What do children need to achieve their potential?
We talk about children achieving their potential all the time. Some go further and talk about children beyond their potential.
So what do children need to make the magic happen?
- At a general level there are a number of factors that contribute to providing children with the most favourable opportunities for learning. Children need to:
- get lots of praise
- have a secure environment in which they feel happy to display ability
- have a person who understands that strengths and weaknesses
- be given short-term attainable goals
- work in a team with children of different abilities
- undertake stimulating work
- have opportunities that stretch and challenge their abilities
- be able to discuss meaningfully with their teacher and know that they may ask questions and expect a considered response
- know that quality, not quantity, is of value
- experience failure
- learn to evaluate their work and become self-critical
- be encouraged to take responsibility for organising their own work
- value the skills and aptitudes of others
- learn to cooperate and seek the help and advice of others where appropriate
- know that they are valued not just for their abilities
- relax and have fun
- have their development profiled effectively
- have continuity of provision throughout their schooling
- be recognised as individuals
Well, those are just some of the things anyway.
In class, the most influential person that can transform a child’s life is of course a teacher. Creating a climate in which creativity and confidence can flourish depends on the teacher being a learning manager, a role model and a professional friend.
Fisher (2005) discusses this issue in terms of the ‘encouraging adult’.
The encouraging adult
- allows time
- focuses on children’s thinking
- defers judgement
- stresses independence
- is optimistic about outcomes
- actively listens
- shows genuine interest
- assumes it can be done
- shares the risk
- challenges children to try out new ideas
- values creative ideas
- encourages play
- uses open-ended questions
- sees learning in mistakes
- is available for help
- deals as an equal
- speculates along with children
- follows children’s interests
- accepts children’s decisions
If you are doing all that then you are doing a fine job but is it enough? When we listen to all the studies about what children want from their teachers, the same things keep getting mentioned:
- willingness to listen
- a sense of humour
- willing to spend time
- responsive to individuals
Potential is within every child and there is little doubt that it can get squashed or nurtured by a teacher. But we can’t ever force potential as each child needs the time to learn in their own way and at their own pace. What we must always strive for though is to remove barriers and obstacles, always have sky-high expectations and never be disappointed. Every child needs to know that they matter and they possess the ability to succeed.
As Rita Pierson says, what matters the most is human connection, relationships and that “every child needs a champion.”