By Mike Aubin
I have been a proud educator for almost 30 years, spread equally over high and junior schools.
Ihave been principal at Wellington Preparatory School in Wellington in the Western Cape for the last 11 years, and it has been a joy and a privilege to see the school grow from 18 children to our full capacity of 210. Over the course of my professional life in both primary and secondary education, I have become increasingly concerned about a developing trend of being overprotective of our students and allowing our parents to dictate school policy through their unwanted interference and our own inability to curb these excesses. My thoughts have been recently more informed by an interesting article recently, called “Are We Bubble Wrapping Our Children?”1
Striking the balance
Please don’t misunderstand me. As teachers, we are entrusted with parents’ most valuable asset: their children. Parents have every right to question what we do and to hold us accountable, but they must also accept that we are the “experts” when it comes to our field, and we have every right to dictate policy that may be unpopular, but beneficial to our charges in the long run. Are we as teachers and parents cocooning our children to such an extent that they no longer have to take responsibility for their actions? How do we expect our children to learn problemsolving skills when we constantly protect them from the ageappropriate stress they need to feel as a result of their actions?
Some of the most common reasons parents give for choosing an independent school are the smaller classes and the more nurturing environment. We constantly have to assess where we can improve, and one area that stands out for me is our children’s inability to follow instructions the first time they are given and to take responsibility for their work. When new children arrive at Wellington Preparatory School from bigger state-run schools, they are often behind in many areas, but the one thing they do well (in most cases) is to listen properly to instructions the first time and take responsibility for their homework books. Often, children at independent schools are not good at this. We have to be very careful that we remain a nurturing school, but that we don’t allow ourselves to become a “nanny” school. Below are a few examples of my perception of a nurturing school (which we all should aspire to be) and a nanny school (which we want to avoid):
Together, let’s help our children learn painful lessons now that will stand them in good stead for adulthood. Is your school a nurturing or a nanny school?
1. See: http://www.theguardian.co.za/index.php option=com_acymailing&ctrl=archive&task=view&mailid=40&key=XfA7of1h&subi d=5065-hD9oRb0unZjRzw&tmpl=component.
Category: Spring 2016