On the way home from work today, I listened to an interview on Radio Five Live with Robert Webb, about his new book How Not To Be A Boy. The programme focused on the relationships that we have with our parents – how our emotions are affected by the way that they behave towards us, and the circumstances that beset them, and how it might be a good idea to talk about how that made us feel. Webb’s book deals with his relationship with his father, and with the sudden death of his mother. The message seemed to be that we should not necessarily see stoicism as a positive, if it actually means that children are suffering. The interview linked to the Being a Man event on the South Bank about masculinity and male mental health. Penny Ten’s blog today was on a very similar topic, and the emotional honesty of her writing shines through like a beacon. Don’t forget that children have emotions as well as intellects, seems to have been the message of my day.
Next week, our youngest kid starts secondary school. Our home is a hotbed of emotions – the frenzy of preparation, the trendy new haircut and the pinchy shoes, the excitement of a big challenge just over the horizon. When we face these moments as children, especially if we’re in a difficult family situation, the emotions that we feel can scar a line skin deep into our psyches. This is not always a bad thing – it can challenge us and it becomes part of who we are, anyway. But it is a ‘thing’, and it’s not something to ignore, in a hurry to get children to memorise facts. I don’t just come to school to learn, I come to school and I feel. The problem for the idea of a successful ‘science of education’ is a very simple one. You’d think a simple problem would be simple to overcome, but thankfully the problem is that the children are the confounding factor. Someone joked with me today about how schools would be great if there weren’t any children in them – it’s a line I’ve used myself, because it sums up exactly the situation. It’s all great in theory, when your lesson is planned and your seating arrangements are all in place, but nothing can beat the hot, beating heart of a school when children, lifeblood pumping in their veins, rush into it on the first day back – all full of stories, and hormones, and hopes, and emotions. Just ask the kid, she’ll tell you. We are all emos now.