CONSTRAINTS IN SCHOOL
AND THE CONSEQUENCES
Additional and More Frequent Tests and Exams
It strikes me that children and young students submit to more frequent tests, assessments,
and examinations, than was the case some years ago. What is the advantage for these students, their families, or the schools of spending more time answering questions orally or in writing, and having such frequent assessments made of their
on-going work which are noted on their school records?
I should like to know the answer
to this question. I want an explanation for the rationale behind the increasing stress experienced by even very young children as they are subjected to frequent, pointless, tests.
Childred are being marked as failures while they are being tested for skills that are not age
appropriate. One size does not fit all! Not all children develop specific skills at the same rate and there's nothing wrong with that.
If children are not given the opportunities to develop physically, learn spatial awareness, and get sufficient exercise in
a school day, they are being tested without a valid basis, not having been prepared properly.
This is not education.
It's bean counting!
Is there any evidence that more frequent examinations
result in improved work produced, or enhanced study skills? No!
the necessity of keeping track of pupils’ attainments and challenges is recognised and accepted by teachers and PGCs, a bureaucratic requirement for a constant flow of statistics, is another matter. I know many teachers are unhappy with what they see as too frequent assessments, including the requirement for the constant updating of comments and remarks on each student’s efforts, in every subject.
To do this job diligently takes a great deal of time, effort, and consideration, and many teachers
believe it is not the best use of their time.
Further, the assessment criteria only
suit a certain percentage of any class.
If a student sees ideas in, and works with, ‘mind maps’, or is kinaesthetically-minded,
their abilities attained and work achieved, are never reflected fully in their written exam results.
That HAS TO BE deflating and discouraging for these students, who know they are DOING THEIR BEST, and know they ARE mastering the skills
required of them.
Youngsters feel very strongly about what constitutes ‘fairness’, and
not to achieve results that reflect their skills acquired, and the work they've put in, is seen as very unfair by children and youngsters.
One may well ask, AT WHAT STAGE might a youngster feel excluded by this system, and decide to SWITCH OFF his or her engagement in school?
I am aware that
yard time, or school breaks, have been curtailed in many schools because the number of teachers has been cut to a degree that there are not sufficient of them for full, proper, supervision of the students playing during a proper
Many teachers get no break at all, all day.
They are frequently on yard duty for every session, every day, and also supervise their class during every lunch break.
This is a disastrous development which can only undermine the development of gross and fine motor skills.
Gross motor skills and spatial awareness are gained through playing on climbing frames and hanging on trees branches in the garden or park, through playing sports and having the freedom to play physically
and freely for at least three hours a day.
Fine motor skills are required to learn how to hold a chubby crayon
and later a pencil with which to start drawing and writing. However, this skill cannot be attained without firstly developing the strength through gross motor skills to hold a pencil.
I read a suggestion from a very well-known American professional in early childhood education, that minutes should be docked from 'recess' for the whole class, as punishment for misdemeanours by a few students during class.
find this a startling, retrograde, anti-child welfare notion!
Children need MORE exercise, not less. Further, if a child is seen as the cause of 'recess' being shortened for everyone, it is hardly likely to
support good interpersonal relationships in the classroom.
As we know, there
are three basic Learning Styles: Auditory, Visual, and Kinaesthetics, with many other more specific styles. (Please see my Post, 'MEETING THE TEACHER', which gives a short outline of each Learning Style.) Kinaesthetic
learners learn through movement. They tap their feet or swing their legs in class, they cannot sit still, and are
punished for being the child they are.
Due to insurance constraints, the call
of "No running in the playground!" is heard nationwide.
One of the many consequences of curtailed yard breaks, is that children and youngsters do not get enough time to expend their excess energy, which
they have tried to keep cooped up during classes.
In a radio programme on the National
Broadcaster, RTE Radio 1, we heard that one in four Irish children is overweight or obese. It appears that there is an acceptance of overweight to the extent that some parents do not recognise that their children are an unhealthy weight.
According to Bill Murphy Jr, of TheMid.com, students,
and especially boys, need hours of physical activity every day; and they do not get enough because their schools will not let them.
Bill Murphy Jr outlined the following research results in points 1 to 3.
1. We over-protect children, trying to keep them safe from all physical dangers, which ultimately increases the likelihood of negative health issues.
We inhibit children's academic growth (especially among boys), because the lack of physical activity makes it more difficult for them to concentrate.
3. When they
fail to conform quietly to this low-energy expenditure regime, they may be subjected to over-diagnosis (ADHD, and the like), and may be punished for reacting the way they are naturally built to react.
