They say that it takes a village to raise a child. This saying has come to life in many ways these past months. As a job-seeker I have had quite a lot of time on my hands. Much of it has gone to identifying job opportunities, writing motivation letters, brushing up my CV, sending applications, making follow-up calls and occasionally going to interviews.
I have also dedicated generous amounts of time on regular exercise with long and extended walks, everyday yoga sessions, bike rides and some weight-lifting. I have cooked and baked as usual, created recipes and blogged.
Very importantly, I have spent a lot of time with my little niece. She and I have been seeing each-other several times a week. I have seen her develop from a little belly bump to a baby with several teeth and a cheerful and humourous disposition .
It is a great thing to care for your immediate family, but the world is bigger than that. So I contacted the Red Cross to see if I would find an opportunity to volunteer that would suit my interests. I ended up going to the nearest primary school, just 5 min on feet from where I live through a program called Adults in School. I assisted the teachers in their regular classes once a week, giving them a helping hand in managing a lively bunch of first graders.
What I definitively realised from start is that there is a big need for extra resources. I think that everyone should at least once attend a primary school-class and see the reality faced by teachers on an everyday basis. I saw so great potential, but also a lot of different personalities and starting points. It is such an eye-opener to see children with attention disorders that are extremely gifted behind their agitated demeanour, children that can write page after page and others that struggle to structure their thoughts and put down a single sentence, children with difficulties in language and maths, children that get the maths, but need help with reading and writing.
It is quite funny to think that parents often expect the school to do the job. That is quite a utopic thought though, even in an advanced education system such as the Swedish one. So many children will fall between the cracks. Teachers can do a lot to teach and inspire children while at school, but learning does not stop outside the walls of an educational institution. Learning is everywhere and some children will get more support from the grow-ups in their life than others.
There is a need for closer ties between schools and homes. There is also a need for a more general engagement in all matters pertaining to education and citizenship.
The first years at primary are like a bottle neck; hence, the need for increased resources to manage the cognitive leaps that take place. In an ideal world, by the time they finish primary school, children should have acquired some of the tools that will help them develop into independent learners and manage further learning stages.
Recently I met with my fellow volunteers who were almost exclusively retired women, which is quite typical. If you ever get the opportunity to help out at school, as a parent, or as a volunteer, I warmly recommend it. Your engagement and presence can really make a difference. Especially in troubled times when schools are faced with several challenges.