Our Parents

‘Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.’ Big Yellow Taxi. Joni Mitchell.

It’s always interesting to read the articles in Big Issue from well-known figures about advice they would give their sixteen-year-old selves, (Letter To My Younger Self).

Each individual has a different story to tell. Some of the personalities had a privileged upbringing, others grew up in large, happy families or as a precious only child, while others had more challenging home circumstances. Every individual brings their life experience to the advice they would give their younger selves: not to worry about the opinions of others, to appreciate that life isn’t like school, to be more patient with themselves, to be braver, and so on. 

However, when talking about their childhood, there seems to be one reoccurring theme. All of the personalities expressed regret about their communication, or lack of, with their parents: –

  • ‘If I could go back now, I’d be kinder to my parents.’ John Lydon. Musician.
  • ‘My mum and dad have passed away, but I talk to them every day. I don’t know if they’re hearing me, but I need to talk to them.’ Billie Jean King. Tennis player.
  • ‘I’d love to go back and spend a day with my mum and dad and tell them how much I love them.’ Tom Jones. Musician.
  • ‘I’d tell my younger self that he could and should learn more from his parents.’ Sir Roger Bannister. Athlete.
  • ‘I’d tell my younger self to be more respectful of my parents.’ Chrissie Hynde. Musician.
  • ‘Perhaps I could have said things to my mother or father that would have made their lives easier.’ Grayson Perry. Artist.
  • ‘Even now, when people complain about how they are burdened with their mums and dads, I recoil. I often wish I had parents to tell me what a muck-up I’ve made in my life.’ Lord Bird. Co-founder of the Big Issue.

Perhaps it is only as we grow into our adult roles that we truly understand and appreciate our parents: –

  • ‘My mother was the heart of the family and influenced me more than I knew.’ Mary Robinson. Former President of Ireland.
  • ‘I think I wish I’d asked my father that, I wish I’d written that down, I wish I’d taped that conversation.’ Neil Gaiman. Author.
  • ‘If I could, I’d have tried to spend more time with my dad.’  Barry McGuigan. Boxer. 
  • ‘I’m not sure I even realised how amazing my dad was – but if I was 16 again, I’d tell him.’ David Cameron. Politician.
  • ‘If I could go back in time, I’d have a long, last conversation with my mum.’ Baroness Shami Chakrabarti. Politician and Lawyer. 
  • ‘I’d have liked to have more time to get to know my father.’ Philip Glass. Composer. 

Maybe we should learn from the regrets of others and be more appreciative of our immediate family while we have time. As Joni Mitchell sang: ‘Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.’

Promoting Sport in Schools

Sport will develop all of the attributes necessary for an individual’s mental and physical well-being, and yet the benefits of physical exercise in schools are often overlooked, and Games and Sport side-lined as an optional extra in the curriculum. 

The development of sport within schools does not require government appointed Sports Tsars, sporting role models attending Speech Days, or the use of independent schools’ playing fields during holidays. The true integration of sport into children’s lives is about giving all children from nursery through to sixth-form the chance to exercise on a daily basis. When opportunities for PE, Dance, Games and Sport are part of every school day, all children can take pleasure in physical activity from an early age and grow up seeing exercise as part of everyday life.

Activities do not need to be challenging, complicated or linked to specialist programs. Physical activity in childhood is a natural state of affairs. When children and young people see it is normal to cycle or walk to school, climb trees, go swimming, walk the dog, bike to the shops, play active games in the school playground and roller skate or skateboard in the park, they are more likely to incorporate exercise into their daily routine and less likely to be at risk from obesity, diabetes and poor general health. 

The more children and young people participate in sport, the more confident they will become in their ability, increasing the likelihood of further activity, which will improve their skill level and further reinforce motivation.

