Our students in Jamaica come from a variety of backgrounds. Some come from homes where they receive the nurturing and care that they need to be adequately prepared cognitively, socially, emotionally and physically to do well in school, on the other hand, most of our children are not provided with this stable home background. Many of our children come from homes where proper nutrition is not provided for them because of poverty. Some of our children lack caregivers who place their wellbeing as a priority in their lives. They live among persons who view them as a bother. These children are emotionally neglected. They are used to abuse of all sorts, verbal, emotional, physical and sexual. Socially, they have not been shown examples of how to deal with conflicts in a peaceful manner. They are exposed to violence as a way of life. Disagreements in the "yaad" escalate into outright fights. Obscenities and disparaging words are used as a matter of course. Therefore many of these children come to school feeling angry because of the lack of nutrition, and lack of love. Instead, they have experienced resentment and abuse.
How do we help these children to learn? How do we help their brains to be receptive to learning? How do we help them believe that they are capable of learning? How do we help them believe in themselves?
First, all teachers must be convinced that the children placed before them can develop the ability to learn. Teachers must develop a growth mindset before they can help their students to do so. Professor Carol Dweck has written extensively about this approach. Please see this video which gives a simplified explanation of what is Growth Mindset.
The concept of Growth Mindset is based on evidence gained through the development in brain research that shows that, contrary to what was previously believed, the brain is plastic and can develop and grow new pathways of learning. Eric Jensen writes about how poverty affects children's brains but he also continues in his writing to show how these children can develop their learning skills. This includes ensuring that these children are made to feel safe at school, are given the opportunity to connect their learning to their reality, and know that they have one at leeast person who believes in them and in their ability to learn.
Let us change our mindset so that we can alter how the children given to us, see themselves. Till next time.