Smart phones are one of the most addictive things you could give to children! Forget gambling, cigarettes and alcohol! Phones are the completely next level in their addictive and manipulative nature and yet parents hand them out to their kids without a thought!
Why does a primary school student need a phone? Are their lives so hectic that they need to ensure they’re reminded of their next appointment coming up on the calendar? Do they need to be in constant communication with ‘head office’ so that the mission critical operations of the day’s play with Jimmy is guaranteed 99.9% uptime?
To be perfectly honest, children don’t need phones at all. This is a massive failing of parents today who have either convinced themselves that they’re doing the right thing by giving their child a phone to ‘keep them safe’ or massive marketing and peer pressure from other children, parents and social media for which resistance is futile. Whatever the deluded rationale behind it is, it’s just wrong. Phones are dangerous, addictive and manipulative devices which are clearly contributing to the increasingly poor mental health of children today and their inability to cope with so many situations that can’t be resolved instantly.
Since this is so clearly self-evident, what don’t parents just cut to the chase and give their kids a nice big plate of cocaine to snort. Same basic effect: addiction, behavioural change and damage to mental health. For what are they waiting? They’re already creating dependencies and junkie type behaviours so, rather than doing it slowly over years with a gateway addiction, why not just cut to the chase, cut some lines and make it happen?!!
Whilst some people may think this comparison is over the top, I’m not the first person to make this comparison, nor will I be the last, so let’s look at it in some more detail.
Do any schools allow, smoking, drugs or alcohol to be consumed on site on a daily basis? In my experience, no! This will get you suspended or expelled, yet it’s common practice for students to be using their phones constantly throughout the day. Using a smart phone and all the buzzes and bings, notifications and ‘rewards’ which come from using it and giving it your attention all the time releases dopamine, which makes you feel good and re-enforces the behaviour surrounding the activity which just gave you that hit. Other than turning people into wandering zombies, what’s this constant deluge of notifications, stimulations and reliance doing to children?
Although it’s still only early days of this phenomenon, studies have shown that it’s further lowering children’s attention span, manipulating their daily activities and behaviours and reducing their ability to cope without constant stimulation and activity. Add this to the already challenging teenage years of relationships and body image and let them get bombarded by fake images of fake people throughout the world. You’re just setting them up for further trauma and mental health issues from which people are finding it more difficult to recover.
Is this what parents think is a good way of keeping their children ‘safe’? It seems rather idiotic to me and so far removed from any notion of safety, you may as well just get them hooked on a few random drugs instead and therefore save everyone a huge amount of time as the damage will occur far more quickly and efficiently. The next cry will be from parents for schools to conduct ‘phone testing’ to see if their child’s phone is ‘safe’ to use. Therefore, taking yet another step away from actual useful action and taking responsibility for themselves to not give their child a phone to begin with.
The actual danger and long-term damage associated with giving children smart phones, far outweighs the potential risk of their not having a phone so they can be contacted 24/7 ‘just in case.’ Generations of children have survived throughout the ages and managed to find their way home every day without the use of mobile phones, ride-sharing and GPS locationing, yet some parents would have you believe that the world is far more dangerous than it’s ever been and justify giving their child this dangerous device out of ‘safety.’ The fact is that in this situation, the phone, what it does and what it can access is the real risk and is doing real harm to children and adults alike. The random gangs of child kidnappers in white panel vans from whom parents are believing they are protecting their childing, are predominantly the perceived risk in the modern world and an extra-ordinarily rare occurrence. Yet parents seem willing to give their children smart-phones which open the door to a highly addictive, manipulative and unfiltered adult world, that’s far more dangerous and destructive at home than it is for their children to go down to the park or ride a bike with a friend or two and be ‘unsupervised’ and ‘out-of-communications range.’ If you’re really worried about the roaming white panel vans, perhaps paying for some martial arts lessons is a far better investment than the phone.
We’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg for this problem. It’s impacting student behaviour, and engagement as well as their mental health and well-being. Schools and teachers are now being expected to clean up yet another mess which is not of their making. However, until parents realise the difference between the real risk of giving their child a smart-phone versus the perceived risk of not giving them one, it’s going to be a hard uphill battle ahead.