Activities that could be organised easily in schools would include: –

  1. Liaising with other schools to share sport taster days, specialist facilities and resources. 
  2. Sharing input from enthusiasts within schools. Asking parents and grandparents to introduce and demonstrate the sports they particularly enjoy. 
  3. Showing videos of different kinds of sports, for example: martial arts, skate boarding, speed climbing, synchronised swimming, cyclo-cross and parkour.
  4. Organising visits to, and social events at, sporting venues: bowling alleys, go-kart tracks, ski domes, equestrian centres, archery and golf ranges, climbing centres or ice-skating rinks. 
  5. Establishing a loan system that enables pupils to borrow equipment from school, or selling off any old, but still usable, PE Department stock to boost school funds.
  6. Providing opportunities to try out different kinds of dance: disco, tap, street dance, salsa, dance mats, country dancing, swing, line dancing or hip hop.
  7. Promoting a variety of indoor games: 5 a side hockey, Football Rounders, French Cricket, Table Tennis, Korfball and Walking Netball.
  8. Setting up orienteering courses around the school grounds.
  9. Using of a variety of equipment during playtimes to practise basic skills: Velcro mitten and ball sets, juggling balls, boom bats, badminton sets, stilts or foot pots. Hopscotch grids, hoopla, skittles and hoops. Frisbee throwing and catching games. Boules. Skipping and French skipping to teach the children simple and more complex skipping games.
  10. Encouraging lunch time supervisors to organise physically active games: Hide and Seek, Chase, It, Grandma’s Footsteps, Piggy in the Middle, What’s the time, Mr Wolf, Mr Crocodile and Follow the Leader.
  11. Setting up circuits in the playground: ten star jumps, twenty skips, five runs across the playground and ten press ups.
  12. Teaching young children traditional songs and games that involve physical movement: Oranges and Lemons, Simon Says, The Farmer’s in his Den, I sent a Letter to my Love, Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, and In and Out the Dusty Bluebells.

The long-term physical and mental benefits of sport are well documented. Exercise promotes fitness and fights off obesity, sharpens memory, boosts concentration, improves cognitive function and releases endorphins to ward off stress, anxiety and depression.

My Grandson Shows off his Illustration Skills…

My wonderful grandson, Jamie, has been featured on his school’s social media pages – showing off his published illustrations which feature in my books ‘Olivia and the Proverbs’ and ‘Olivia and the Proverbs 2’. I have always found children’s artwork and illustration to be absolutely joyful – it was my pleasure to include his enchanting drawings in my books. They are so special to me, and I’m thrilled he is getting such lovely recognition from his school.

It was my pleasure to donate copies of both books to his school library.

The Instagram post reads:

@bedfordmodern Year 5 student Jamie has had two of his illustrations feature in children’s books recently written and published by his grandmother, Pat Guy. The stories focus on Olivia Monkey, who has adventures and learns lessons based around different proverbial sayings. Copies have been kindly donated to the Junior School library and Jamie has been very excited to share them with his friends.

#books #bookstagram #newbook#stories #bedfordmodernschool#bedford #bedfordshire#bedfordschools #education#schools #school #students#learning #bedfordindependent

Learned Helplessness

‘Learned helplessness’ describes the sense of powerlessness felt by some individuals when they are presented with a problem or challenge. They will not act to help themselves because they believe that there is nothing they can do: the situation is hopeless. 

Some individuals develop learned helplessness as a result of repeated negative life experience. Others will develop learned helplessness as a result of mimicking the behaviour of their close contacts: parents, extended family, friends and peers: – 

  • Their family will talk about everyone else being luckier and more fortunate than them.
  • Their parents may believe that other people face challenges in life, but the challenges that they experience are exceptional.
  • Their friends will spend more time discussing their problems, than exploring possible solutions.

How can we avoid passing learned helplessness on to children?

  1. Encourage the child to take responsibility. If they put the blame on others, they won’t have the opportunity to improve. 

Child: ‘The Chemistry teacher didn’t explain the test properly, so I didn’t know what to revise.’

Adult: ‘Maybe next time, you could ask her to explain what the test is about. I bet the whole class would be grateful for that.’

  1. Express confidence in the child’s ability to deal with challenges and to handle tricky situations. Give them time to have a moan, then move them on to consider what their options are. 
  2. Focus on taking the positives from a situation. Practise looking for silver linings.

Adult: ‘OK, so Alex was selected as goalie for this game, but the other team’s strikers were county players, and scored twenty goals. I expect now, Alex really wishes you’d been chosen instead!’

  1. Set an example. Don’t be seen to brood over difficulties, be seen to take action.
  2. Acknowledge that life is difficult sometimes, but that there are always other people who are worse off. 
  3. Children need to be taught to be pro-active: to speak up and explain what is wrong, to ask for help, rather than sulk, get upset or withdraw.
  4. Allow children generous amounts of time for free play to give them practice in sorting out disagreements by themselves.
  5. Allow choices to show that there is always something you can control. 

Adult: ‘Which T-shirt would you like to wear today?’ ‘Do you want peas or sweetcorn with your fish fingers?’ ‘Are you going to do that homework before or after tea?’

