Saturday, April 30, 2005

'Superkids'; the hurried generation!


David Elkind's book Posted by Hello

Now in its third edition David Elkinds book is worth a read.

Two basic metaphors have underpinned learning but now we have third. The first (and oldest) is the idea of the blank slate, or tabular rosa. This is the basis of our current industrialized mass education system, best seen in our secondary schools. This metaphor results in students gaining education from knowledgeable teachers in an assembly line factory schools, divided into forty minute periods, run by bells, books, tests and timetables. It is a ‘sit and git’ model – or ‘jug and mug’!

Much of the current school curriculum developments, imposed on schools, continues this metaphor with its obsession on educational measurement and the need to demonstrate the ‘added value’ the students have gained from their teachers.

The second metaphor is that of a growing plant. This is seen best in junior schools. This metaphor is based on providing a stimulating and supportive environment to encourage the learner to grow and to develop their gifts and talents appropriately.

The latest metaphor, and one with unhealthy consequences, is that of the ‘super kid’. This has resulted in what Elkind calls the ‘hurried child’. Arising out of an ideology of individualism and competition, this metaphor puts pressure on parents to hurry their children through childhood to give them an advantage in the future. It is an outcome of the ‘dog eat dog’, ‘me decades’, or the ‘yuppie me first’ culture!.

This hurrying is understandable in an age of increasing speed and insecurity and there is a growing industry ready to provide whatever any parents requires to give their child an academic advantage, non the least the computer industry! Parents often feel guilty if they aren’t providing all they can.

Unfortunately most of what is being provided goes against what we know as age appropriate learning. What young children want is not to grow up quickly but common sense parents with clear values who, care, love, understand and give their chidren their time.

Children, Elkind writes, need to learn self confidence, to be able to cooperate with others, require ‘normal’ competition, and most of all, time to do whatever they want to do the best they can. They need to value their spontaneity and be able to make age appropriate choices and not be forced to grow up to soon. They need to value their own creativity and expression and not be rushed into pseudo pre - school readiness activities. They need time to mess around, to explore their natural environment using their senses, to play imaginative games with others, to learn to think for themselves, and in the process, learn to appreciate their unique gifts and talents.

Rushing children, Elkind writes, leads to anxious and stressful children. Children can easy begin to blame themselves for their failure by not getting the 'right' answers. Trying to reach impossible expectations seems to realize its worst effect in the teenage years resulting in 'learned helplessness'. This is a term that expresses the feelings students have when they cannot meet what others indicate are necessary expectations. For such students school becomes ‘like a bad job’, resulting in depression and burnout. Free floating anxiety, aggression, withdrawal and uncertainty, and worse, are the prices to be paid for rushing.

In school rushing children leads to standardization, testing, uniformity and an unhealthy obsession with doing things right rather than experimenting. Social skills and creative arts suffer as schooling is increasingly focused on literacy and numeracy.

The key is to live well in the present and not be so concerned about rushing into the future. Parents should enjoy simple experiences with their children and schools, rather than rushing to cover everything, should stop and do fewer thing well.

Instead of rushing, Elkind says, children need to be nurtured in a relaxed environment which gives young people opportunities to make age appropriate choices and, through trial and error and sensitive adult help, grow in discernment. Freedom, responsibity and reasoning cannot be rushed and all grow from healthy relaxed trusting relationships.

Elkind writes. ‘The art of living is the most difficult task children have to learn.’ ‘It is the children’s right to be children, and to enjoy the pleasures and to suffer the pains of childhood that is infringed by hurrying. In the end, a childhood is the most basic right of children’

Where are people actually rushing too?

Are there aslo hurried teachers - trying to achieve impossible imposed expectations with equally stressful effects?

Quality if life is what it is all about.

Worth thinking about?

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just had a discussion about this exact issue with a friend of mine with young chidren who seems to be doing what Elkind is talking about - wish I had read your 'blog' first!

