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Brexit: the reason I became a teacher 20 years ago

Why were we so unprepared to understand and debate such an important issue? And how can we help our children make better decisions in their own lives?
Brexit: the reason I became a teacher 20 years ago

Have you ever known someone who walks through life unconsciously?

Life happens to them.

They're going through the motions. They don't question what they're doing or why. They repeat the same mistakes. Is this what we want for our children?

The children with the best educational outcomes are the ones with intelligent parents who talk to them about interesting things. That's it. No tutoring, no gadgets, no special books. Just quality conversation and interesting experiences (which could be a museum trip or simply helping to cook dinner or plant bulbs in the garden).

I can't stress this enough. Talk to your child. Help her see things in new ways. Encourage her to find things out for herself, to work things out, to investigate. When she asks you how to do something, reply with 'how would YOU do it?'

The brain is like a muscle. It needs exercise to improve.

And so to Brexit.

It looks like there might be a second referendum, and the outcome will shape our country for a generation.

I don't care how you plan to vote. That’s none of my business. What I ask it that you think about your decision and not sleep-walk into it.

Even with all that thinking, you might make the wrong decision. With hindsight you may realise that another path was better. But you did your best in the moment, with the information you had available. And that means you can be at peace with it.

But my real hope - and the reason I went into teaching - is that our children are better educated than we are. I want them to be equipped to understand the decisions they make, whether everyday ones or those of national importance. What has been most depressing about Brexit is the quality of the arguments  - on both sides - and most people's reluctance or inability to follow the debate.

Knowledge of the world and - more importantly - knowledge of ourselves is vital. How can we hope to live fulfilled and happy lives if, through lack of self-awareness, we keep making the same mistakes?

It's the reason I founded 100 Toys. We sell open-ended toys that encourage problem-solving, and small-world toys, dolls and puppets that encourage dialogue. These are the skills our children need to negotiate their world. The right experiences in early childhood can lay down habits that last a lifetime: rigour, perseverance and critical thinking.

Know thyself. There's nothing more important.

January 01, 2019 By Alexis Ralphs
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Anna Griffiths

Anna Griffiths said:

Oh, I agree so fervently with each point you make. I was in hospital with my newborn in my arms listening to the interviews on the radio, the morning after the Brexit results came in. So many people admitted to ‘protest’ voting, not thinking for a second that their vote would count. The most important decision for a generation & so many people just didn’t think about it, weigh the information, measure news sources and opinions. It broke my heart.

Since that day, I haven’t stopped talking to my son. Sometimes nonsense, sometimes profound thoughts, mostly just observation and narrative. These days he talks back, at 100 miles an hour, about everything. It’s wonderful! I do sometimes fret that we don’t do enough ‘big’ stuff with him, then I consider that he can name the plants in our garden, the trees and birds in the wood, and the veg that he grew that he’s chopping for supper. I reckon that we’re doing OK with this parenting business. We learn a little more about parenting every day, often guided by our toddler.

Alexis Ralphs

Alexis Ralphs said:

Thank you, Anna. It sounds like you’re doing everything right. I think that if we all paid more attention – to ourselves and our children – the world would be be a better place.

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