As a teacher, I have always been a real advocate of appreciating all that our children have to offer. Even at school, they are not there to learn simply how to read, write and add up.
Of course, they do learn that. But they also learn how to express themselves through words, dance, music, art, drama. They learn to solve problems through building, discussing and persevering. They learn about the world around them through exploring, predicting and taking risks.
I know a lot of teachers who have left, are considering or have considered leaving the profession. I am among them – I have considered it. Because we all went into teaching for the children. To help them be their best. Whether that’s in numeracy or running. Writing or art. Reading or science.
But the government doesn’t really care about the children who excel at running, or art, or science. Not at primary school level anyway. A school is judged on it’s effectiveness by the measures of maths, reading and writing. This completely de-values the rest of the curriculum, despite the best efforts of many teachers who acknowledge the importance of a broad and balanced curriculum for children.
Which is why I love this quote from someone who, ironically, probably would have done very well at primary school in Britain today; Albert Einstein.
An important reminder for all of us that there are things we can do which can easily be measured – productivity at work, how many loads of washing we did today, how much we spent on the baby’s birthday presents. But there are things which count, which are worth so much more, that cannot be measured:
Like the time we spend with our loved ones. We can measure the amount of time, but we cannot measure the quality of that time.
And kindness. As a mummy now, I am so conscious of the Mummy Olympics (I stole this phrase from Nicola at Sugar and Spice and All Things Spliced – read her fab Mummy Olympics post here) – the constant competitiveness, often shrouded in concern or niceties, which occurs when groups of mummies get together. It is borne out of worrying that we’re not doing a good enough job, I know that. But it is exhausting. All sorts of measurable achievements are discussed (embellished); he rolled over before he was three months old, she waved for the first time at seven months and six days, she he can already write his name! It is unusual if someone says something like “your little one is being so kind” or “what lovely sharing.” And that’s because it can’t be measured against someone else. It’s hard to say “my child is kinder” – how do you measure it? You can’t count sharing. There is no yard stick. But is it more important to me that my child shares or that he waves? That he shares. He’ll learn to wave when he learns to wave!
And that’s the other thing with what Einstein said. The things that can be counted are often things that can be taught. We can be mentored to get better scores in maths tests or to improve productivity at work. We can consciously choose to put more washing in the machine or spend ridiculous amounts of money on presents for a baby who doesn’t even know or give the slightest care that it’s his birthday.
But it’s hard to teach kindness if it’s not done from the beginning. So whilst we sit worrying about whether our children are going to get Level 5 in Maths in their end of year six SATs, maybe we should spend some quality time with them, teaching them to share, take turns and appreciate the world around them. Because, when it really comes down to it, the things that really count – the ‘uncountable’ things – are the things which make our lives that bit more wonderful.