Anonymous said...

Hurried teachers! Sure are!
No time to really enjoy teaching - it is all plan, measure and graph.

We need to get off this over planning merry go round and work what is really important!

Anonymous said...

Very pertinent.

Anonymous said...

Everyone seems to be hurrying but where are they all going? Reminds me of the White Rabbit in 'Alice in Wonderland', or that song, 'slow down you're going to fast'.

We need to put a bit of Zen into our lives - too much zest is not good for a person.

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Betty Tesh said...

Betty Tesh here with a few hints for New Teachers...

You're going to be a great teacher. You've got knowledge, enthusiasm, desire, motivation. What you don't have is experience.

And experience makes the difference between a potentially great teacher and a comfortably great teacher.

We've got over 68 combined years of experience to share, which is what we've done in...

"The Handy-Dandy Desktop Mentor."

No esoteric teaching methods. No field studies or carefully calibrated experiments. Just down-to-earth, helpful hints and suggestions to help you survive your first (few) years as a teacher.

We warn you about common pitfalls, give suggestions for getting along with fellow teachers, toss out a few classroom management techniques, offer advice on dealing with parents, and share secrets on organizing some of that "stuff" you've suddenly acquired.

If what you want is dull, dry treatise on pedagogy, or if you need a heavy meal of ibids and op.cits laced with quotes from learned professors of education, this book's not for you. It's quick and easy reading, a bit light-hearted, but as serious as an air strike about helping you bet the teacher you know you were meant to be.

A handbook for initially licensed, novice and beginning teachers that shares classroom management ideas, tips for getting along with educational personnel, suggestions for dealing with parents, and advice that good mentoring
teachers share for success in the classroom, written with humor by experienced educators.

As a new teacher, you won’t be doing battle with a supreme Evil like Sauron or traveling into the Cracks of Doom like Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, but like those two Hobbits, you are ‘expected to find a way...’ (Book IV, Chpt. 3) A way to make learning fun, but keep control of the classroom; a way to reach thirty different children with thirty different learning styles, a way to teach whole-heartedly while fielding a barrage of forms, procedures, expectations and instructions.

"The Handy-Dandy Desktop Mentor." is available at my site for New Teachers.

New Teachers said...

Betty Tesh here with a few hints for New Teachers...

You're going to be a great teacher. You've got knowledge, enthusiasm, desire, motivation. What you don't have is experience.

And experience makes the difference between a potentially great teacher and a comfortably great teacher.

We've got over 68 combined years of experience to share, which is what we've done in...

"The Handy-Dandy Desktop Mentor."

No esoteric teaching methods. No field studies or carefully calibrated experiments. Just down-to-earth, helpful hints and suggestions to help you survive your first (few) years as a teacher.

We warn you about common pitfalls, give suggestions for getting along with fellow teachers, toss out a few classroom management techniques, offer advice on dealing with parents, and share secrets on organizing some of that "stuff" you've suddenly acquired.

If what you want is dull, dry treatise on pedagogy, or if you need a heavy meal of ibids and op.cits laced with quotes from learned professors of education, this book's not for you. It's quick and easy reading, a bit light-hearted, but as serious as an air strike about helping you bet the teacher you know you were meant to be.

A handbook for initially licensed, novice and beginning teachers that shares classroom management ideas, tips for getting along with educational personnel, suggestions for dealing with parents, and advice that good mentoring
teachers share for success in the classroom, written with humor by experienced educators.

As a new teacher, you won’t be doing battle with a supreme Evil like Sauron or traveling into the Cracks of Doom like Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, but like those two Hobbits, you are ‘expected to find a way...’ (Book IV, Chpt. 3) A way to make learning fun, but keep control of the classroom; a way to reach thirty different children with thirty different learning styles, a way to teach whole-heartedly while fielding a barrage of forms, procedures, expectations and instructions.

"The Handy-Dandy Desktop Mentor." is available at my site for New Teachers.