Some further interesting reading on the subject:
The other day, there was a breakthrough news story about the current virus that’s spooking and wreaking havoc across the world. It was the findings of a team of Australian scientists who had discovered the way in which the body’s immune system fights the Corona Virus. The virus is fought in a similar way that the body fights the flu. This is a huge, positive discovery in the fight against the virus. However, it seems to have drowned in the flood of toxic waste stories about the doom and gloom of the virus that’s making great headlines for all of the ‘news’ providers around the world.
Now I don’t want people to think that I’m flippant or dismissive of the virus. The challenge of its containment, the impact on older people and pressure this is putting on healthcare workers and services is real. We still need to put this into perspective in that most people are recovering from it and this story of the discovery by Australian scientists is a wonderful ray of hope.
There has been an irrational response by many people across the world, with panic buying and weirdass behaviour. This has seen some extremes of people stopping doing everything and cutting themselves off completely on the one hand and people taking no precautions or mitigating actions on the other. Essentially, the situation is not good, especially economically, but it’s also not as bad as bubonic plague. So why, when there’s good news and when we know the situation will ultimately improve, are so many people panicking and worried?
Firstly, people are generally not good with change and this has been a massive and sudden change to our way of life. For some people, there will be no real impact on their lives. For others, it will do massive economic and psychological damage. Some will catch the virus and be ok. Others will catch it and unfortunately, they won’t recover.
Other than the flood of news stories which would wear down even the most resilient of us, the fact is that something like this forces people to confront their own mortality. This is something which is uncomfortable and people don’t want to do. People think they have plenty of time and for most people they do. However, this means most people don’t confront anything to do with their own mortality until much later in life. Now this global pandemic which has killed many thousands of people in a short period of time, has brought this home to people. The resulting panic of those who aren’t able to put some perspective on the situation is toxic and contagious in itself. Once a few people panic and face their own mortality, this quickly catches on to others and has thus spread quicker than any virus in history.
The world will get though this current crisis. The world will survive, as it did the plague, the Spanish flu, polio, smallpox and countless other pandemics. In times of panic and uncertainty, it’s always good to look for the positives and the wins such as the discovery by the Australian scientists. We should also be thankful and more appreciative of the life and the time we have on this earth. Far too many people take this for granted and when confronted with something such as this and their own mortality, they panic and are unable to put anything into perspective.
This is by no means an easy situation and we face tough days ahead, but despite that, there is hope. With the advances in technology and medical research that’s already been done, there will be a treatment/vaccine and or subsidence of this virus and the world, whilst having changed somewhat, will get back to somewhat normal and perhaps the ultimate opportunity out of this crisis will be that nations can put their differences aside and work together for a common global goal that impacts and improves everyone’s lives.
For some great news on the research so far:
With the current global virus worries, there’s been a dramatic shift in people’s approaches to work, shopping and education. Now I’m not going to comment on the virus itself, because everyone in the world seems to have already commented and these range from everything from good, preventative measures to mass fear and panic.
However, the net result is that many people are now working from home. Over the past few years, businesses have tried this for some of their staff and shifted their opinion and approaches back and forth depending on who’s running something and how much control they need over their employees. One place I worked, the director there was so paranoid about people potentially not doing things, there was no way anyone could work from home, ever. He would rather have (and did have) countless people sitting in the office chatting and doing nothing, than the fear of letting someone work remotely and get the job done in half or even a quarter of the time.
Now admittedly not everyone can work from home, nor should they work from home in many roles. However, there are many people who can and the office these days for many is just a luxury, indulgence, or historic relic of working days past. If you have any sort of administrative role, tech-role or anything which can be done via a phone, video or computer, then the ability to work remotely makes perfect sense and can save a lot of time, energy and pointless expense.
If I look at some of the work I do when organising a program, it’s 95% able to be done remotely. When I run a program, I need to be there in person throughout. However, let’s look at the other side and the things which can be done from anywhere and anytime. Whilst I’ve been doing a lot in person, setting up lots of meetings and travelling a lot, these meetings can often not have a great purpose other than building relationships, an aspect which is also very important. However, once you’ve built a number of relationships, there’s no pressing need to have regular meetings in person and much of what can be achieved in an hour-long face to face meeting, could be done in a 5min phone call.
