Posts Tagged ‘Culture’

Skills That Aren’t Taught But Should Be: #1 People Skills

August 19, 2014



Is it just me or are people afraid of human interaction nowadays? It’s almost as if people go around with an invisible shell that protects them from the outside world.

There was once a time where it was considered rude if you didn’t make an effort to get to know your next door neighbors. Now it’s hardly novel for people to admit that they have never once uttered a word to those living next door.

Today I visited my local supermarket. I make a point of avoiding the self service checkout and go to a regular register instead. I feel bad that machines are taking the place of people and make sure I support the check-out personnel, even if it involves a longer wait. This afternoon I noticed that the regular aisles were empty but the self-service area was banked up. I can understand that people use the self-service machines for convenience, but it seems they also like it because it gives them yet another opportunity to avoid human interaction.

I remember in my early days of teaching, I was having a general discussion with my Grade 3 students. They were talking about the size of their homes. One pointed out that she has 2 homes because her parents are divorced. Her friends were in shock.

“I didn’t know your parents were divorced” one of the said. “So are mine.”


“Mine are too” said another

“So are mine” said another.

Now I know that children are reluctant to freely open up about such things, but it surprised me that classmates would take 3-5 years of being around each other on a daily basis before finding that out.

There is often reports in the media of a religion or culture that claims to be misunderstood or isolated, and you can understand why. There just isn’t enough effort on the part of society to leave the cocoon and start interacting with others. Especially those who are seemingly different from them. It’s just like in the brilliant Academy Award winning movie, Crash – people only deal with others when they literally crash into them. And of course by then, the interaction is never going to be healthy.

You would think that the schoolyard is the best place to address this issue. After all, schools don’t play favourites, they don’t seek to isolate and they try to encourage positive social interactions.

Or, maybe not ….

Some of the playground rules I have covered over the past few years do anything but that which I have just expressed. Take the school which has banned its students from having best friends. That’s right, banning best friends! In other words, to teach children not to exclude the school steps in and excludes for them.

And then there are the schools following this insane trend of outlawing touching. This includes not just hugging and holding hands but also high-fiving.  Just crazy!

So the very institution that can set a strong and purposeful platform for inclusion, unity and human interaction is actually, at least in some cases, preaching the opposite. They would rather see each child on their own instead of in friendship groups embracing one another.

I feel like we are missing an extraordinarily important opportunity. I see it as vital that we help our students to break the shackles and help them to want to connect with others in a meaningful way.


Click on the link to read Top 10 Most Unusual School Bans

Click on the link to read Rules that Restrict the Teacher and Enslave the Student

Click on the link to read This is What I Think of the No Hugging Rule at Schools

Click on the link to read Political Correctness at School

Click on the link to read What Are We Doing to Our Kids?

Click on the link to read Stop Banning Our Kids From Being Kids

Sometimes Reports Into Education = Good Toilet Paper

December 5, 2010

I am sick of these “doom and gloom” reports into education that pretend to represent children from disadvantaged backgrounds, but instead put them down with cold disregard.

There is no better recent example of this than a  report, entitled “The Foundation Years: Preventing Poor Children Becoming Poor Adults,” by Labour MP and new “Poverty Czar” Frank Field.  According to the report, success in life is determined by the age of 5.  Beyond the age of 5, kids don’t have much say in whether or not they will make a success out of life.

By the age of five, a huge gulf already exists between the abilities of pupils from comfortable and disadvantaged backgrounds.

Research shows “we can predict at three and at five who will be unemployed, who will struggle to get a low paid job,” Mr Field said to the BBC.

Sally Copley, UK head of policy for Save the Children, said it should not have to be a choice between improving services and boosting the income of the worst-off families.  “By the time many children walk through the school gates for the first time, it’s too late for them.”

I don’t know where to start.  Perhaps by making some points on the term “success”.

1.  Mr Field defines success by how much a person earns (as well as whether or not they have employments at all).  In my view, a persons earnings, whilst not irrelevant, is not a complete reflection of a persons success.  Are they good people?  Do they follow the laws of society?  Are they good parents?  Do they treat others fairly?  Do they have integrity?  Using this criteria, lowly paid people can be far more ‘successful” than wealthy people.

2.  This leads me to an important gripe I have with the messages society seems to proliferate.  What job we do has no bearing on a persons success.  A taxi cab driver might not sound like a successful profession on face value.  But that same taxi driver has a crucial role to play.  They help the disabled and the aged, are crucial in keeping intoxicated people off the roads and protect vulnerable people from walking the streets and taking the trains late at night.  A house painter may seem like an ordinary profession, but have you ever looked at the difference a bright, well-painted room makes to a persons mood and outlook?  All jobs have a critical role to play in making life more enjoyable regardless of the pay involved.

