Art Child-Adolescent Psychotherapy Education
Deborah Shaer: artist & Arts Therapist
It may be that the school environment could improve immeasurably by engaging with non-government bodies and embodying a heart and soul with knowledge and skill in children’s care and education. One suggestion would be to introduce an overseeing body in line with UKCP and BACP’s ethical framework. Many pupils feel stifled and trapped by what they palpably feel as imprisonment. They are not given a voice, nor do they have an adult presence in schools representing their right to be treated with dignity. Many of the pupils’ sufferings are compounded by intolerable boredom from meta-teaching, such as too much lecturing and too much board work rather than student centred classes. Talking at rather than talking with is another way of demeaning young people. Ultimately there seems to be a limitation of robust, empathic, engaging and emotionally stable role models, and it is the educators’ responsibility to embody these qualities and engage with their pupils in a friendlier manner. Injecting fun, humour and creativity play a significant role in regulating and stabilising stress levels so that learning can happen.
There is still a stigma attached to therapy and I believe that this aversion would diminish if confronted through education, for both adults and young people. There seems to be a general lack of adult understanding concerning therapy at even the most basic level. A classroom of pupils’ chaotic and disruptive acting out can be depleting and destabilising for anyone. But some teachers whose own background material gets triggered signals that this person is in need of help. It can be painful to revisit episodes from unpleasant situations in the past. We do not do this with children and young people, but with adults it requires the courage to go there, go through and come out into a lighter, brighter place. With greater awareness as to what dynamics are being activated for the teacher when eruptions occur in their class, they would then have the inner resources and support to contain them. Teachers are already under enormous pressures. The lack of support impacts their wellbeing and their pupils in profound ways.
Author: Deborah Shaer 25 March 2016, London
“My vision for our schooling system is to place education into the hands of Head Teachers and teachers rather than bureaucrats.”
Autumn 2015 speech, David Cameron
The thing is that unless you're actually familiar with working in an Academy school environment, how can you know what it's like.... for the pupils?
Fortunately we also have pro-active teachers and other educators advocating change in our education system, and this collective voice would benefit the UK enormously to take note of their message. (See 'References below). I am highlighting an article written by Lucy Cretan, a teacher who has travelled across the globe to investigate and rate the schools. She rates Finland as the highest scoring country for schools and writes ‘Finland is the best system for kids that struggle with academics. The Finnish education system is based on equality, and setting students ability is illegally.’ Lucy’s second choice is Canada for students with high levels of academic capacities. She explains that the children are provided with a different setting from the regular class and taught in a small group. This is a problem in the UK for pupils with high academic levels who want to learn but are unable to because of the noise and chaos in class that is continually distracting, and accelerates stress levels for many of the pupils.
It appears that countries such as Finland and Canada provide greater containment in lessons modelled by their teachers and the respect and trust these teachers evoke. I wonder if arrogance may be one of a number of reasons for the UK government to ignore the wealth of lived experiences that demonstrate a superior education model?
DS 10 May 2016
In the mind-map below, child and adolescent issues are identified and set out as needs to be attended to. Suggestions and alerts are placed on the outer spaces of the map.
Copyright Deborah Shaer 2016. All Rights Reserved.
Beginning with an important yet neglected issue, concerns the normalisation of repetitive harsh and brittle communication towards pupils. This type of treatment undermines and damages self-esteem and healthy development. It also suggests a moral and ethical question as it relates to the abuse of power. Children and young people do not learn when the boundaries of discipline and firmness are crossed into territory where fear-based strategies impacts the brain chemicals negatively, blocks learning and causes psychological and emotional suffering.
“The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”
Do grades reflect intelligence? And does the memorising of texts and answering questions on an exam paper demonstrate authentic intelligence? I wonder whether at secondary school level this is apparent? Notably it is a disadvantage to those pupils with difficulties in memorising, but does that mean that they are less intelligent? These questions need to be considered, and the UK government's decision to begin the process of turning all schools into Academies brings up further questions, in view of zero evidence to suggest that this is a constructive or intelligent solution. I have not heard a balanced and informed argument that would lead to this conclusion. Academies are corporate businesses funded by investors and run by an appointed group of school governors. By granting Headteachers supreme power to enforce rules and drive the school’s curriculum would place them in a dictatorial position. Is this a wise decision? I would suggest there are tangible reasons why our UK schools are not seeing the results, and this requires a deeper enquiry. I believe an open and constructive dialogue would provide the vital evidence needed prior to undertaking such a project with potentially disastrous impacts.