Whilst this isn’t anything new, I’ve found that due to the sudden change of work recently, my commute has been reduced from about 1.5 hours a day to nothing. This gives me another 1.5 hours to either do something constructive or go for a run or do something more interesting than sitting in traffic and getting frustrated with slow drivers. The sudden departure of tens of thousands of people from our cities was notable the other day when I was driving out of Sydney during peak hour and not getting stuck in traffic at all.
Now the downside is that there are many businesses relying on the passing traffic for coffee, lunches and retail trade, but this sudden shift in work patterns, could help re-shape much of the workforce into a more remote pattern. Other businesses would adjust to this and be able to build sustainable revenues from this too. We’d reduce the amount of traffic and pollution and possibly improve people’s social time and lives due to the reduction of stress and the hustle and bustle of getting to the office.
The world will continue to virtualise many more offices and roles, of which this massive dislocation has given us a glimpse. Whilst we don’t want to create societies and workplaces without social interaction, what this sudden change has shown us, is that there’s another way of working and this is increasingly likely to be the case into the future. With that virtual work, it can be just as, if not more effective and productive, than the traditional, ‘go to the office’ style of work-life to which so many people are used. It does rely on trust on both sides of the equation, but once you’ve been able to step over the precipice and see that it works, you’ll wonder why you didn’t try this years ago. For me, I find I’m far more efficient when working remotely and get about 5-10 times more things achieved than if I were at work in person. Whilst I have a great time at work catching up with people, it’s not very productive.
Being able to plan and work virtually, as well as occasionally in person, is a great way to be predictive and effective in what you do and getting back at least 7.5 hours of commute time a week is a welcome benefit to achieve. This is much needed time for all those hours of waiting in queues to panic-buy pointless crap that you don’t need for an apocalypse that isn’t going to come! Remember, wash your hands and keep a good social distance from others. If you’re sick, then self-isolate and get yourself checked out.
At the moment, the world seems out of control. A virus which we’d never heard of before appeared suddenly and is wreaking havoc on the lives of billions of people throughout the world. International travel has stopped, restaurants, cafes and shops have closed. The once busy streets are silent and businesses have retreated to operating as a distributed network of people work from homes around the world. For even the most resilient and flexible of us, this is a challenging situation.
However, despite this global dislocation, there are some key things we can do to turn this crisis into an opportunity and I don’t mean setting up bootleg gin joints and secret bars called cougheasies!
For many, it can feel as if we’ve completely lost control of everything. However, that’s not the case. I don’t for one minute underestimate the challenge we’re facing, both medically and economically, but if we only focus on what we can’t control, like all of the masses of people gathering on the beach in a huge disregard for the social distancing rules, then we’re doomed to end up depressed and destroyed as a result of this current global crisis.
This is not the first massive crisis in history, nor is it the worst, nor will it be the last. But for many, it is the most challenging thing that has happened to them in their lives and the lack of control over events that have just suddenly consumed the world can be really hard to deal with. The fact, however, is that we can’t control most of the things which happen in our world anyway and the more we focus on what we can’t control, the more difficult and frustrating it becomes for us, as the risk is that we will become angry and resentful. We’re seeing that now with people in shopping centres taking their anger out on people who are doing their best to serve the community. If you’re the type of person who gets angry over a supermarket employee over the lack of non-essential items like toilet paper, then you’re a selfish idiot. You clearly struggle with all sorts of other things in your life already.
However, toilet paper obsessed idiots aside, the fact is that if we only focus on all of the negative news stories, over which we have no control, it’s going to make it harder for us to get through and come out of this in a good way. Rather than looking at and focussing on all the things we can’t control, use this as a great opportunity to focus on the things we can control. We can control how we treat others. We can control how we approach each day. We can control our own hygiene and social interactions. If we have the technology, we can setup and can control our own workspace. We can also control how we look for opportunities in this crisis. What goods and services are needed now? What skill set do you have to be flexible and adaptable to be able to help? What service gaps are there in the community? Are there vulnerable people or groups you could help to support? Is this the greatest opportunity in years to be spending more time with your family, playing board games and talking and sharing this time together?
Rather than becoming frustrated by everything that’s wrong, much of which there certainly is at this point in time, by focussing on what we can control, this gives us an opportunity to examine our busy modern lives and see what’s really important to us and improve our ability to not only get through this crisis, but to come out the other side stronger and more resilient to take on whatever else is thrown at us into the future.
Over the next days, weeks and months, what’s your focus going to be?