  1. Help the child to look at the facts of a situation, rather than focus on how they feel.

Adult: ‘Did Jacob really shout at you because he hates you and doesn’t want to be friends anymore, or might it have been because you kicked his ball over the fence? If you go next door when Mrs Smith gets home, I’m sure she’ll let you get it back for him.’

  1. Be aware of what you say. Repeatedly recounting how unhappy you were at secondary school because you were teased by other children or had strict teachers, may make the child expect to be bullied or to be wary of teaching staff.

Politics and Hubris

The dictionary definition of hubris is- a personality trait of extreme or foolish pride, dangerous overconfidence, often in combination with arrogance.’  

There are many examples of ‘hubrists’ in the world of politics. Charisma, charm, the ability to inspire and persuade, enjoying risk taking and possessing bold self-confidence are all qualities associated with successful leadership. It would be hard to face the continual criticism, back stabbing and media scrutiny of modern politics without having a strong sense of entitlement. Unfortunately, the hubristic leader may also believe that their performance and knowledge are far superior to that of others, and their success is guaranteed simply because they are always right. They will make reckless decisions, ignore the advice of others, and genuinely believe that they deserve to be above the law. This discrepancy between a leader’s high level of self-confidence and their less than perfect decision making can have devastating repercussions, for example, Bush and Blair’s confidence in the period leading up to the 2003 Iraq War, contrasting with their abject failure to anticipate the far-reaching consequences of the war. 

While the effects of national and international leaders’ hubris are obvious to all, hubris can also be observed in businesses and organisations across all levels. 

In order to avoid falling into the hubris trap individuals need to:

  • Reflect on past situations where hubris has caused problems and acknowledge the dangers of over confidence and arrogance.
  • Reflect on their own performance honestly: recognising failures, taking responsibility for things that went wrong and, when thinking about successes, always acknowledging the contribution of others.
  • Not take themselves too seriously; be willing to make mistakes and appear less than perfect. 
  • Surround themselves with people who will help to ground them in reality, rather than ‘yes men’ who will boost their ego. 
  • Ask others for their opinion and listen to what they say.
  • Pay attention when given feedback, and think about what is being said.
  • Be kind. When making decisions, think about how the decisions made will affect others.

Olivia and the Proverbs 2 is here!

IT’S HERE!!

OLIVIA AND THE PROVERBS 2 is now available to buy on Amazon.

About the book:

Olivia Monkey lives with her family and pet dog, Biscuit, in a house near the middle of town. The big house next door is a retirement home for elderly monkeys. Olivia has lots of friends at the retirement home, but her two very best friends are Boris Monkey and Blossom Monkey.

This book consists of twelve stories about Olivia’s adventures with Boris and Blossom.Each story is based around a proverb. For example, ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’ or ‘A problem shared is a problem halved.’ At the end of each story the reader will have learnt something about what is really important in life.

Olivia’s adventures are based on stories that my daughter and I made up about her favourite soft toys – all monkeys!

The beautiful illustrations are once again by the amazing Alessandra Covino.

Shop here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/OLIVIA-PROVERBS-2-Pat-Guy-ebook/dp/B09KP2M6ML/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1635772550&sr=1-2

Thank you once again for your support!

Pat Guy

Developing Children’s Emotional Intelligence.

Children who do well in school, do not always succeed in life: some may be academically brilliant, but find that their weaker emotional and social skills limit their achievement. 

Emotionally intelligent individuals: –

  1. Are self-aware. They understand their emotions, and why they react to situations in the way they do. 

To help your child become more self-aware: –

  • Help them to identify and label their emotions: ‘I’m feeling irritated because football practice has been cancelled. I really wanted to go tonight.’ ‘I’m worried because we’ve got a Physics test tomorrow and I don’t understand the topic.’ 
  • Allow them to express their feelings without fear of judgement, and then listen to what they say.
  • Help the child to develop the ability to communicate their feelings and opinions clearly and calmly to others.
  1. Are able to self-regulate.  Emotionally intelligent individuals are able to manage their behaviour; for example, they can remain calm when angry, or use relaxation techniques when nervous. 

