Be careful, it’s catching!

When Indi arrived home from school yesterday she wanted to, ‘do some learning like the big kids’. So while they logged on to access their work, she logged in to her Reading Eggs and spent the next hour quietly working too.

I love how, given the right environment, a desire to learn becomes contagious. I love how we are able to build the self esteem of learners who were previously embarrassed about their work and ability so they are able to feel truly successful, and I love how our students are proud of each other, of themselves and become role models for others.

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When I grow up…

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A recent post on Human’s of New York‘s page made me smile about this topic.

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I remember wanting to be everything from a teacher, to a ranger (I thought the name ‘Ranger Kate’ sounded awesome), to an interior designer, to a ballet dancer! However, the teaching theme was really the only consistent one through the years.

Whenever I assess a new student I ask them what they would like to be when they grow up (or if they are highschool students, when they leave school). There are of course the standard ‘famous’ answers of, a professional sports person, a pop star, a dancer, a singer. I was told earlier this week by a student “a business owner so I can make lots of money!”. I hear the ones who would like to follow in their parents footsteps and become ‘a carpenter like Dad’ or ‘a Doctor like Mum’. Sometimes I ask them what their Mum and/or Dad do (this is all about making conversation and breaking the ice before we start doing the actual assessment). Some children know exactly what their parents’ job title is, others are a little more vague, ‘he goes to work in his office’, ‘she does things for other people’ ‘he fixes computers and stuff’. What I have noticed in the last year is the change of descriptions of Stay at Home Mums from ‘she just stays at home’, to ‘she looks after our family and makes sure we have everything we need.’ I love this a lot.

Some answers make me laugh, “a big boy”, “a mermaid”, “a gym worker and do push-ups and squats”.

Here are some of the answers I’ve had in the last month or so:

  • An inventor and a scientist (girl 10yrs)
  • An artist (girl 7yrs)
  • A zoo keeper, vet or singer (girl 10yrs)
  • A footy player (boy 10yrs)
  • A builder (boy 7yrs)
  • A farmer (boy 10yrs)
  • Something to do with being a shopping person (girl 8yrs)
  • A mermaid (girl 6yrs)
  • A scientist (boy 8yrs)
  • An aviation engineer (boy 7yrs)
  • A policeman (boy 8yrs)
  • An engineer who designs things (boy 10yrs)
  • A professional basketball player in the US (boy 15yrs)

I asked my Indi (4yrs) yesterday what she would like to be when she grows up and she said, “A Mummy.”

So what did YOU want to be when you grew up? – And what are you now?

Have you asked your child recently what they would like to be?

Send us in yours and their responses, I would love to hear the dreams of our future generation!

Your Child’s Self-Worth Depends on You

Guest post by Fiona Russo

Michael and I were paid the most unexpected compliment last week. Charlie’s ECDP (‘special’ pre-school) teacher told me that she’s impressed by our positivity when we talk about Charlie.

Now, we get quite a few comments along the lines of ‘you’re handling things so well’; ‘you’re doing a wonderful job’; ‘you take everything in your stride’; ‘I so admire the way you just get on with it’ and so on, and we appreciate every one of them, truly.

In this case, though, I was wrong in assuming that’s what she meant.

Gayle is a lady with years of experience in special education. She loves her job, and really cares deeply about her students (or does a brilliant job of faking it, haha). She’s always interested in little breakthroughs or setbacks, changes in routine and diet, likes and dislikes – all the things a good teacher cares about and more, because her little charges each come with some extra challenges.

I hear her every time I go to the school, patiently listening to parents talk about lunchboxes and drink bottles, clothes and toileting, splints, wheelchairs, calming techniques and medical issues.

The compliment Gayle was giving me was about the way we talk about those seemingly mundane things. 

She said that she had never heard us say ‘Charlie doesn’t like that’, or ‘Charlie won’t eat that’, or ‘Charlie can’t do that’.

Instead, she told me that we would say things like, ‘It’s not her favourite thing but give it a go’, or ‘I’m sure she’ll enjoy it but she may need a little extra help’, or ‘we’re working on that’.

In fact, she went on, the most negative thing she can remember hearing us say was that Charlie is allergic to something so she can’t have it, but she maintains that even then I said ‘We need to avoid those because of allergies, but Charlie loves these ones instead!’.

Makes me sound like some sort of deranged Stepford Mum, doesn’t it?After receiving this compliment somewhat awkwardly in the doorway of the school, I started to pay attention to the chitchat with some of the other parents.

I was surprised I’d never noticed it before – there was a lot of unintended negativity in their conversations. 

Here are some of the choice ones I remember (names changed of course):

“Noah has Vegemite sandwiches today, but he probably won’t eat them.”

“Sarah has juice in her drink bottle because I can’t get her to drink water.”

“Jamie doesn’t do slides.  His legs aren’t strong enough to stop him at the bottom.”

And some were even worse…

“Good luck getting her to go to the toilet.  I’ve given up at home.”

“Joe won’t stop sucking his thumb, so it’s a waste of time to try to get him to clap.”

I should point out that each of these parents seems to me a loving, caring, involved caregiver. I’m sure they’d be horrified to think that they were being so negative.

However, their children were right there.  Within earshot. 

It’s not something I’ve ever given any thought to, but now that I am thinking about it, it seems so obvious. Self-esteem is as important for children as it is for adults, but their world is small.

Your children set their own expectations by yours. They base their self-worth on your opinion.

That goes for all children, not just the ‘special needs’ kids, and it’s a huge responsibility. My Mum and Dad always told me I was clever, that I could do anything I set my mind to. It’s this foundation that gives me confidence as an adult and I’m so grateful that I have it.

Michael and I are lucky to have had this example set so well for us by our own parents that it comes naturally to do the same.

So… I’m going to do something I don’t often do with this blog. I’m going to offer advice, to those who perhaps aren’t as lucky as we are.

I believe it, I stand by it, and I’m going to try to be more conscious of it myself:

Think before you speak.  Show your children that you have confidence in their abilities.  Tell everyone, and do it loudly where they can see and hear you.

It is the greatest gift you will ever give them.

It matters.


Thank you, Fiona for allowing me to share this with our readers. It is such an important message. This is one of the ways in which we write our children’s Life Script. We have a poster on our Learning Studio Wall which says:

“If you want your children to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others.”

I’ve learnt not to apologize for my daughter in many situations (ie when she wants to scan the grocery items at the checkout and the person behind has to wait a little longer). I’ve learnt that the way I speak about her to others is what she will grow to believe of herself. We are hopefully helping her to understand her strengths and her weaknesses, but to know that her weaknesses are not something to be ashamed of and that these too will develop and change over time.

You can find more from Fiona here