The thing that makes humans pretty incredible is how different we all are from each other. We all have different likes and dislikes, behaviour, opinions and learning styles.
So, surely sticking us all in a box (the classroom) does more harm than good to today's youngsters?
I've recently taken to teaching some pupils who have failed to fit into the classroom environment. Their reasons vary from bullying and low self-esteem to persistent aggression and drug taking.
I hold my hands up to being a first-class swot at school. I wanted A's and to jump on that train to uni. Misbehaving for me meant wearing a navy blue polo shirt instead of a white one (and getting sent home for it) or ditching my school tie. I knew all the answers but didn't want to speak out for fear of sounding like a know-it-all. I was opinionated, but too scared to debate anything in case it showed my fellow classmates that I was actually interested in learning. My focus was often distracted from my studies with wondering how I was going to get from one classroom to another without somebody spitting on my head from the top stairs or barging me into the door of a building. I learned quite quickly to sprint down stairs (which did wonders for my athletic credentials) ... and as for barging through doors, I had the proportions of a stick insect, so I left that to the big kids and waited for the hyper-activity to die down. You realise there's something wrong with the educational system in this country, when you're greatest achievement of the day is not a test you aced, but having a phlegm-free barnet.
In fact, there's very little RIGHT about our nation's schools. The teacher stands at the front of the classroom (the leader) and pupils 'learn' their place or spend the rest of their school existence filling in detention cards or getting acquainted with the head teacher. There's a huge amount of copying from the board - facts and figures that good old Google can tell us in a quarter of the time. Put your hand up if you want to speak ... sit in rows of desks with everybody the same age ... and behave. There's very little emphasis on personality but it's all great if we're after a generation of robots.
And god forbid the pupils who is bored or frustrated, speaks up, kicks out at the system and wants a voice as an individual.
One size doesn't fit all.
In my short experience of teaching, we are forced to do things differently. The 15 and 16 year olds have tried and failed in a classroom. But these very youngsters, who have been told they are a nuisance, disruptive or too shy to do anything in life are getting results. Getting them outside and working as a team in the fresh air or asking them to come up with an enterprise of their own is what happens when you don't put barriers on a young person's ability. Some are leaders, some are creative, some are practical but they just didn't realise their own potential ... and more to the point, neither did their schools. There are different styles of learning and so many pupils are falling through the cracks in run-down high schools across the UK. They are lacking the one-to-one attention they need, a unique learning style, fresh air and exercise, a chance to share opinion and ideas and to work together. They are ill-prepared for what life and work will throw at them, and they don't even know this yet.
Iris van Zwam lives in London but was born and bred in Nijmegen (Netherlands) and is 22. From the age of 4-16 she attended a Rudolf Steiner school, a system that focusses on what the child needs from their teacher and not vice versa. Steiner schools are not all about the grades and could teach others a thing or two. They insist on a balance of artistic, practical and intellectual teaching - plus an emphasis on social skills and spiritual values
Iris said: "I didn't graduate or finish any education I started. My grades were never excellent. I'm a creative and business focussed person and don't do well feeling 'stuck' in school. I studied five different types of art in the Netherlands and journalism in London."
She now works as a Development Manager for a luxury retail interior design studio!
There are SO many Richard Branson's and Bill Gates of the future out there. All we need to do is get them off the X Box' and challenge them to show us what they've got!
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