Some time spent in the garden has provoked a few thoughts about nurseries and gardens, and about the people who run them. What are their motivations and methods? How do they see their roles and their responsibilities?
The worst kind of amateur gardeners put seedlings or plants in a pot or a plot, and if they fail to thrive simply shrug and say, “Oh dear, that didn’t go so well”. It’s somehow the fault of the plant rather than the fault of the gardener.
Those who truly care about the development and wellbeing of whatever (or whoever) they’re trying to nurture will actually want to know what’s going wrong as soon as they see signs of wilting, stunting or failure to thrive.
Is the soil or the compost too acid or too alkaline? Is the temperature too hot or too cold? Would they be better off in direct or indirect sunlight? Are they being over- or under-watered? Are they afflicted by pests or diseases? Do they have enough space? Are they in the shade of those that are bigger and stronger? So many variables.
And so it is with children, only more so – especially the youngest and the frailest, who may not be able to articulate what’s afflicting them or causing them problems, even if they’re asked for their views on their individual happiness or wellbeing.
So do we care about individual wellbeing, or do we shrug and say “Oh well – not my problem; I’m just here to put them in rows, and apply the prescribed amounts of water/fertiliser/curriculum/whatever”. I’ve yet to hear many of those who talk about ‘driving up standards’ say anything meaningful or useful about the holistic development of young people.
They sometimes speak about differentiation in order to raise attainment, but never to stress the uniqueness of individual children and the duty to meet their individual needs in all aspects of their growth and development.
One way of dealing with this, if we don’t like the way the nursery, the school, etc is being run, is to question the ownership and the management, and challenge them to think differently about how things are done. We can do this either as a client, a stakeholder or as an employee, if we really care enough. Now that our education system has a new manager/minister it’s as good a time as any to raise concerns. It’s time to end all hothousing and inappropriately intensive cultivation, time to treat all children and young people as unique individuals who are entitled to differentiation and to individualised, creative education that caters for all of their talents and their multiple intelligences.
Inspirational holiday reading for tired teachers #1
It’s Not What We Teach; It’s What They Learn
Just Another Brick in the Wall
How Education Researchers Ignore the Ends to Tweak the Means
(With thanks to Michele Paule for drawing attention to this article in Psychology Today via Twitter)
A Classroom Leaves the Syllabus to the Students
Conventional people are enraged by departure from convention because they regard such departure as a criticism of themselves – Bertrand Russell