To help your child to self-regulate: –

  • Demonstrate how to pause and use your head, before reacting to a situation. If the adult is able to respond calmly during periods of stress, children will learn how to remain calm. If the adult stops to consider choices, the child will learn to do the same. 
  • Demonstrate a variety of ways to cope with negative feelings: go for a walk in the fresh air, run up and down the stairs, clean your bedroom, listen to music or distract yourself by spending some time on a favourite hobby.
  • Children learn by copying the behaviour of those close to them, so try to demonstrate positive thinking by, for example, recognising that a challenge or problem exists, and trying to find a solution rather than appearing helpless.
  • Be brave: help your child to understand that mistakes and failures are part of life, but with practice and perseverance, they will be able to progress. 
  • Humour, laughter and play are perfect antidotes for negative feelings. Laughter reduces stress and will calm the child down.
  1. Have the ability to understand the feelings of others. Empathetic children are considerate. Everyone enjoys their company and feels better after spending time with them.

To help your child to develop empathy: –

  • Be empathetic yourself, so the child sees kind, thoughtful behaviour as the norm. Being kind releases hormones that will improve the individual’s physical and mental health.
  • Explain that there are always two sides to every story. If a friend is arguing, they could be feeling tired, worried or sad. 

‘How might Theo have felt when you teased him? How would you have felt if he did that to you?’ 

  • If the child hurts a friend’s feelings, teach them how to apologise. 
  • Show the child how to be a good listener: to listen attentively without looking away, fidgeting or showing boredom through body language. To ask open ended questions that require more than a yes / no response, and to make supportive responses: I see, uh-huh, mmm, OK.
  1. Possess good social skills. Children with good social skills are popular with their peers. They will sort out friend’s arguments, maintain old friendships and forge new ones.

To help your child to develop their social skills: –

  • Allow the child plenty of time for free play. Through free play, children practise empathy, develop self-awareness and self-expression, acquire conflict resolution skills, the ability to take turns, co-operate with others, and the skills required to self-regulate. 

Why is play important for children’s physical and mental well-being?

Benjamin Spock “Play is the work of the child.”

  1. Play develops children’s physical skills.

Play helps to develop children’s physical ability: strength, stamina, spatial awareness and handeye coordination, in a natural and enjoyable way. 

  1. Play enables children to burn off surplus energy.

When young children begin to fidget and lose concentration in the classroom, a morning and afternoon playtime offers the perfect, re-energising activity.

  1. Play helps in the development of children’s social skills.

Free play allows children to work in groups, to share, develop empathy, negotiate, listen to others, learn conflict resolution techniques, acquire an understanding of body language and develop self-advocacy. 

  1. Play helps children to hone their language skills.

Children’s language develops at a ‘needs must’ level during play. The child will want to communicate with peers, so will experiment with new words, use longer sentences and speak more clearly to make themselves understood.

  1. Play is relaxing for children.

Play is fun, providing opportunities for the child to relax, think about things and daydream. 

  1. Play is learning.

Play cannot be replaced by formal teaching. Many skills can only be acquired through repeated activity, and when children are enjoying themselves and the activity is fun, they will put in the required practice without thought. When young children play with a ball, they will develop the skills necessary to play cricket, netball or football. When children play on sit and ride toys and scooters, they will develop the balance necessary to ride a bike. 

  1. Play reduces stress.

Play enables children to be absorbed in their own interests for long periods of time, acting as an antidote to stress and anxiety.

  1. Play allows children to learn about themselves and others. 

Make believe play offers children the chance to act out aspects of their own lives which may be puzzling or frightening. The children can create a world they can master, helping them to conquer their fears and try out new ideas. When pretending to be a teacher, doctor or dentist, they can put themselves in situations they can withdraw from whenever necessary. The ‘dentist’ could look at their teeth and say that everything is fine, that they are too young to visit the dentist and they will mend their mother’s teeth instead, or wave a fairy wand and make everyone’s teeth perfect. Everything is under the child’s control.

  1. Play is learning.

Play lays the foundations for later learning. When children paint, colour or play with Lego, beads or plasticine, they are acquiring the fine motor skills necessary for writing. When children play with sand and water, they are developing an understanding of the properties of solids and liquids. Riding a scooter will teach about speed and centres of gravity, roller skating about friction and surfaces, throwing a ball about velocity and angles. It is essential that children’s early learning is practical and based in the real world.

  1. Play develops creative thought.

Allowing children time for free play will provide opportunities for them to develop their creative thinking. 

Sport and well-being

In addition to improving children’s general levels of physical fitness, playing sport provides other, perhaps less obvious, opportunities. Sport will help children to: –

  1. Understand the importance of healthy living.

When children are interested in sport, they will be more aware of what a healthy diet looks like, the dangers of smoking, and the consequence of adopting a sedentary life style. 

