By Victoria Agbamoro
What do you understand by helping children learn?
Why Children? What is so special about children?
The years of a child is regarded as the formative period, this is where most of the work is needed. Between the ages of 5 – 13, these years form the character and mindset of a child. According to Unicef data on Africa’s statistics on child survival and population report, it is stated that Africa’s child population will reach 1 billion by 2055, making it the largest child population among all continents.
What do these statistics illustrate, that Africa will experience steady growth in birth, which means there will be a need for more health workers, schools and teachers. Who do you think will suffer this the most? Children in low-income communities. The harsh and unstable environment can create biological changes in the growing brains of infants and children. Children are structured to learn by what they see, through my NGO works in reaching out to communities, I have come to understand that children learn by doing.
What does this mean? Imagine a child who grows up in a violent home, where both parents are consistently violent. You do notice that when that child is in the midst of other kids, he/she begins to act in a way that is quite unusual. The child begins to act violent or withdrawn from activities. The act is beginning to form the mental cognitive of that child and if not well taken care of will mature for a lifetime. Some of the common thread that affects a child’s mental growth is Neglect, Abuse, Trauma and environment.
Working with children who are growing up in poverty or other severe circumstances, sometimes, they develop characters which can be difficult to control, or a child who has experienced any sort of trauma will develop behavioural problems. When kids have been damaged emotionally, they begin to incorporate several behavourial expressions into their personal identity. Some kids begin to withdraw, while some might become overly tough. This will lead to them not be able to contribute in class, confidently not raising their hands to answer questions, caring less about their learning process.
Growing up for me, one of the things I experienced was neglect, not really having anyone to talk to in school, I was regarded as the timid and shy girl! The worst part was I was doing poorly in my academics. Sometimes when its the end of a school session and report card was shared and I see my results, going home felt like pain, because I was going to hear a bunch of negative words again on how bad I was doing. I did not know how to talk about these things I was going through. My parents could not understand, what a child of 8 years could probably be going through in school.
For a long time, I walked bending my back and looking down at the floor while walking because I was not confident about who I was. I began to seek validation from other kids to fit in. I remember buying ice cream for other kids in my class to like me. But I wanted to do better as a child. I wanted to do excellent in class, I wanted to be the first but I did not know-how. Which is why one of the most serious threats to a child healthy development is Neglect. The mere absence of responsiveness from a parent or caregiver. Neglect can do more long term harm to a child than physical abuse.
The first and most essential environment where children develop their emotional, psychological and cognitive capacities is the home. The stress and trauma of an unstable home can affect a child’s developmental growth. However, without the right intervention, you do realize, the child may never recover from early setbacks. Growing up in a hand-core stressful home has a direct negative effect on the development of a child’s growth and function.
However, we can change the narrative of how we can help children learn, here are four tips that can help to build a safer place for children to thrive and grow.
Sometimes we get carried away with talking without listening to the emotions of a child when expressing themselves. A child behavioural conduct can be redirected by the kind of adults in their lives. Imagine a child who has gone through several trauma in the home or at school, the worst part is you not knowing that they have gone through such a challenge.
I tried the act of listening during a Sunday School Service with my children in the class, I wanted them to express how their week went, what happened, challenges they faced. I was amazed as to how these children spoke to me about what was going through their minds. Each with a different story to tell. This shows that listening to what these kids have to say, will help you know when they are facing challenges. Mine was my siblings, they were there to listen to me during those periods I felt alone. Children are often drawn to Adults who encourage them to do better.
Words are often powerful, especially when it comes from someone dear to you. How can we learn to use better words around children, which will help them succeed? Using the right words around children can help to uplift that child to become all that they want to be. If you fill the right sets of words into a child, the child becomes a solid ground of confidence.
Deeper Learning Strategies
The environment in which a child lives is very important, you find out that when a child grows in an environment marked by stable responsive parenting, by schools that make them feel a sense of belonging and purpose; and by classroom teachers who challenge and support them, you realize that such kids, then to thrive. And are open to more opportunities for a successful life.
Changing Our Practices
Changing our practices means teaching children the grit mindset. You often find Adults easily give up on their dreams. Gritty people have a growth mindset despite when things are not going the way they should.
Grit involves passion and perseverance towards long term goals. It’s important for children to learn the act of perseverance, grit and resilience. In other, for us to improve a child’s grit or self-control what we need to change first is their mind. Children in their infancy stage rely on responses from their parent to make sense of the world.
A child can learn to thrive, from there they can change the world.
Victoria Agbamoro is a self-taught UX Product Researcher and Designer. She is a creative thinker and innovator with a vast knowledge of design and market research. She has created seamless interfaces to make sure users enjoy every journey using technology. In her spare time, she loves to write value-based stories for kids. Studying History and strategic studies have been instrumental in her understanding of the concept of research and writing which is evident in her research and developments projects. She believes in changing the world through design and writing value-based stories for kids.