Our Constant Attention Is Ruining Our Children

In spite of working in some fantastic schools: Independent, State and International, I am aware of a steady and worrying decline in many of the skills that school children have. In 22 years of teaching children in British Schools I can honesty say that the cohorts coming through now are, despite the best intentions from parents, generally, a lot less able than the ones I worked with years ago- who are now becoming parents themselves.

What are we noticing in schools?

This decline in skills manifests itself in a some obvious ways. The children we work with today will find it harder to do most of the following tasks:

  • Draw a straight line, even with a ruler
  • Measure anything – guessing a weight…almost impossible.
  • Sharpen a pencil
  • Tie shoe laces
  • Fold paper accurately
  • Follow more than one instruction at a time
  • Sit fairly still and enjoy listening to a story
  • Remember lines for a play
  • Think through a problem and apply a strategy  BEFORE asking for help
  • Keep kit / musical instruments / equipment in a safe place
  • Follow basic dining conventions
  • Accept a harder challenge voluntarily
  • Amuse themselves without electronic assistance of any sort
  • What does this mean in schools?

    We have had to adapt over the years to this change in the ‘assumed’ skill set of the children. On one hand they are infinitely more adept at responding to electronic devices and at grasping new crazes, however fleeting and bizarre – the kids need little explanation and are instantly able to decipher the required meaning and reaction, leaving us floundering, open-mouthed asking “Why? What for?” when we consider bottle-flipping or dabbing. But they are losing the older ‘concrete’ skills we once took for granted and this has meant that we reduce the demand on them to fold their own worksheet, to cut out a grid, to glue in a drawing – OFSTED might scrutinize your class books and you can’t have them looking crappy, so you’d better remove the chance that they will. We note the decline in scissor skill and we adjust expectation, increasing the decline in…

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