The Staff Room: an insight into education in the district written by Catherine Jackson

Catherine Jackson from Badsworth. New columist for the Pontefract and Castleford Express.'p307a436
Catherine Jackson from Badsworth. New columist for the Pontefract and Castleford Express.'p307a436

I’ve never been a great one for New Year’s resolutions.

Resolutions: yes. Beginning on a Monday: definitely. Resolutions for new year: probably not.

There’s something of the quiet rebel in me which makes me want to be just a little bit different and which becomes irritated by the constant run of adverts for weight loss, stopping smoking, increasing exercise.

So, do I need to lose weight? Definitely. Will I begin on New Year’s Day? Absolutely not!

Hopefully, by this time this is in print, somewhere between Christmas and New Year, and most probably on a Monday (imposed by me, not the advertisers), I will have begun my latest determination.

I have many of these – usually during or after a holiday. But I absolutely get the irony here. As a teacher I expect my pupils to follow the normal pattern of school life and school rules. Even in the wearing of school uniform we expect pupils to conform and follow expectations.

So how can I, who can’t even do the New Year’s resolution thing, expect students to follow ordinary rules?

Part of my problem here, is, I think, that I was probably a very strange child (or else I have a warped memory).

I did follow the rules; I did not question my teachers or my parents. If I was told to do something, I did it – apart from the occasion I went to choir practice with green powder paint in my hair!

Maybe that was to do with confidence – or lack of it. Certainly, by the time I’d reached my 30s, (not teenage years, not 20s, but 30s and ‘rather retarded’ in terms of rebelling according to my mother) I found the confidence to rebel – just a little.

I won’t go into what those rebellions were; too many people may be embarrassed at how pathetic they were.

But I think, that having the boundaries imposed may just have helped me to find out who I was as a young person, and to have the time to question what and who I wanted to become.

Certainly we see on Supernanny or its equivalents, in very practical ways how children cope better with life when they know what the rules are and what the consequences are for breaking those rules.

On these programmes it is usually the parent who has to have the strength to follow through on consequences or boundaries.

That is certainly the same in the life of a teacher – the easy way out of a trying situation is usually not the best, and the best solution requires energy and determination on the teacher’s part to follow through.

I do not envy the child of 2015. Life has become so much more complex and dangerous since I was a child. With the rise of social media, children put many expectations on themselves and each other.

With unreal expectations come so many more problems: eating disorders, self-harm, low self-esteem, anxiety and challenging behaviours.

They see things and read things online which they should never have to see and read, and they are at a very real risk of putting things - words and images - out into the big, wide world, when they have no concept of the danger they may do to themselves or to others.

For a parent and a teacher, I suppose the most frightening thing is that we can see what they can not: that they are not always old or mature enough, to know what is fun and safe and where the line needs to be drawn.

So yes, as a parent, I do worry in 2015 for my own children, but also for the pupils I teach. They have a wealth of opportunities but also a wealth of dangers and difficulties to overcome.

I am also, though, optimistic that as both parents and teachers, we are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers and the ways to tackle them.

2015 has the potential to be a wonderful year – more wonderful than 2014 which certainly had its trials and tribulations.

As parents and teachers, we need to have the strength to face it head on and turn the difficulties which will inevitably arise, into glorious memories for the future.

And if we can’t manage that, there’s always chocolate!