  1. Develop self-discipline and the ability to delay gratification.

Children will learn how to listen carefully, follow instructions, respect other players, develop self-control, self-discipline and concentration. Sporty individuals take a long-term view to their progress, understanding that there is no such thing as a quick fix. 

  1. Release stress. 

The hormones that are released when an individual feels under stress are burnt off during physical activity. The hormones do not remain in the body, manifesting themselves in physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches and general malaise. 

  1. Develop motivation.

Every child will be able to find a sport to motivate them. The sport will provide targets to work towards. This will give the child experience in planning for the long term, breaking challenges down into small steps, and maintaining effort over time.

  1. Develop self-esteem.

Playing sport will always improve a child’s self-confidence. 

  1. Cope with failure.

Life is competitive and sport gives children experience of coping with failure in small, manageable doses. Resilience is essential at all levels of sport. 

  1. Extend their friendship groups.

Sports clubs offer the child a perfect environment for establishing friendships with others with similar interests. Anyone involved in a sport club outside school will have a wide set of friends. 

  1. Feel included.

There is a sport for everyone. Children and young people with Aspergers may prefer individual sports such as swimming, orienteering, climbing and distance running. Those with ADHD will benefit from the development of self control and focus through martial arts. Children with dyspraxia will benefit from sports that encourage the development of core muscles and stability, perhaps dance, trampolining or horse riding.

  1. Understand the advantages of collaboration and team work. 

Players in any team will listen to the advice of others and take note of their opinions. The team is always more important than the individual.

  1. Make independent decisions.

The individual can choose their personal level of challenge within a sport. Sport can be high risk: motocross, pot holing or parkour, or low risk: snooker, darts or archery. Some individuals will gain a sense of achievement from diving from the side of a swimming pool for fifty years without feeling any need to progress to higher diving boards or to introduce turns, twists or somersaults to their dives. 

Compensating for Covid disruption in school – challenging the educational status quo.

Challenging the educational status quo.

How do we compensate for the interruptions to children’s education caused by Covid? How will gaps created in children’s knowledge be filled?

Looking back on my own school days, I wonder about the usefulness of many of the topics I studied. So much knowledge turned out to be superfluous to my needs as an adult: rubber farming in Ghana, the construction of a gingham apron, the periodic table, logarithms, and the French pluperfect. 

I have retained information about the different sports we played, along with a mass of historical, geographical, biological and religious facts; although a significant proportion of this knowledge was probably accrued after leaving school out of personal interest. I retain little from Chemistry, Physics, Music or German lessons, although I can appreciate for a lot of people, the reverse might be true.

The modern curriculum is content heavy and could easily be pruned to reduce the amount of topic knowledge that someone, somewhere has deemed essential. No harm would come to pupils if they studied fewer topics within subjects, rather than rattling through an overloaded curriculum at such a pace that there is little time for re-visiting information or delving deeper into areas of specific interest. 

One of the many claims made for our exam-focused curriculum is that it assists in the development of transferable skills: the ability to retain facts, organise information, follow a reasoned argument, answer questions in an appropriate style, write a structured essay, and work under time constraints. Even in practical subjects, such as GCSE P.E, the exam assesses these skills rather than the physical talent one would assume to be vital for success. Presumably the grasp of such transferable skills is thought to prepare the individual for the world of work, in addition to any vocational / professional qualifications they may be required to study in the future.

Perhaps the Covid challenges of the last 18 months present an opportunity to re-balance the curriculum. For starters, I would suggest an alternative range of transferable skills: skills that might prove to be more useful to the individual in the long run: –

  1. To develop of a sense of humour. We are all insignificant in the greater scheme of things: we should not get too bogged down with our own importance.
  2. To maintain a sense of healthy cynicism towards all things educational. No need for ostentatious shows of rebellion, just a drift towards challenging the educational status quo. School is not the be all and end all of life. School is compulsory for 11 years: the average life span of an adult in the UK is 81 years. 
  3. To be willing to voice personal opinions and question established norms. When you believe you have a legitimate point, you have a responsibility to challenge accepted wisdom.
  4. To adopt a reasonable work / life balance. Over-work is not a badge of honour, but an unhealthy way to live. We need to put in the required effort, but not to be afraid to go home early or to take all of our holiday entitlement when we need it. 
  5. To understand that our self-perception holds us back. When we appreciate that no-one is as critical of ourselves as ourselves, and that no-one cares about our embarrassing moments and trivial failures as much as we do, we are more likely to be motivated to extend the limits of what we believe we can achieve.