Who says kids can’t concentrate? I spent yesterday at Gosport Discovery Centre, running a Creative Writing Day for children aged 4 to 12 (on the theme of Circus – hence the picture), and I tell you, the concentration and energy that those kids poured into their writing would have done credit to a university group. In the morning, the younger ones (aged 4-7) hadn’t run out of mental beans after 90 minutes of constant work; I (and their parents) reckoned they could easily have done two hours. And it was the same story in the afternoon with the 8-12 year-olds: they were so quiet and intent on completing their stories after two hours that Sarah, the Events Co-ordinator at the DC, thought we’d finished early and gone home!
This goes to show what kids of any age, from very young, and capable of when they’re really engaged in something. I think that talk about limited attention spans does them a serious disservice. I’ve been reading some of the excellent Deborah Jackson (Letting Go As Children Grow in this case – which I highly recommend if you are raising children, teaching children, or like me doing both); she talks about how intently children can concentrate on a completing a task or learning a skill, provided that they want to do it. The adult’s role then is not to instruct or direct, but to be there to help if requested, and otherwise to get out of the way. In other words, set up the right situation and then trust the child to do the rest.
Yesterday was a great example. Presumably the children had had some say in being there, and I’d planned everything with a view to first inspiring the kids with a vision of what they could do, then helping them to get started (both overall and on each different part of the workshop), then finally letting them just do it. In fact the recipe for learning from Jackson (make them want to do it, provide the necessary tools and materials, then step back) sums up how I see my role whenever I’m teaching children. Comparing myself with the lion tamer above: it’s not about ‘training’ anyone to jump through a hoop that I’ve decided is good for them, and whether or not they want to; it’s about making the children want to leap, choose where to leap, believe they can leap, and then leap – for the sheer joy of it.
And when it works, it’s sheer joy for me at least as much as for them. So I say many thanks and give a big round of applause to the wonderful kids who came along; and another, possibly even more special round of applause and thanks to all the parents of the youngest ones who helped them actually write their ideas down. I couldn’t include the youngest children in these sessions without you – you were fabulous!
For more children’s classes, please click here to see what else I’ve got coming up.