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What I wish we learned at school


I keep thinking about things, then thinking that if school was different - everything could be different. Maybe that's naive, and maybe teachers will find this exasperating and implausible given current pressures. And maybe some of this stuff happens already.

But anyway, here are my thoughts - what I'd change about school:

I remember cookery lessons in secondary school, but nothing before that. We made things like bacon turnovers or cheesecake. Things that seemed complex, and that I've never made since.

Imagine if in these lessons, early on, children were taught about really easy to make healthy food. Surely the reason people rely on convenience food is because of the perception that cooking takes forever, is expensive and they just don't know how - which is fair enough because when are you supposed to learn? The idea that healthy food is boring, or just salads, is really frustrating.

Getting into cooking and healthier eating via Deliciously Ella has been a revelation. Turns out it's a habit that's easily changed, and yes - you feel better for it. If we could teach kids about where their food comes from, and how to eat well it may give people such a healthier view of diet altogether.

Real life lessons
There's so much practical necessary life stuff that I don't really recall talking about in school. How to look after your money, how do credit cards work, POLITICS - how it all works and why and how people can make a difference, and a big one - how to cope with emotions.

Reading Brené Brown's Rising Strong made me think how come we don't teach this stuff? Like how to ride out difficult feelings, and vulnerability, how to take risks (and the importance of doing so) and how to bounce back from failure. I wish those kinds of conversations could happen.

Mental health
Mental health needs to be on the syllabus. Needs to be. And not just the science - but how common it is, how to spot the signs and how to help someone. Real life stories. If we have these conversations about our mental health early in life, and they're normalised, imagine how different things could be when we grow up.

Understanding the media
I got to grips with this only really when I studied Sociology at AS level - thinking about how different newspapers will carry different political perspectives, how disability is represented in the media, how images are distorted - all of this stuff has an impact on how we view the world, each other and ourselves.

Enjoyable exercise
Throughout my school life I hated PE. I had terrible hand-eye coordination to the point of a teacher once asking if I was supposed to be wearing glasses (I wasn't). It was all about technicalities, which is great if you're someone who has an aptitude for sport who can then develop those skills, but for me - it meant a really unenjoyable few hours, in the cold, with very little exercise involved. If the focus was finding a way of getting moving that you enjoy - so dance/fitness/boxercise type classes, I think I would have enjoyed that. When we're grown up and want to get fit, many of us struggle because we don't have memories of enjoying exercise. Again, it's a habit that's learned.

One-to-one support
In my school, the only pupils who accessed student support were those who were struggling. As a system, this makes complete sense. But I'd love it if there was a chance to have a one-to-one chat with a mentor, either your form tutor or some kind of student support, about how you're doing - with school work but also emotionally. Growing up is really tough and if you can have an honest conversation about that, that may help.

I think this could be also helpful in sussing out what you want to do. To be able to talk to someone, not necessarily about definitive career choices (we're forced into that too early anyway) but about where you find enjoyment, and maybe getting a sense of the options, and just being told it's ok not to know. You could get encouragement. and honest feedback - and learn how that feels in itself.

Charitable giving
At my school every year we'd have harvest festival and bring in tins from home, and there was a yearly lunch for elderly people from a local residential home - but the school set all of this up. I'd love it if students were set regular projects to fundraise - it could be an event to raise money like a show, or a charity sale, or a collection for refuges or food banks. It'd be a good learning experience in project management/leadership/teamwork, but also give a real sense of achievement seeing how much they raise. Again. I'd hope this would set people up to continue giving back to the community throughout throughout life.

Ok so I know IT exists, and I know kids probably have to be taught about social media and safety, and all of that - but I hope things like coding and image/video editing can be taught too. The amount of teenagers that watch and obsess over vlogs, can you imagine how committed they'd be to that kind of project?

Creativity was encouraged at my school with drama, art, music, textiles, woodcraft lessons etc. But it's worth stating again - because funding cuts mean that even if these subjects remain (sadly - big if), things like trips to the theatre are becoming more and more difficult to justify in terms of finances and time - yet they're so important.

Also, the career advisors in schools - could they also bring in creative professionals - artists but also from jobs most students don't know exist but along those lines, to talk about making a living from something they love? Could these people become mentors, who may even help them get experience and work later on?

The media and just about everyone will tell you a creative job isn't sustainable or something to aim for, and yes it's tough, but it isn't implausible. It just isn't as clear-cut as other careers.

So, that's about it. But like I say, my awareness of current school systems is limited/non-existent. So, if you work in a school - please comment and let me know, are these things happening? Are they plausible? What would you like to change?