Dear Koen, Torin and Eden
I’ve just tucked you up in bed after reading you bedtime stories and having lovely cuddles.
Tomorrow will be a new day and yes, before you ask, ‘it’s a school day.’
I loved school when I was young. I love learning.
Yet things have changed so much and for that, I want to apologise.
Even though you go to a lovely school, with caring, dedicated and hardworking teachers, already you say you don’t want to go. I know this is probably normal for most young kids, but I’m so much more aware of children feeling the burden of having to go to school. They’re already feeling such pressure.
I’m saying sorry to you now because I feel like us adults have got it wrong.
In fact, we should be learning from you – the children.
You teach us that you want to play, investigate, role play and do whatever you want to do that makes you happy. From the moment you wake up you want to play, you often see the fun and magic in life and everything is an adventure.
We’re teaching you that life is hard, you need to work hard, you can’t always be happy, you can’t always get what you want and that in order to get anything ‘good’, you have to work yourself into the ground. You have to follow rules, even if they don’t make sense and you’re only allowed to have fun, once you’ve done the mountain of homework you’ve been set.
It’s no wonder that the children I meet and coach are former shadows of who they once were.
We’re killing off your dreams.
We’re not letting you be children anymore and it breaks my heart.
Children as young as five years old are suffering from anxiety because they know that they can’t keep up in certain subjects. They believe that this makes them unworthy. They’re already comparing themselves to others and feel inadequate.
I’m working with teenage girls about to sit their exams. They’re already feeling the pressure – scared that they’ll let themselves down, their parents down and their teachers down. They’ve tied their sense of self worth to the results they’ll get. They feel that if they don’t get an A* then that means they’re a failure.
I wish that us adults can come to our senses.
If we continue to put ridiculous pressure and expectations on teachers and pupils, you’re all going to crack. We’ll have young kids on antidepressants and teachers having breakdowns. It’s certainly heading that way.
I know that the ‘powers that be’ think they’re creating a good, solid workforce for the future. Full of obedient, hard-working people who stick to the rules and do what’s expected of them.
They’ll get a workforce that’s already had enough. People who feel worthless, or those who want to rebel.
My message to you is that you’re wonderful. Your grades won’t change who you are. Your grades give you opportunities and if you miss one, don’t worry, pick yourself back up and grab the next opportunity, because there are always more.
Question everything. See the positives in everything and don’t let us adults dull your sparkle. Life is magical. Life is meant to be fun and you do deserve to be happy as often as you want to be.
Play as often as you can. Stay inquisitive and treat life like the adventure that it is. That way you’ll find out what inspires you, what your passions are and what makes you happy. You won’t be afraid of failing and you’ll look for solutions, instead of problems.
The ‘powers that be’ are teaching you to be miserable workaholics, because that’s what they’ve been trained to be. They really don’t know any better.
I hope that that will change.
More homework doesn’t mean better grades, it means more anxious, stressed out kids who long for time out with their family and friends. Forcing kids to study subjects that they really don’t get doesn’t mean a better workforce. It teaches you that you’re a failure and that label sticks with you for life.
Expecting kids to all be at a certain level at the exact same time is on a par to expecting toddlers to all walk at the exact same time. It dismisses your unique gifts, your individuality and forgets that in the long run, you’ll all get there in your own time.
Judging schools on the grades that you get doesn’t equate to better educated students. It’s training the teachers to focus more on ticking the box, rather than seeing the unique gifts each child has.
Ideally, education should be more about play and fun – for the pupils and the teachers. It should be about creativity and investigation on your terms. It should be measured by how much the teachers care about you and inspire you. Their passion should be set free.
School should be a place where you get to fail over and over again, so you can learn how important failure is. That way you’ll see the positives in everything and problems as fun challenges. You’ll realise your own true strengths and you’ll find out your own true value – no matter what grades you get.
So, as you sleep I pray for a brighter future.
I pray for your happiness. I pray that you don’t ever lose your inner child.
I’m so grateful for the teachers who really do care about their jobs. I hope that they can find their inner child again. It’s been buried in paperwork, red tape and ridiculous hours.
I cherish each of you.
For I know that the independence, sense of worth and wonderful attitude you have to life can help change the world, so we can all discover its magic once more.