I know it’s been a year longer than we had hoped, but now, despite the current global issues, which reminds me of the Billy Joel song, ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’, we’re back for season 2 of the Xperiential Education podcast!
This season, we cover all sorts of great programs from art, to science, to risk management, to outdoor ed, to a really wonderful student-led medical program and a few things in between. The depth and breadth of the podcast and our guests, highlights how important it is for students today to learn to be adaptable problem solvers.
Season 2 is brought to you by Xcursion Risk Management, for all of your risk management training and software needs for running great experiential education programs.
For more info, guest suggestions and other feedback visit:
Everyone loves a good drama. At work, the gossip around who’s dating who is far more interesting than doing your job. Newspapers and media outlets rely on bad news to sell papers or in digital terms create ‘click bait’ so you click on the article. Often, in both cases, the headlines don’t match the actual story because if they did, people wouldn’t read them. It’s far easier to get someone to pay for a paper with the headline “Virus Outbreak! 95 Year old Dead and Infections on the Rise.” Rather than, “55,000 people have already recovered from the Virus many only experienced mild illness.” This is not to understate the issue at hand. Yes it is concerning and yes we need to do something about this to slow and/or stop the spread. However, the impact this has had on outdoor education alone is massive, with countless school cutting all programs, no matter how remote or disconnected they are from the fact that children are not really being affected. The level of perceived risk is through the roof, the level of actual risk for most people remains relatively low.
I saw this again on the news last night. ¾ of the whole news was about the ‘massive’ jump in cases. The ‘sick and elderly dying,’ the panic buying, the dark days ahead and all of this negative crap which gives the average person the impression that the zombie apocalypse is here. For most people, given the popularity of the show, the Walking Dead, they’re reacting as if a zombie virus or Ebola has gotten loose and is wiping out 80-90% of the healthy population. The fact is, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that fear and panic are driving this and hyped up by the media, is driving the world economy into recession.
Ironically, like a fine print disclaimer at the bottom of some ludicrous advert, one of the later stories in the news was basically, ‘Oh by the way… if you wash your hands, don’t touch your face and mouth after contacts and don’t have prolonged close contact with an infected person, the risk of catching this is really low. The number of cases of this in the country and around the world are testament to this.
Added to this, most people are not dying. They’re experiencing mild ‘flu-like’ conditions and recovering. What’s the problem? The problem is that everyone loves the drama and focuses on the negative side of the drama, rather than looking at the whole problem in context. The world is not going to be completely overrun and shut-down by this virus. It’s not wiping out the next generation of young people and healthy people, but mild viruses which don’t kill lots of people, don’t make good news stories.
On 30th Oct 1938, the radio show ‘War of the Worlds’, by Orson Welles first aired. This sparked wide-spread panic, with people thinking they were being attacked by aliens. Now we might laugh at this now, as we know it’s a story, but at the time, that felt so real as it was coming through their airwaves.
The media has a lot to answer for in this. They’re far from reporting the facts and this has been so over-editorialised and hyped up that the fear and panic they’ve put into the community could have a really long-term negative effect. This will all blow over given time. However, how many businesses are going to be wiped out? How many fights are going to break out over nothing? How much panic is ok before the media is taken to task over this, which, to be honest, they won’t be.
If you look back in history, the world has survived many things. However, fear and panic is so contagious that the impact it has on a mild crisis can and does turn everything into a major catastrophe. We’re experiencing runs on banks, stampedes in stadiums, riots over food and supplies, when the supplies aren’t at risk. The timeless words of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ echo loudly through this current world crisis and we should always remember:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
The full poem can be found here:
It is time for us to take stock and see this for what it is. It is not the world ending pandemic that will turn everyone inside out. It is a virus, which spreads quickly through close contact and poor hygiene and the effects of which are generally mild with most people recovering. Let’s not lose our heads. The world has gone through worse and there will be worse to come, but standing firm when everyone else is losing it, is so important for the world right now. We need more people to have level heads and respond to this current issue accordingly.
For some stats on the current virus check out:
For some crucial tips on surviving a zombie apocalypse check out:
Ok, so I’ve been watching all of the hysteria over the Coronavirus. Whilst this is no doubt a highly infectious virus which has spread quite rapidly, we also should put this into perspective as to the effect of this virus. Most sufferers are not dying from this. Most are recovering quite well, as with any other cold or flu. There is a mortality rate currently between 1% and 4%, depending on country, age and healthcare standards. In terms of a monumental threat to life as we know it, it’s really not that bad.
