Following on from last week’s blog when I bemoaned the winter months and this continued dreadful British weather, I want to talk about being positive this week. This is something that the people living in the south and west of the UK will be finding a challenge at the present time with the ongoing flooding situation. However, we have seen some true British grit with people supporting and helping each other in a time of crisis and putting a brave face on.
The theme of the week here at Teesside High School has been human rights. In assembly on Monday I talked to the pupils about the 30 articles of the universal charter for human rights, in particular article 26 which states that everyone has a right to an education. I was able to remind them how very fortunate they are to live in a country where education is available to all children aged 5-18. Of course when they have just been given a stack of homework and are facing the perfect tense or simultaneous equations on a friday afternoon, they may not feel that way. However, I frequently carry out learning walks around the school and when I visit lessons I see pupils who are having fun learning; they may be on their ipads making an animated film in classics, or using a science app to explore the digestive system, or perhaps they are transported into the past with a hotseat lesson where the teacher has taken the role of a second world war soldier and is being interviewed by the pupils as journalists from local or national papers. Our pupils have opportunities to develop their skills including their creativity, their problem solving and evaluation skills. They get plenty of exercise with our full PE programme and enjoy competitive sport and the opportunity to perform in music concerts, our upcoming production of Oliver or Talent Night. Our pupils have the added benefit of wonderful facilities, including a stimulating forest school, all weather pitches and a state of the art bespoke sixth form building.
I showed the pupils video clips of children in Arusha in rural Eastern Tanzania going to a school with no new technologies, nothing on the walls and no glass in the windows. However, even here the children were engaged in their learning because they knew the value of education and that it was their ticket to knowledge, the prospect of a career and a better way of life. The positive news is that the number of children worldwide who now get no education at all has reduced from 110 million worldwide in 2002 to 57 million in 2014. This is partly a result of countries coming together to set some millenium goals, one of which was a target worded as follows;
Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.
However, there is still a long way to go and we must be collectively determined to achieve universal global education for all children.
Positivity in education is very important. It is vital that teachers have high expectations for their pupils. Research by Rosenthal and Jacobson in 1968 involved a group of primary teachers being told that certain of their pupils had been identified in a test as likely to make marked gains academically in the coming school year when in reality they had merely been chosen randomly by the researchers. Subsequently these pupils made better academic progress than their peers and Rosenthal and Jacobson interpreted this as evidence that positive teacher attitudes influenced their behaviour towards their pupils and produced learning outcomes. The educational academic Chris Kyriacou also talks about high teacher expectations being of paramount importance in order to stretch all abilities of pupils to achieve the best attainment possible.
Having a glass half full mentality can fill those around you with a sense of hope and happiness. Henry Ford said ;
‘If you think you can, or if you think you can’t’ you’re right.
He also said;
‘Don’t find fault, find remedy; anybody can complain’.
Henry Ford was one of the most successful businessmen and entrepreneurs of the twentieth century and that was largely down to his optimism. I would have loved to have met him as I imagine that after just half an hour in his presence, you would go out into the world feeling fired up and enthusiastic about anything you had to face. There are certain people who can drain the energy from a room with their negative attitude, moaning and ability to see a problem around every corner and a plethora of reasons not to do something. Henry Ford would have been the opposite sort of person. Nowadays he would be your first choice to ‘friend’ on Facebook or to follow on Twitter!
The ideas and views that you hold can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. One of my favourite childhood books was ‘Pollyanna’ by Eleanor H. Porter written in 1913. The main character in the novel, a young girl refuses to be negative about anything. Pollyanna’s philosophy of life centers on what she calls “The Glad Game”, an optimistic attitude she learned from her father. The game consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation. Even when faced with people who are grumpy and sometimes even rude, Pollyanna is determined to see the best in people and have a rosy attitude about all aspects of life. She infects everyone around her with her sunny disposition. It is only when she has a serious accident and breaks her back that she loses that outlook. It is at the moment that the people she has been kind to rally around to cheer her up and pull her through the bad times.
It is also important for pupils to have a positive approach to their studies. If they come to lessons with the notion that they will not understand and it is too difficult, progress will be limited and success will be diminished. An open mind and positive mental attitude will help children overcome many barriers and difficulties. Of course this should be accompanied by excellent teaching, staff who are prepared to spend the time explaining things clearly and facilitating learning. But learning is truly a two way process and the positivity of both teacher and learner combination is a potent cocktail.
Our pupils have shown a great amount of positive mental attitude this week with their ‘have a heart’ campaign. They have taken the issue of teenage cancer very seriously and have organised a plethora of activities to raise money during the week including a book and DVD exchange, sponge the teacher, a valentine’s card service and many other innovative ideas all designed to help others and to take positive action rather than being defeated by some of the serious challenges thrown at us in life. Overall they have raised nearly £900 and I am so very proud of their tenacity and positive determination to make a difference.
So this week I have resolved to be positive and to ensure that this positivity rubs off on those around me. I want to have a Pollyanna effect on the staff and pupils! The art of ‘mindfulness’ is the new fashion. Sportsmen and women and business experts swear that it can change your life and at a conference I attended before Christmas it became apparent that many schools are beginning to use these techniques to help their staff be more focused and less stressed and to help pupils learn more effectively and develop the skills of perseverance and persistence. This is definitely something for us to explore further at THS as we are always open to new ideas and innovative approaches to achieving success for our pupils.