There are so many opinions about the mental well-being of young people being shared at the moment and I want to take a moment to acknowledge how brilliant that is. We have moved on from being a largely repressive society that once criminalised suicidal thoughts and have evolved into communities that discuss, debate & attempt to understand.
There are still misconceptions & strong beliefs involved though.
I believe it is vital that we listen to, collaborate with and LEARN from professionals in the fields of Social Care and Psychology. No, they may not be teachers (although many have worked in Education!) but they provide the expertise we have not always been equipped with.
Understanding the human mind is a fascinating, complex challenge and one that is made more convoluted by addled hormones, media and the institutional settings in which we find ourselves working.
We honestly need all the help we can get!!
So I’m happy to listen to parents, learners, community members, counsellors, coaches, consultants, psychologists, psychiatrists and more. It gives me the widest picture possible.
I will always retain certain beliefs:
Wait a minute….
Every imaginable change has taken place in the past two centuries: From what we eat and wear, to how we earn money & how family units are made up yet, in education, we continue to push Victorian school room-ery as though Dickens himself was at the helm.
Fear? Ignorance? Politics? Time? Inclination? Apathy?
But one thing is absolutely certain: things are going to have to change.
Mental wellbeing is in sharp decline among both learners AND teachers (something that is not without correlation) and the current system is creating failures, damaged successes and disengaged “cope-ers”.
Unfortunately, for so many of our young people, “survival” of school is now the main modus operandi.
So, what do we need to do? How do we address it?
Firstly, we need to acknowledge the truth.
What we currently have is NOT good enough. Before anyone piles on about me teacher bashing: I am talking about the SYSTEM, not the marvellous heroes that prop it up every day! Those guys are AMAZING!
Even more amazing because they are the equivalent of trained horsemen navigating a space shuttle through the unknown, powered only by carrots and goodwill and carrying a cargo of reluctant aliens!!!
Every teacher deserves a medal simply for turning up each morning!
That said…. The education system is a mess.
Why are we educating?
We cannot agree on the fundamental purpose of the system!! How on earth are we meant to redesign it let alone make it work in its current Frankenstein’s monster state!?
There is one thing we CAN do whilst we fumble around trying to reach an accord on the philosophy of education at the heart of our profession….
We CAN say that, whatever education is for, an essential “by product” or sub outcome is “functioning, happy, young adults” at the end of it all (and hopefully throughout!)
Talk to people.
Those who went through the system most recently.
Those who see the system from the outside.
And, crucially, those currently experiencing the system at its sharpest point: the learners.
Why are they unhappy? Why are they stressed? Why are they bored? Why are they not engaged? What do they expect or want? What would help?
There will be lots that we cannot tackle, lots that is simply “part of life”. But there will also be gems of wisdom from the mouths of those babes.
Let’s listen to the truth of the matter. To everyone’s truth. Let’s not assume it is a personal criticism. Instead, let’s see it as information gathering, intelligence work… Learning!”