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Ten Wishes from 'Dirty Teaching' Author and Associate Juliet Robertson

It’s the scenario we never wanted. Almost all schools and Early Learning Centres are closed. No-one can be sure when they are opening. Some parents may be wondering how to juggle working from home with looking after children. Teacher’s will be worried about ensuring all their class will be okay and trying to balance their personal and professional lives too. My heart goes out to every child, parent, education staff and others involved in any aspect of education right now. So here’s my Wishlist for all:

Wish 1: That over the forthcoming months, the family time together is positive. That it’s a chance to strengthen relationships, live, laugh, relax and to come out the other side stronger as a unit. To do this, arguments and honest conversations may be needed. That’s part of life too. You need the rough to appreciate the smooth. However, this is a time where memories can be created and captured. This could be photos, blogs, videos, drawings, maps, stories, narratives, sketch notes.

Wish 2: Parents are valued as parents not as substitute teachers. An emergency education is different to being at school. Parents are not classroom experts but they know their children very well. Playing to everyone’s strengths is probably better. It could be a chance for family passions to flourish. From this time in our lives, some creative bursts of possibilities will emerge, given the chance.

Wish 3: That children and parents are physically active. The British Medical Council have produced infographics for all ages which summarise what you need to do on a daily basis. Build this time into your day as a nonnegotiable. Whilst your children may love playing larva and jumping around the furniture in your living room, getting outside where there’s space and freedom and to simply play is much easier. Children don’t cope well with being cooped up inside all day. Neither do parents.

Wish 4: That social distancing is fully understood. Show your children the 2m gap is that’s needed. Most of us cannot really understand how large this is without pulling out a measuring tape, creating a circle and helping each all work out strategies for being in a shop, at a till, in a car park, on a walk. Children need to see adults model appropriate behaviour. Some will need practice at making this behavioural change. If it helps, encourage children to think of the space as their personal bubble. Below, chalk and string is being used to create a 1m circle accurately – double the size of the string and you will see a significant increase in the personal bubble space needed.

Wish 5: That all children get outside every day. You need to go outside with your children. It sounds obvious but it does mean you and they can learn how to do the social distancing together. However surreal it all feels, this is about saving lives, ensuring the NHS does not collapse. Look for spaces where the chances of close contact with others is lessened. Many games can be adapted to be played at a distance – Yesterday I witnessed a number of young people playing football in a park – all keeping their distance and not going in for tackles. Social distancing does not have to mean a reduction in social interactions, just that we have to do this differently.

Wish 6: That our wonderfully varied weather is celebrated. Go outside in all weathers. This may be a controversial idea for some. But for some children it’s the getting soaking wet, the joy of really jumping like crazy in a puddle or lifting one’s jacket up to be blown about that makes the memories. Even feeling the warmth of the sun on your face on a spring day is special. This is when we feel most alive, most grounded and empowered. The coming back home, the changing, the mess and the mud are part of the deal. Never be afraid of having a shower with your clothes on if they are very muddy. Get your child to stand in a black bin liner or large bag to peel off their outdoor clothes if needed.

Wish 7: That you develop a collection of favourite places. If you can’t afford to use a car, then this is a chance to get to know the hidden gems within your own neighbourhood. Draw up a bucket list of discoverable places such as:

  • The best viewpoint
  • Best place to see nature
  • Somewhere that makes you smile
  • The places to be avoided
  • The best place to be alone and have peace.
  • The ideal spot to hang out if you were a T-Rex and whether this would still be the same spot if you were a triceratops.
  • A good place to watch cars and vehicles pass-by.
  • A place where you can people watch safely.
  • A spot which could be occupied by a ghost.
  • The perfect hill for rolling down.
  • The location of the perfect puddle for jumping in.
  • The sweet spots where you can lie down and look up at the sky.
  • Lots more (and better) ideas suggested by children.

Wish 8: That you find your local green spaces and make good use of them. Your children may already know a local wood or beach if used regularly by their class. Whilst you and your children may not feel particularly fond of nature, the research all points towards the benefits: it makes children and adults feel less stressed, calmer, better able to concentrate and that the effects last for a while when back inside afterwards too.

Could this be the world’s biggest puddle?

Wish 9: That all children are still able to play outside. Not learn but play for the sake of it. Children need time to be themselves and to play outside. This means trying not to interfere or steer or direct their play. Being outside, the play differs. Children perceive their environments in terms of the possibilities for play, movement and being. The interplay between children, the place that they are playing and the weather and seasons is unique and different. The sights, sounds, smells and textures all impact in subtle ways. Uneven ground and places to balance, climb and move in different ways help your children develop their motor skills.

Wish 10: That families develop the art of self-amusement. Several years ago National Trust ran a campaign, 50 Things to Do Outside Before You Are 11 3/4. Whilst this has some great ideas, the real fun is inventing your own set. One of the best sets of ideas here come from Mission Explore. It’s website closed a while back but there lots of freebies still online to give you the gist of their approach. Check out this free download from Outdoor Classroom Day. [ITL]

Juliet Robertson is an award-winning author, an international expert on outdoor learning and an Independent Thinking Associate.

For more of Juliet's writing, check out her Independent Thinking Press page here.

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