future will bring, but we never have. We can plan for it, we can hope and dream and set goals; but we can make no guarantees. Prophesies have never accurately foretold the future. I’m thinking of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four or the more recent Y2K Bug.  I’m thinking of all the teachers who told their students they would never amount to anything, like Thomas Edison’s teachers who said he was “too stupid to learn anything”.

peole_laptop

In the early 1980s I was told at a conference that by the year 2000 computers would do so many of our menial tasks that we would have an enormous amount of free time and wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves! How inaccurate was that prediction! The menial tasks have only increased in number and instead of computers being a tool to simplify our lives, in teaching anyway, they are now an unrelenting, ever-increasing and demanding master requiring the completion of data bases and spreadsheets, the creation of graphs and statistics, reducing life to a series of expected numbers and standards

The potential employment opportunities of today’s young women could not even be imagined when I was growing up and making my work choices. My apparent choices were teacher, nurse or office worker, and ultimately mum. Because I had chosen an academic path after year 8 and hadn’t learned shorthand and typing, office worker was eliminated. If I had chosen the commercial, shorthand and typing, path my choices would have been even further restricted.

My generation was the one that began shuffling the female role in society. Had I been born just a few years earlier, I would have worked until I married; after which I would have stayed home and looked after the children. Many female teachers were required to resign when they married. Pregnancies were hidden under loose and voluminous clothing, and the whole process was considered an illness. Unmarried mothers were considered an embarrassment and ‘sinful’ and most had their babies removed and that part of their history hidden.

Women of my era were able to return to the workforce, but it was not encouraged before the youngest child had started school. At that time child care was not readily available and often grandmothers, who had not returned to the workforce after marriage, looked after the children for mothers who worked, often part-time and for low wages.

The current generation of women have far more career opportunities but are also expected to stay in the workforce, often required to return to work when their babies are only a few weeks old in order to maintain security of employment. Many now work through pregnancy, almost until the birth of their baby.

Pregnant women no longer try to hide under voluminous layers of clothing but, partly with thanks to Demi Moore and Annie Leibovitz in 1991, take pride in showing off their changing shape. The term ‘unmarried mother’ is almost an anachronism in today’s Western world. There is no shame in having a child, whether married or living with someone or not; and babies are not forcibly removed from their mothers.

I am no more able to predict the future than I am to make sense of the injustices and horrors of the past.  However I think part of the purpose of education must be to help individuals grow so that they are able to stride towards the future with arms outstretched saying, “Give me what you’ve got!” while at the same time with a listening ear and an open heart asking, “What can I do to help?”

What do you think?

I welcome your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of the article or my flash fiction piece:

Ready

I’m off now,” she said.

“Have you got everything?” asked Mum.

Yes Mum.”

“Are you sure you haven’t forgotten anything?”

I’m sure.”

Mum looked around. There must be something she’d missed.

“What about . . .?”

No, Mum. I’ve got everything.”

“Okay. If you’re sure.”

“Bye Mum!”

”Bye.”

She walked through the door and down the stairs.

Mum watched, anxious. What could she have forgotten?

“Wait!”

She turned, puzzled.

Mum leapt down the stairs.

“What?”

Mum hugged her tightly, whispering softly, “I love you very, very much. Always have and always will.”

“I know. Love you too Mum.”