3.  As a teacher, I don’t spend any time looking into the socio-economic background of my students.  I also don’t tend to get obsessed over rating the parents.  I feel very confident in my ability to assist all types of students from all types of backgrounds in becoming successful citizens and productive members of society.  I feel that my students have the potential to become every bit as successful as Mr. Field himself!  Mr. Field should not confuse, as he seems to be doing, the quality of a childs academic achievements with the quality of parenting that child is receiving.  There are many parents who aren’t able to spend sufficient time helping their kids with their schoolwork because they are working long hours to simply put food on the table.  In today’s world, we have to appreciate that all too many parents sacrifice what others take for granted for nothing more than to provide for their families.

What Mr. Field has done, for all his good intentions, is needlessly narrow the definition of success, outrage taxpayers for funding students when “it’s too late for them” anyway and provide an extraordinarily negative message to people from low socio-economic backgrounds.

Mr. Field, thank you.  This world can never have enough toilet paper!

Cyber Culture and Our Kids

December 3, 2010

I recently attended a Professional Development session on cyber culture.  The survey conducted by AISV interviewed thousands of kids from Grade 4 to Year 8 and collected information about their internet habits.  Some of the interesting findings included:

  • 1 in 5 year 5/6’s don’t consult parents about their internet activity.
  • 15% of year 5’s and 20% of year 6’s have internet access in their bedrooms.
  • Half the respondents claim they don’t have parent imposed internet rules.
  • 30% of respondents know ways in which to circumvent parental controls such as bypassing net filters and minimising pages when parents approach.
  • 40% of respondents name their school or city on social media sites such as Facebook.
  • 84% use chat rooms on a daily basis.
  • Approx. 3/4 don’t use privacy function on their social media pages.

I found some of these stats quite confronting.  Internet safety along with cyber bullying are big issues that educators must take extremely seriously.

I’d love to hear from teachers who have addressed issues of cybersafety in class.  What resources did you use?  How did the class respond?

The Ethics Debate

November 22, 2010

For the past few years there has been much debate about the place Ethics classes have in Primary school education.  There has been resistance from religious groups on the basis that it is competing with formal RE (Religious Education lessons) for numbers and government funding.  Proponents of having ethics instruction in our government schools claim that people have a right to choose what is the best for their children, and that non-religious students are better off having an alternative program rather than just sitting out of RE and taking part in an unstructured lesson (basically consisting of free time or watching a movie) instead.

In a new law about to be passed in NSW, parents will have the right to ethics classes as an alternative to scripture in their child’s school even if the principal and the majority of the school community opposes them.

A Baulkham Hills parent, whose child participated in the trial, said: ”The majority of parents, ethics teachers and children at our school found the ethics classes an enriching complement to the many good SRE [Special Religious Education] classes on offer”.

However, many of those opposed were concerned about ethics competing with scripture classes.

”Ethics is already taught in other forums in state primary education and should not be allowed to attract students away from meaningful faith-based studies,” wrote one.

Whilst I am not opposed to have Ethics lessons taught at our schools, I would like to make the following points:

1.  I would like to see RE and Ethics material being submitted to a curriculum board for approval.  Everything taught at school must be rich, stimulating, engaging and subject to curriculum style scrutiny.

2.  Every teacher should, and most do, invest time in their day-to-day teaching, imparting ethics by teaching their students right from wrong, helping them to make healthy choices and showing them how to maximise their potential.  The idea that students without an Ethics program at their school are is some ways missing out on ethics instruction is just wrong and disrespectful to hardworking, caring teachers.

Is the RE vs Ethics debate prevalent in countries other than Australia?  What is your opinion regarding the validity of ethics instruction?

Television and Body Image

November 12, 2010

It seems that television has an incredibly strong effect on our kids’ body image.  Television, especially advertisements, depict a world of wafer-like slim models that lead impressionable children to measure themselves against what they see on the screen.

A landmark study, recently brought to my attention, was conducted by Harvard Medical School focussing on Fiji.  Prior to the introduction of television in Fiji body weight was seen as sensual thing and hardly something to be anxious about.

The Harvard Medical School visited Fiji to evaluate the effect of the introduction of television on body satisfaction and disordered eating in adolescent girls.

In 1995, television arrived and within three years the percentage of girls demonstrating body dissatisfaction rose from 12.7 per cent to 29.2 per cent.  

Dieting among teenagers who watched TV increased dramatically to two in every three girls and the rate of self-induced vomiting leapt from zero to 11.3 per cent.

I am not advocating against the right for advertisers or television executives to sell products and make the kind of entertainment that sells.  I do however, request that wherever possible, all involved make responsible choices and consider the effect their content has on impressionable children.

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