Well I am certainly procrastinating this afternoon. There are many things I should be doing – like getting my head around my lessons for the next week or getting on with my latest writing course assessment task. Instead, I find myself more interested in planning a family holiday that we will take later this year, or thinking about my latest blog post.
I continued on with some social learning at school this week. We had a lesson on ‘Whose Problem Is It?’ This was inspired by my youngest son’s trip to his psychologist the week before. The psych was getting my son to think about problems and whose job it was to solve problems. I liked this idea. A lot! So I pinched it for my class.
It always seems to happen that at the week three to four mark each term at our school, social problems begin to emerge. Students have enough language to begin ‘dobbing’ (also known as ‘tattling’) on each other. The lack of language does not stop them either. I get “He…(gesture of a punch, kick or slap)… me!” Dobbing is not limited to one particular culture – I think it is just the stage that many six and seven-year-old children go through. It may be heightened for those children who do not have a sibling at home to begin learning how to get along with others.
Anyway, this week I scored:
“Mrs G, Student B colour his emu rainbow colour!”
And “Mrs G, Student C colour his koala yellow!”
And I had told them not to colour their emus pink or purple or their koalas green. (And past tense verbs are on my list of things to cover.) Cue me sighing and inward groaning and eye rolling. In the past I have even been told “Mum forgot to put my homework in my bag!” (really?)
So I made up a series of common ‘problems’ and spent a lesson with the students sorting them into groups. The aim of the lesson was for students to recognise that not all problems are their problems and to take responsibility for the problems that are theirs.
The four groups for sorting were:
- Mrs G’s problems
- Mum or Dad’s problems
- My friend’s problems
- My problems
The picture above shows some of the scenarios given. (For the record I do not have a Jack or Anna in my class. They are fictitious students who do all sorts of things that my real students relate to.)
Some of the scenarios generated a lot of discussion, such as “Jack said mean things to my friend.” I was also really pleased that the students were able to generate more ideas for each of the four categories after sorting my pre-selected problems. Now I can say to my students when some dobbing occurs ‘Whose problem is it?’
Now I have a question for you. I will give you a scenario. This scenario is somewhat too common in our schools. I will then ask you the question: Whose Problem Is It?
A refugee student is struggling to learn at school. Whose Problem Is It?
- Is the problem the student’s – who approaches everything with a negative outlook and struggles to retain even basic information?
- Is the problem the parents’ – who maybe don’t understand their adopted country’s education system and are possibly struggling to stay positive themselves?
- Is the problem the teacher’s – who scratches her head after trying all sorts of strategies including modelling a positive attitude to approaching learning and trying new challenges?
- Is the problem the school’s – where the funding has been slashed and there is no longer support programs in place for students such as these?
- Is the problem the wider community’s – who collectively needs to think more carefully about taking on traumatised refugees and provide not only housing and material assistance but also social and psychological support?
As for my current problem, what I should be doing, that is my problem and I take responsibility for it. But maybe I will go and play video games with my kids for a bit first.