The school is over – a big sigh of relief for many children, parents, and teachers! A school is an organisation with its values and principles that influence students – much like employees are influenced by the company values and principles.

Why do so many students yearn to finally get their school days over when learning is in the nature of children and should be fun?

Brain researcher Gerald Hüther said in an ORF interview that 98% of all children are born highly gifted and that only 2% are after school. He also said that the joy of learning is innate in children, but in our schools, the danger lurks that the students lose their desire to learn, that they only function and only work for good grades.

Influence and imprinting of children by their social environment

Children are most influenced by their parents, which also has a lot to do with their attitude and mindset: Can I let my child “be”? Is it allowed to learn and explore the world at its own pace? Can I support my child when he needs help? Parents are constantly learning, and with children, they have a vast learning field that never ends. Toddlers have an incredible urge to explore and learn that changes over time but never really goes out.

In addition to school, the entire social environment influences the child and shapes it very strongly. Parents and the rest of the family and friends shape and influence children’s experiences. The influence of the social environment on the joy of learning should not be underestimated.

On the one hand, the child is unique as an individual, but at the same time, every child comes to school with different backgrounds and experiences. Analysing and taking this into account is undoubtedly a great challenge for teachers, especially when you consider that most schools have an average of 25 pupils in the class.

But why do pupils often only learn for good grades and have lost the fun of learning, even though now, several children are looking forward to school and learning together again after the lockdown?

It starts with the human image

Frederic Laloux, consultant and coach for leaders and author of the book “Reinventing Organisations – A Guide to Designing Meaningful Forms of Collaboration”, still sees most schools as traditional organisations with a clear hierarchy, comparable to traditionally organised companies, where thinking happens “at the top” and doing is implemented “at the bottom”.

With this Taylorist worldview comes the attitude and mindset that people are mostly lazy and dishonest, need clear guidelines/assignments and need to be controlled. Grades are important as an instrument of control. This is how teachers experienced it in their school days, and in some cases, they experienced nothing else in their studies.

The question now arises: What image do teachers have of their pupils? How do teachers act from their worldview? Do they see a child with all its uniqueness and personal strengths or have an image of the lazy pupil who doesn’t want to and doesn’t achieve anything? It is about learning to learn! Is it about knowledge, learning material or about the experience and ability to act, about applicability and usability?

Children are fundamentally loyal, both to their parents and to their teachers. They always try to fulfil what is expected of them: If you see children as unique, intelligent beings who basically “want” to do something but cannot do it for some reason, they will try to fulfil this expectation and will do so their best. If you see children as “lazy” beings, they will subconsciously do everything to achieve that.

Could you pick them up where they stand?

The trick is to pick up the children where they are at the moment – not an easy task if you imagine a pubescent teenager who is permanently “anti” at first, questions everything, and in between wants to go through the wall with his head. 

Despite being “prickly”, pubescent pupils increasingly long for appreciation, recognition and, above all, belonging, as well as for new things and learning. Everyone knows fantastic teachers from their school days, who take the pupils in their stride during this challenging phase and can guide them well. On the other hand, some teachers are completely overwhelmed by these situations.

The “cool ones” manage to make a clear distinction between person and behaviour. They can say “yes” to the person and “no” to the behaviour. “Philipp, you are a great person with many strengths! I do not accept the behaviour you displayed yesterday!

Next, one should question how this behaviour came about: Which needs were not met that triggered this behaviour?

It is essential that the student also knows the expectations of the teacher. As in companies, schools often assume that the other person knows their expectations, so these are not communicated.

Being clear about what is expected, what it is all for and why it is essential are essential elements that a teacher should communicate multiple times. Transparency creates security! Children and young people need to know what their framework is and where their boundaries are. It is equally important to communicate the meaning and purpose behind the school, the learning/subject/content, which is often difficult for students to see.

The big issue of motivation – they want to but don’t know-how

If, as a teacher, you want to motivate the children for the “final spurt” at the end of the school year, then there are also different approaches here:

On the one hand, many teachers still try to motivate children through fear, punishment, or bad grades. Sentences like, “If you don’t do this, you will get the worse grade” or “You want to get through” are used.

These “intimidation tactics” work for some children, even if they do not develop any fun and joy in learning and their self-confidence is not strengthened. For many children, the build-up of fear and pressure creates counter-pressure, and the child becomes wholly demotivated; in the worst case, they throw in the towel and ultimately give up.

The other teachers take a positive approach and refer to the children’s strengths, knowing that children long for appreciation and want to perform well. They provide a strategy to overcome the final hurdles.

In companies, as in schools, a strategy describes the path to the goal based on the personal strengths of those involved. These questions can support:

  • What is my goal?
  • Where do I stand now?
  • What are the biggest obstacles?
  • How do I get to the destination?
  • What personal strengths can I use to get there?

Set sail – full speed ahead!

“Wickie and the strong men” were confronted with many new, uncertain situations on their travels and adventures. Wickie always had “the idea”, but above all, he had one thing – a lot of self-confidence! Self-confidence is the prerequisite for courage, daring, new and creative things. Times are getting faster, complexity is increasing, and the challenge will be to adapt quickly to unique circumstances.

Children and staff alike will need new skills tomorrow to meet the demands of the future. For this, they need one thing above all – self-confidence!

Self-confidence is the compass they will navigate through new situations and cope well with new challenges.

To accompany them into this future, to support them in becoming independent, self-reliant persons, is one of the most responsible tasks that all parents, teachers and, later in working life, managers have to face. This requires, above all, the teaching of a sense of purpose and the ability to strengthen their strengths.