Every day I receive in my office a print-out of all the articles relating to education that are current in the media. There is occasional good news, usually relating to the achievements of a child, which is splendid. The rest is a reflection of the current fragmented state of education, new government initiatives, horror stories relating to youth crime, endless debate on standards of Maths and English, together with many accounts and case studies of stress upon teachers, parents and children. There is a lot on health, obesity, diet and fitness. To give current examples: ‘Parents should be encouraged to teach Maths at home through cooking’, ‘Review of standards over “cheating at universities”, ‘Children of Britain lead the world in drinking and drugs’. On reading this you feel like someone watching the tide move in and out and the educational sea seems to be full of flotsam and jetsam.
The effect on this particular head is to ask the question “What is always true and good about education and are there principles and practices that will always nourish children?” The alternative is to be caught up in ideas and opinions that have the same shelf life as the fashion pages.
The following list is an honest effort to find ten simple principles or practices to really care for the nation’s children.
- Acknowledge that teaching is not a job. It is a way of life. Teaching is a noble profession. Treat teachers accordingly.
- Children are beings with limitless potential.
- Give the children the finest food, i.e. fresh food for the body, brilliant material for the mind, beauty and creativity for the heart. Also recognise their spirit.
- Put a great emphasis on speech, what you speak, how you speak and how you speak to others. Encourage good manners.
- Give children access to quietness and steadiness. Begin each day with an assembly. Let all teachers and children gather together and see and feel the unity of the School and of humanity. Sing!
- Establish and encourage service of each other in the school. Move from care of oneself, to care of family, community, nation and world.
- Be very aware of the environment in which the child lives. Let it contain both order and beauty.
- Be aware that whatever teachers and parents feel, think and do, children will imitate. This is the key to true discipline.
- Balance the activity of every day. Let them live a balanced life, i.e. a balance between academic study, conversation, art, music, drama, physical activity, rest and play.
- Avoid criticism: parents of teachers, teachers of parents, and parents and teachers of children. Respect each other.