It’s funny how a simple phrase or word can whirl around your mind for a while. The term growing up was used by @nancygedge at the Oxford SEND Teachmeet on the Wednesday of February half term, 2015. She used it in connection with her son Sam, who has Downs Syndrome, reflecting on the inevitable, that he will grow up and will want the same things out of life as his peers and that that should be his right.
There is an inevitability in growing older. Each new day ensures that. There is, however, a side to growing up that can be significant variables such as personal maturity, independence and opportunity. The first can be an accident of birth, defined by a genetic inheritance, that somehow ensures that growing and developing are ahead of peers. Independence and maturity can both be a by-product of opportunity, where experiences develop insights and articulacy ahead of years, enabling self-esteem to grow, so that there are fewer barriers to accessing the world and the available broader experiences.
Why? By John Kitching
Why are the leaves always green, Dad? Why are there thorns on a rose?
Why do you want my hair clean, Dad? Why do hairs grow from your nose?
Why can dogs hear what we can’t, Dad? Why has the engine just stalled?
Why are you rude about aunt, Dad, Why are you going all bald?
Why is Mum taller than you, Dad? Why can’t the dog stand the cat?
Why’s grandma got a moustache, Dad? Why are you growing more fat?
Why don’t you answer my questions? You used to; you don’t anymore.
Why? Tell me why. Tell me why, Dad. Do you think I am being a bore?
Children need to keep asking questions.
The controllable variable of opportunity is the one that I’d look to focus upon. It strikes me that the opportunity offered by a broad, balanced, relevant and engaging curriculum is the best that any school can do for a child. What each child get from this will vary, but the lack of the experience in the first place could be a barrier to progress for many, especially if home experiences are more limited.
Within the context of the experiences being offered, I’d want to explore the quality of challenge available to the children. It is possible to devise experiences within which there are few, if any challenges, so that the children do not make progress, either in maturity or in knowledge, unless the child’s personal curiosity is sufficiently enhanced, through other experiences, so that they have the personal capacity to question and reframe the experience into their prior experience.
No-one can see the world through the eyes of another. The only means by which a teacher is able to gain an insight into a child’s thinking is through their ability to communicate. Personal articulacy is a variable. Without the words, the child oral insights will be necessarily limited, so communication might have to be through means more suited to the child’s needs.
The adult role within the developing experience inevitably becomes more nuanced. While there may be a need to impart relevant and timely information, to pre-planned need, there is also the need to explore background and developing understanding, so that situational teaching can occur. It can be a case of spotting and dealing with issues (misconceptions) as they arise.
The setting of challenge can also be part of the nuanced experience, in that the teacher may well be looking to see if the child(ren) have understood certain aspects of the experience. Phrases such as “Can you explain/tell me…” “How do you think…” “How do we know…” might all be useful. “What key information must we take back to the classroom/take forward into our next activity?” It is essential that children see learning as a continuous, self-development narrative.
Children measure themselves, against their own performance and against others, the latter, in the best practice, enabling them to perceive their next learning steps from evidence of the outcomes of others, rather than a deficit model, which can sometimes be an overt aspect of school life. Who’s top and who’s bottom of the class?
They want to know just how grown up they are and, by extension, how grown up others see them to be.
Order of the Day by John Cunliffe
Get up! Get washed, eat your breakfast.
That’s my mum, going on and on and on….
Sit down! Shut up, get on with your work!
That’s my teacher, going on and on and on….
Come here! Give me that! Go away!
That’s my big sister, going on and on and on….
Get off! Stop it! Carry me!
That’s my little sister, going on and on and on….
Boss, boss, boss. They do it all day.
Sometimes I think I’ll run away, but I don’t know where to go.
The only one who doesn’t do it, is my old gran.
She says, “Would you like to get washed?” or,
“Would you like to sit on this chair?”
And she listens to what I say.
People say she spoils me, and that she’s old fashioned.
I think it’s the others that spoil; spoil every day.
And I wish more people were old fashioned, like my gran.
Sometimes, it’s just the way they are spoken to...