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Confidence is the certainty our kids need to excel in education

By George Esmond
31 March 2022

By George Esmond

Last week, Wales joined Scotland as the latest Government to outlaw the smacking and slapping of children.  

The Bill marked another landmark moment in the changing attitudes towards education we have witnessed over recent years. Welsh Deputy Minister for social services Julie Morgan, who has campaigned for the law change for more than two decades, said the Bill was an “historic moment for children and their rights in Wales”, moving towards a more understanding society where we look to nurture our children’s progress rather than instil success through strict demands and abrasive behaviour.   

I was made more aware of how quickly the dynamics are changing between father and son, coach and player, and teacher and pupil when speaking to a friend last week. A former sergeant who served in the harshest extremes of the Afghan War, he was now teaching the next generation of soldiers their vocational training straight out of secondary school - and struggling with the new dynamics between old and young.  

These kids, who had spent two years of their adolescence glued to their screens and stuck at home during the pandemic, were in his eyes, physically, emotionally, and mentally underdeveloped. He was frustrated at their lack of attention and incessant need to constantly check their phones. So much so, that he banned the devices during the day to ensure concentration in class, but this only led to them stay up late into the night to get their fix, and being tired the next day. He even suggested that some of the children conveyed better mannerisms and use of the English language when interacting over Facebook messenger than in person.  

What struck him most was that on the morning task – whereby pupils were required to stand at the foot of their bed with their bedsheets tucked tightly, and duvet folded neatly for 6 am – the pupils needed daily commendation and encouragement for completing what many would consider a standard daily chore.  

I wanted to sympathise with him, but as I observe my endeavours of the day, I can’t help but think his approach to education is outdated. For starters, since I came to London last year, I don’t think I have made my bed once. Nor have I worn a pair of matching socks since the office reopened. I might have even worn the same pair of pants two days in a row. There are two cups on my bedside table and an empty can from New Years’ Day. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating.  

But like those new recruits, if I checked my phone time, I think I am either on my emails, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger for 70 per cent of the day. But these are requirements of my job and most people’s these days; especially as remote working becomes the new norm. To be constantly engaging with colleagues or working on a laptop, tablet, or phone late into the evening to ensure deadlines are met has gone from being a bonus, to being expected.  

As for compliments, we all love them; if someone has done a good job, why not tell them? I think I work hard and would quite happily go above and beyond without necessitating praise, but there is nothing better than receiving a compliment for some work that you have completed - it drives your self-esteem and work ethic for the following day.  

We’ve always known that everyone is different, but that conversation led me to believe that the nature of education has changed because what our children need has changed, and we must understand and accept that; how pen and paper activities may bore the next generation but perhaps their creativity, intrigue, and technical capabilities are far greater than ours.  

What hasn’t changed is the passion and drive to do well, and if we want the next generation to thrive, we need to adapt to them, not the other way around.