Thursday, February 12, 2015

Day 12: Social and Emotional Wellbeing Before Academic Success #28daysofwriting

Shamelessly 'borrowed' off twitter :) 
The above Meme is doing the rounds on twitter.  I saw it after it had been reposted by The Badass Teachers Association (US chapter, and an organisation, incidentally, all teachers around the world should be keeping an eye on due to the issues they raise).   It has inspired todays #28daysofwriting because its message is one all policy makers, politicians, leaders and teachers need to have ingrained into their psyche.

Throughout my career, I have known a simple truth - that you can not increase a students academic outcomes if their social and emotional wellbeing is at risk.  In the early days, I knew it as a truth from an intrinsic understanding of human behaviour, but now, I know it because I have more training, research and experience behind me to know that behind the common sense is an entire body of evidence.  Maslow's hierarchy of needs and Dr Bruce Perry's work on trauma and brain development research are two of many.

It never fails to astound me that in our preoccupation with testing, measuring and standardising learning, that those who make these decisions have forgotten that all things are not created equal.  The world our children live in is complex, diverse and highly variable.  No standardised test can account for the inequalities that face students every day.

Let me be clear, I am not suggesting we ignore the academic wellbeing of our students.  On the contrary, schools are about teaching and learning and assisting our students to build a foundation their lives will be built on.

However, and this is important, when a student is faced with issues that impact on their social, emotional and sometimes physical wellbeing, then until you meet these needs, the academic success just won't happen.  We all have stories of what happens when these students needs are left unmet.  Most of them have been kicked out of school, become disengaged (and become behaviour issues in classrooms), or are on a trajectory of 'nothing positive' and some are in our jails.

This is not acceptable for society.  Our Nations' students deserve to be successful.  If they are marginalised then we not only let them down, but we let our own futures down.

I don't think this is rocket science.  Schools all around the globe are working hard to support these students everyday.  They are feeding, clothing, and nurturing them.  All of this despite the pressure to get these students 'to standard'.  They know it takes a long term, triage point of view, not a short term quick bandaid.  

How amazing would it be if our policy makers and politicians 'got' this.  I live in hope.

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