[Many boys, especially, seem to be in a state of constant motion ~ running, jumping, playing,
pushing, getting hurt, getting upset, and then getting right back into the physical action.
The exception is at
school, where they are required to sit still for long periods of time.
they fail to stay still, sadly, often, they are punished for their exuberance by being denied their next yard break, and so end up sitting in their classrooms while their friends are outside playing in the yard! My
[See the following Link from Rae Pica, a highly regarded Childhood Educationalist. She writes of the alarming results for children who spend too much time sitting.
Children understand what they learn by doing.
Further, children who sit for too long do not develop a proper sense of spatial awareness, which has physical, emotional and social ramifications of real significance.
http://www.raepica.com/2017/03/21/unexpected-consequence-kids-sit-much/ The Early Childhood Education Network, which contains many of Ms Pica's Posts, can be found on the LinkedIn Site.]
Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland recently tried to document if boys actually
achieve less in school when restricted from running around and being physically active.
studied 153 children, aged six to eight years, and tracked how much physical activity and sedentary time they had during the day. Unsurprisingly, according to a report by Belinda
Luscombe in 'Time', the less "moderate to vigorous physical activity" the boys had each day, the more difficult it was for them to develop good reading skills.
The more time children ... spent sitting and the less time they spent being
physically active, the fewer gains they made in reading in the two following years. [It] also had a negative impact on their ability to do mathematics.
These results appear not to apply equally to girls. Researchers offered a couple of possible explanations
for this difference: (i) perhaps girls have physiological differences, or (ii) maybe the girls were just as eager to move around as the boys, but were better able to set aside that disappointment and concentrate in class.
My observation on this is that many girls are still
expected to wait, to please - and not to express their thoughts or feelings.
These findings are not just about poorer academic achievements. Many observers and researchers now say limited physical activity leads to real physical
and mental harm to youngsters, even in the short term, long before they are grown up.
Angela Hanscom, a paediatric occupational therapist, interviewed
young children, asking what their school break periods and play are like. Some of their replies follow.
"We have monkey bars, but we aren't allowed to go upside down on them. They think we are going to hurt ourselves. I think I'm old enough to try going upside down."
"We have woods, but can't go anywhere near them.
It's too dangerous."
it snows, we can't touch it with our foot, or we have to stand by the teacher for the rest of recess."
Restricting children’s movement like this, leads them to increased anger and frustration, to a reduced ability to regulate their emotions, and to higher aggressiveness during
the limited times they are allowed to play.
Hanscom wrote "Elementary children need at least three hours of active free play (my italics) a day to maintain good health and wellness. Currently, they are only getting a fraction."
Definition of ADHD and Reduced Physical Activities
In the United States, ADHD diagnoses in children are likelier now than they were in
past years, and the percentage is rising at an alarming rate. In 2003 it was diagnosed in about 7.8 per cent of children, it rose to 9.5 per cent in 2007, and to 11 per cent in 2011.
That is a 40 per cent increase in eight years.
The definition of ADHD, in the United States, has also been changed to make it more expansive. Many
critics argue this is because of pharmaceutical industry interests; given that the leading treatment for ADHD is use of a particular prescription medication.
Angela Hanscom, in a separate article, said the problem is exacerbated because we are forcing children
and youngsters to sit still longer, and they are simply reacting as nature intended.
"Recess times have shortened due to increasing educational demands, and children rarely play outdoors," she writes. "Let’s face it: children are not nearly moving enough, and it is really
starting to become a problem."
She goes on to state "In order for children to learn, they need to be able to pay attention. In order for them to pay attention, we need to let them move." (My italics.)
This is a crucial statement, the crux of
which should be central to the planning of all aspects of children's and youngsters' lives, in order to help them reach their maximum possible learning and developmental opportunities ~ to fulfil themselves.
It is much easier to control a classroom in which the students are obliged to sit quietly, than
one where students are free to move around to check information in the class library, or to collaborate in work with others, which would involve discussions, and moving materials about the room.
Pupils and teachers need a good level of mutual trust and respect for this type of classroom activity to work.
Teachers also have to bear in mind constantly the potential conversations resulting from probable reactions of over-protective parents,
who get very agitated if one of their children trips or falls in the yard.
who get adequate time to play outdoors freely, are "less fidgety and more focused," one teacher said. They "listen more attentively, follow directions,
and try to solve problems on their own instead of coming to the teacher to fix everything."
Surely, this simple idea is what we all wish for our children's school experience?