I hear and read so much in education about supporting, assisting, nurturing and caring for students, and rightly so most of the time. Some students find themselves in difficult and sometimes cruel situations, largely outside of their control, and we care for those as best as we can. Yet I wonder if in some cases, we support, assist, and molly-coddle so much that resilience (backbone) is missing.
Today is a Saturday, but schools and businesses have been closed since Thursday due to unbelievable snow storms and blizzards. The country is covered in snow and after two days of lethal road conditions, the roads are just about passable if you can get off the housing estates. Therein lies the signs of ‘the white stuff’.
I live at the end of a cul-de-sac largely filled with hard working families who live no lavish life, but who are dedicated to their jobs.
I’ve just finished about 2 hours of snow-shovelling in the road outside my driveway, but I didn’t do that alone. Almost every house in my road had 2 or more people shovelling, and together we cleared that road. There were teenagers, parents and the elderly all mucking in to get the job done, and there was a great sense of community.
Yet to get to my estate you have to go through a street of houses containing a different kind of people. Not one of those families had anyone shovelling snow outside their doors. Not one of those healthy and able teenagers offered help, yet there were plenty watching whilst they smoked on their doorstep. Some of these young adults are the same ones who demand and require lots of support and encouragement to attend school, bring a pen to class, wear the right uniform, and take an interest in their education. We beg and beg and beg them to take an interest in their future, and for some, the more we give the more excuses they find.
Exams are in many ways a flawed measure of learning, but they do one crucial thing for an employer. They expose attitude, just like adversity in the snow. The sad thing is that not only will jobs and stability be elusive to people with a ‘do the minimum’ attitude, they miss out on the sense of contribution and achievement that my street enjoyed today.
We do students no favours long term if we indulge laziness in school. As students begin to prepare for GCSE exams once again, it’s not the school or the support mechanism that are the cause for particularly high or particularly low grades – it’s the work ethic of the students and it’s all too evident in the snow.