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When children don’t want to go to school…

When children don’t want to go to school, it can cause parents a lot of sleepless nights. The anxiety caused can create conflict between exasperated parent and child. There can be any number of reasons for a child becoming disaffected in this way from undiagnosed learning challenge to bullying, but what if the child is ‘just’ bored? What if they just don’t ‘get it’? No big issues. No big deal. Just switched off. I meet children like this quite frequently in my work. They may be dragging themselves around with a ‘whatever’ attitude; they will almost certainly be underachieving; don’t want to do their homework and generally shrugging shoulders at every turn.

When children don’t want to go to school

The first thing to do is not panic! My checklist for this begins with looking at how the child thinks about school, their education and their expectations about it. Amongst other things, we explore where school fits in the scheme of things; what the teacher’s job is; what the child’s job in that is; why the child is there in the first place and how it fits in the grand scheme of all things ‘life’.

Children ‘switch off’

Too often children have the idea that they need to conform to something school wants. Given this way of thinking, it’s not surprising that children ‘switch off’ and, in a sense, refuse to ‘buy in’ to what their limited perception thinks school offers.

Their job is to develop

To switch this around, I have found it far more effective to point out to the children that school is a resource they can use to develop themselves. They are not there to be changed. Their job is to develop. School is there to help them to develop the knowledge, skills and experience that will help them to be a useful, independent person in the world. This way, the focus ceases to be on school as the criteria and starts to be on what they are designed for, which is development. When they feel they can be proactive and selective in what they develop using school as a toolkit to help them, their attitude towards it changes. Rather than looking at school or education as something ‘out there’ that is being ‘done to them’; they begin to look at it as a fertile ground for growth and start to engage much more enthusiastically.

Gail Hugman
This is the first of what is planned to be series of blogs about School, Teaching and Learning. I will try to answer all queries and comments as they come. Thank you for taking the time to read it.

  1. Oh I love your common sense approach. Good tips here. Thank you.

  2. Definitely don’t panic! That’s the most important thing 🙂 Explaining the purpose of school is a simple but brilliant idea for disaffected children. Thanks for sharing Gail.

  3. Great! I wonder how many parents talk to their children about what school actually is and why they might want to go. Too many just tell their children they have to go and that isn’t very encouraging.

    • Thank you for comment, Barbara. School is such a ‘fact of life’ these days it means we need to guard against assumption 🙂

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