We recently met with Kirsty Knowles who has shared her extensive knowledge and enthusiasm from working within education. With over 20 years experience ranging from teaching to being a Head of a Junior School and Designated Safeguard Lead, we know you will find the below not only an interesting read but something empowering and of encouragement too!
Kindness has recently been embedded into slogans captured on T-Shirts, mugs, posters stuck to windows for all to read as we unite in our socially distanced walks and now with students being welcomed back to school, I feel driven to highlight how fellow educators and those who are part of school communities, educational organisations and my global neighbours will bring about a sense of recovery, healing and cultivate what might seem to have been lost. It is highly possible for compassionate and ambitious practitioners throughout education to inspire pupils and colleagues to navigate the future path ahead through what more than ever during ‘Lockdown’ for schools became an authentic experience of the 4th Industrial Revolution. We can creatively, whole-heartedly and sustainably employ established values, broad thinking, initiative, courage and humour to enable humanity to thrive and prosper, not least in the short term ensuring great care around a ‘recovery curriculum’ growth mindset in schools for those families most deeply affected by Covid-19, but which could become a far-reaching landscape of healing, compassion and prosperity for our planet in its entirety.
Kindness, compassion and pastoral opportunities for recovery are gently woven through the fabric of each school day by talented educators and home/school partnerships.
To reference a ‘Think Piece’ about a ‘Recovery Curriculum’ (Carpenter and Carpenter, 2020), I believe educators are on the ‘frontline’ of reframing perceptions, instilling trust in children and families around a safe return to school and drawing on the pre-existing values before the pandemic to inform future judgements. The temptation to exasperate the effects and implications of lost time in the classroom is ever present but whilst school closures disrupted the usual pattern of an academic year and all this entails including assessment, we can learn from countries who have overcome natural disasters such as the bush fires in Australia and earthquakes in New Zealand. These shared disasters unified the communities in these countries and we too will feel unified in our schools by our shared story of COVID-19 (Gordon, 2004), and our connections to one another as human beings will be stronger and more important for progress than any heightened anxiety about gaps in learning or how far behind parents and carers are being scared into worrying about. We must get on with the task at hand which is foremost reintegrating students back into schools and settling them into routines for the joy of learning to flourish once again. Dare I suggest that educators are already familiar and experienced with managing what is commonly known in schools as ‘summer (holiday) learning loss’. We should not underestimate how equipped qualified and trained educators are for facilitating pupil outcomes.
As we step forward from our shared story – educators can be confident about being the experts they are.
With twenty years of experience in education, I am devoted to the process, quirkiness and fun of learning to cultivate joyful, confident and empowered teaching and learning communities. We know that teaching and learning is most accessible to all learners (children and adults) when it is fun, and creativity stimulates and leads to fun. We need to teach through a wider lens. Breadth and opportunities to develop philosophical ideas provokes interests leading to mastery of skills and depth of intellect as children get older. An irresistible curriculum as discussed by Professor Dame Alison Peacock (2016) is what many educators aspire to deliver. I think curriculums should be authentically marinated. Through a culture of curiosity pupils can courageously ponder and seek answers, bringing about independent learning and in later years, develop a sense of responsibility for their own progress, an understanding of how collaborative and community progress can lead to greater sustainability and to become accountable for their personal choices and behaviour.
Educators need to make learning for all ‘irresistible’.
Children in the Early and Primary years are at their most adventurous, exploratory and imaginary, and it is our collective educational responsibility to intellectually stimulate enquiry in young children and foster eager minds to solve puzzles and ask questions. Students in the Middle and Senior School years can harness their skills of problem solving and grow into more solution driven thinkers if stretched to approach challenges with an open heart and mind. Resilience has been ironically gifted during the period of school closures and months of Remote Learning.
We can cultivate a blending of the skills and knowledge learnt from accelerated digital training with well-being for students and educators at the heart of holistic decision making.
A growth mindset is also very much linked to important values related to the human being-ness of all of us which are ‘caught as well as taught’, and this researched concept highlights how effectively children learn from, and are inspired to be what is modelled to them. Educators working closely with parents and carers help children develop the qualities of character such as ‘empathy’ and ‘social awareness’ to help them become the best version of themselves in their family, school and world they cohabit with others. The pursuit of truth should be motivated and inculcated in children. Discussions and open conversations with pupils around respect for each other as humans, for animals and the earth we live on, community and participation, human dignity, solidarity, rights and responsibilities and caring for others and our environment are fundamental for social teaching and fostering enquiring minds. If young children can grow active intellect they will hopefully become future transformative and compassionate leaders – befitting for a job specification in times such as emerging out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through solution-driven, honest and researched dialogue, bravery can be imparted to deconstruct into manageable stages what seems overwhelming. Human connection for forging the way ahead not only builds relationships but unites people in a shared practice – education
It is with a united front that educators need to be reclaimed as specialised leaders in their own classrooms and whole-heartedly trusted to work in partnership with families for the recovery of our children.