At ten years old and in Year 6, my youngest of three is perched on the edge of childhood. Any parent with a child of the same age will recognise the time, where you start see the first indications of a transition. It is an inevitable rite of passage when a little girl or boy begins to leave a few of those unrestricted childhood ideals behind. My daughter is a little taller, the pony tail has lifted from low to middling. “It is more grown up, mum,” she tells me. Savvy, strong minded, emotionally charged. I know only too well how this all works out.
How has her year at school faired so far? SATS are looming, and she must perform, or so says the government and consequently (and reluctantly) her school. She has struggled throughout her academic life in the subjects that seemingly indicate intelligence. She has endured ‘interventions’ and been separated from her ‘higher’ performing peers, ‘in her educational best interests’.
Now the time has come to take the test that for some reason makes her already feel like a failure. Taking SATs can be a mean process for some; a nervous time and pressured time. Then comes the wait for a letter home to tell us all whether she has ‘passed’ or failed’. It hardly seems productive or in the spirit of growth mindset.
As parents we faced a difficult decision, and so with open consultation with our daughter we found ourselves feeling a bit radical and brave. There is a growing movement of families withdrawing their children from school during SATs week and we were serious contenders. Her likeliness to fail is high, this is a fact based on grades her teacher has shown us.
The decision was either to make a stance, withdraw and make a political statement because a letter with the word ‘fail’ would not be beneficial to her self-worth, or to let her stay in school and sit the tests.
In the end we all chose the latter because at Laughology, we teach children and adults skills to develop growth mindset, resilience and positive thinking. I have worked with teachers and children to help them develop these wonderful strategies and have seen such a positive impact. I have worked in one particular primary school in the run up to SATs week for six years. Here I have delivered workshops to Year 6 that challenge negative beliefs, teach children how to FLIP negative thoughts into positive ones and develop growth mindset and confidence that can set a person up, not just for SATs, but for life.
Laughology works hard to help children learn to manage their nerves with mindfulness practice and visualisations. We teach them to use imagination to visual positive outcomes. We show them how to use positive language to focus on their goals. We look at how their brains work and what chemicals they can release to help them become more productive. We examine language and how it can impact on performance.
The results are always wonderful to see. Children are able to achieve their potential and excel in their SATs. They are happier, more confident and brave.
My daughter decided that taking the SATs would be the best idea. She felt that she has worked hard for a long time and to not sit them would be the wrong choice. Growth mindset is all about working hard to develop mastery, it is about trying really hard. It is also about being able to receive feedback without taking it personally, and seeing failure as an opportunity for growth.
We know that she will try really hard and if that does not warrant a ‘pass’, then we will reframe it meant using one of the favourite coping mechanisms in our house; humour. We will use it as an opportunity to develop resilience, grit and determination. And that will be a greater life skill on the road to confidence than any other.