The interiority of Albert Einstein’s thoughts can be glimpsed through his documented views from the 1920s onwards. Einstein writes, '...it is not the fruits of scientific research that elevate a man and enrich his nature, but the urge to understand, the intellectual work, creative or receptive.... The true nature of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained to liberation from the self' (Einstein (2006): 9). This is a man whose fruit-bearing inspirations nourished his scientific and mathematical studies. Einstein's references to the ‘mysterious’ also allude to a universe beyond the scope of rational thinking that serves a deeper exploration for the benefit of the whole of humanity. His emphasis on creativity and individual thought stretches into the spirit of community, working together for the healthy development of society. On education he writes: 'The principal art of the teacher is to awaken the joy in creation and knowledge' (2006: 25).
I find it curious as to why reputable neuroscientists who work with children do not appear to be consulted, in addition to the vast body of professionals experienced in child and adolescents. Given that Academies are corporate structures, it appears that children are seen more as products. What is the government term used? ‘Value per child?’ If the intention is to turn young people into obedient robots, then it is only a matter of time when groups of repressed adolescents will blast out of their psychological entrapment for the opposite to happen. In such cases, frustration and anger, with underlying affects, can erupt into hatred, and this hatred is raw fodder for gang related violence. On a larger scale, It may also be compatible mindset for recruits to lure disturbed young people, and mold them like clay into acting out global atrocities, with promises of glory. A young person who is happy and feels relatively safe, in a nourishing and vibrant environment is highly unlikely to even consider engaging with such destructive forces.
Schools have a moral duty for healthy child development and the wellbeing of children and adolescents to take precedence. Without attending to their underlying needs, grades will continue to fall, and this requires skill, experience, knowledge and empathy. In contrast, unreasonable and inflexible rules, a rigid curriculum and the pressure of exams have a profoundly negative impact on pupils whose state of mind is incompatible with this prescribed structure. A significant number of children and young people are silent in their despair, powerlessness and isolation. Due to the alarming numbers of children and adolescents with complex issues, I believe that weekly sessions with counsellors and psychotherapeutic interventions needs to be introduced into all schools with an increase in therapists. I think it is also important for teachers and other staff to be supported through therapy provided by the school.
Albert Einstein (2006) The World As I See It, New York, Citadel Press, Kensington Publishing Corp.
Bessle van der Kolk (2014) The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma, Allen Lane, Penguin Books Ltd.
Hannah Richardson, (22 March 2016) BBC News Education Reporter, Speedy academisation plan risky, says school body [ONLINE] Available at
Accessed 22 March 2016
Laura McInerney (15 March 2016) How the Tories picked free schools: chaotic, inconsistent and incompetent [ONLINE] The Guardian. Available at http://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/mar/15/legal-battle-why-free-schools-succeed-and-fail Accessed on 22 March 2016
Lucy Crehan (2015) The Imitation Game: What does education really look like in ‘high scoring’ countries - and should we be aiming for something similar? Teachsecondary.com
Sean Coughlan, BBC Educational Correspondent (4 February 2016) [ONLINE] Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-35492433
Accessed 21 March 2016.
(Author unknown) Osborne to focus budget on plan to turn all English schools into academies
http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/mar/15/osborne-chancellor-focus-budget-schools-reform-academies Accessed on 22 March 2016
Other related articles about education, all from the magazine teachsecondary.com (hard copies) written by teachers and those in educational related fields:
Alex Quigley (2015) Body Talk: Real communication Involves more than words: Working on our physical language skills could make us better teachers.
David Didau (2015) What Every Teacher Needs to Know about 21st Century Learning.
Dr Nicola Davies (2015) Play To Their Strengths: It turns out that teenagers can’t help being impulsive, nosy and easily distracted - so why don’t we harness their ‘social brains’ for better teaching and learning?
Alex Newton, Principle Spires College (2015) Beneath the Surface: culture shift