Trying and learning new things can always be a challenge. They can bring out our fears and anxieties as well as excitement and give us the chance to experience new things and learn different skills.
Often people of all ages don’t like change or it takes time to initiate the change – and they may need pushing. Ultimately though, it needs to come from within ourselves and we need to teach this skill of embracing new challenges to pupils.
Every summer holiday, I try to learn something new! The summer holidays are long and learning new skills inadvertently enables me to rehearse my skills of teaching and learning and helps remind me what it is like for children to learn something new.
One summer, I learnt to cook Thai and Vietnamese food as I wanted to replicate my experiences from restaurant meals I had eaten. I have also tried to kick-start my secondary school French– but sadly, it just hasn’t happened yet!
This summer, I have decided to learn how to make Korean food, learn some DIY skills (as I spend extortionate amounts of money just to get things sorted), learn Arabic and also develop my well-being skills.
I decided to learn Arabic because according to Ethnologue, it is the fourth most spoken language in the world and very few people from the West speak it. Furthermore, the talk of wellness and the power of Yoga at Opogo and conversations with friends about their declining health also started me thinking about things I can do to enhance my own well-being!
"...we succeed where there are diverse groups and there is a comfortable and inclusive atmosphere..."
So this summer, I have joined my local gym for the first time in my life! The key thing to know is that it is 5 minutes’ walk from me but have I managed to get myself down there and use the facilities?
– Of course not! In fact, when I signed up at the start of the holidays – the receptionist asked me if I was new to the area! (I have been living in the area for the last 18 years.)
Signing up for the gym made me feel nervous but excited all at the same time. I was imagining the worst and truly dreading it but decided to turn to up for the gym induction. The gym was a completely foreign place to me!
It reminded me how children who find learning difficult or have vulnerable and complex circumstances and needs may feel. In fact, when the gym instructor asked me when I last visited a gym, I replied 28 years ago! His eyes flew open in shock but he quickly reassured me and made me feel comfortable! I did explain that my one and only experience of the gym put me off as I saw Arnold Swarzenegger types practising with serious intent and I scooted like a frightened rabbit!
Surprisingly, my new gym experience has been really pleasant! This is a gym where there are people of all shapes, sizes, ages (from teenagers to octogenarians), cultures and colours quietly getting on with their exercises. We all smile and nod to each other and I have found it a warm and inclusive atmosphere.
Like all children and people, we succeed where there are diverse groups and there is a comfortable and inclusive atmosphere in the learning/work environment. This allows everyone to think they can achieve and develop confidence and a “can do” attitude. Yes - it has meant that I have had to carve out time to go to the gym but it is now firmly established and embedded as part of my daily routine.
Every morning, I have to really rely on ALL my skills of resilience and persistence to make sure I get up early to go to the gym. I would much rather be sitting in the garden drinking coffee than going. But no pain, no gain! The gym coach gave me a range of exercise machines to try – and over time I have got better and better. In fact, I think I even surprised myself!
"...we need to give them experiences which allow them to try and explore, take risks and find things that they are good at."
With my new found confidence, I have also tried exploring other machines which for a novice like me look “hard-core”. However, I have taken the risk and had a go. I have found my favourite exercise machines and have created my own sequence that works for me. I actually found out that I am not as unfit as I thought. I had to ensure I rehearsed, practised and consolidated my skills using the exercise machines and also set myself new challenges.
With children, as educators, we need to give them experiences which allow them to try and explore, take risks and find things that they are good at. They also need to be given opportunities to rehearse and consolidate already known skills and develop and challenge themselves further.
This is particularly important especially as there will be times when do they do not achieve what they want or fail or their actual journey of achievement takes longer than they thought.
Most importantly, there needs to be a sense of achievement with measurable goals and a clear vision of outcomes and what the benefits will be for them.
Funnily enough, the life skills needed when achieving or trying and learning new things are called the “characteristics of effective learning” in the Early Years curriculum. – However, the mention of it disappears as children move to KS1 and onwards.
Children need to know that anything that benefits them will not be easy initially and they may have to persist and continue to work harder and play the long game. As educators, we need to facilitate this and also talk to them about our own learning experiences.
"It is essential that we equip them [children] with the tools of facing and defining their challenges..."
In September, usually at the start of the new academic year, children and young people will have a whole host of new experiences: new teachers, new schools, places at colleges and universities, new jobs and much more. It is essential that we equip them with the tools of facing and defining their challenges and being able to try and learn new things successfully.
My gym sessions are set to continue and I am already planning ahead on how to fit them in at the start of September when my holidays will end and I go back to a much busier schedule. I also found out that my gym is managed by a charitable organization which ploughs money back into the community.
So while I am getting fitter at the gym, I am also supporting the local community and garnering the hard earned respect of my grown up and very discerning children – (who initially sniggered and fell about laughing when I mentioned about joining the gym). I also get to meet my local community!
It is a win- win situation…what’s not to like!
About our Community Expert
Jasmin has extensive experience of working in a variety of settings which have included being recruited to work schools in special measures and concern as well as outstanding.
Jasmin has been qualified as a teacher for over 20 years and has been a Deputy Head, working mainly in some of the most deprived and challenging schools in the UK.