Therefore, why are so many people going crazy? Why are the supermarket aisles stripped of toilet paper and tissues? Why are people having punch-ups over things which you could live without? It’s weird, isn’t it. It often takes a crisis for us to remember how stupid some people are. The whole notion of people being able to think for themselves seems to go out the window and is replaced with this insane ‘mob mentality’. This fear and anxiety is far more contagious and dangerous than the virus itself, as people then turn on each other for no real reason.
The media hasn’t helped either. Whilst it’s good that it’s being reported, as are all bad stories, the media just latch on (kinda virus-like) and suck the life out of the story. I saw one media outlet which I won’t name, (but they have a track record of idiotic headlines and stories written and aimed at angry bogan 10 year olds). That organisation is running an infection counter on its website, as if it’s some sort of doomsday clock. I think this is horrendously irresponsible and only fuels the fear of those toilet paper toting hoarders.
From a risk management point of view, I understand the hand sanitiser, even the paracetamol to fight off the infection, but what the hell are you going to do with car-loads of toilet paper? We don’t import it, so it’s not as if it’s going to be stopped and be sitting on a dock somewhere. If I were going to go hysterical and start hoarding things, I’d be going for tinned food, bottled water, some fuel, gin, tonic, limes and a few good books to read. The TP is really not even on the list. So why is this the thing for which people have rushed out? To be honest, I have no idea! It really makes no sense at all, but it’s fascinating behaviour to watch how irrational people can be when fear sweeps over them.
Whilst in the past we would talk about the fight or flight mechanism we have built into us, perhaps that needs to be extended to the fight, flight and flush. Whilst the coronavirus is a concern, as is any communicable disease which can kill people, the far more dangerous thing at this point in time is the fear and anxiety which is being fuelled by media and mob behaviour.
Before we all rush out, knock over a few old ladies in the desperate effort to buy a roll of toilet paper, take stock of the reality of the situation. The virus can be prevented and avoided by social distance and ensuring you have good hygiene and wash your hands properly. Doing this will help stop the spread of this virus. Here’s a great video from the WHO about that exact thing:
This year sees the banning of mobile phones in many Australian schools. This is an initiative which is something that everyone should welcome with excitement. Whilst some technology is beneficial, the fact is that we’re seeing a massive increase in mental health issues, many of which can be linked with social media addiction and a complete disconnect from reality in which young people growing up with smart devices can find themselves.
Whilst many bleeding heart civil libertarians and anxious parents might be wailing and decrying the ban as over the top, the fact is that children don’t need a phone at school. For that matter, they really don’t need a phone at all. I’ve written a number of articles around this and the problems that phones are causing, of which we’re only just starting to see the impact.
In terms of taking risks, I recently wrote about finding the one reasons out of ten for doing something versus the ten reasons for not doing something. I think the same is relevant to this problem. However, the opposite seems to be true of the decision-making process. Parents hold onto the one reason for their child to have a phone and that’s ‘in case of emergency.’ However, how often is there an emergency where there’s nobody else around to ask for help? If we then delved into the ten reasons why you shouldn’t give your child a phone, we would find the potential negative impact to be huge versus this supposed ‘emergency’ which is most likely not going to happen.
However, without going into all the ins and outs of what might or might not be reasons or justifications for giving a child a phone, let’s look at what’s been the impact at school.
Peer-pressure! This is probably the number one driver of why children end up with phones. ‘Because everyone else has one’. This is not a great reason in itself, but it massively fuels the peer pressure which children face each day.
One of the main impacts at school however, is the level of distraction that a smart device causes and the subsequent lowering of children’s attention spans. If you’re trying to engage students in learning, then having something which distracts them and constantly provides them with a dopamine hit versus your maths lesson, you’re not winning anytime soon. In general terms, it takes fifteen minutes for you to get into an activity. Each distraction or change of task, then takes another fifteen minutes for you to get back into that activity. Hence, in an hour lesson, you don’t need too many distractions to have wasted an entire hour.
There’s the social impact. If break time is filled with time spent playing games on the phone or engaged on social media, this significantly reduces the child’s ability to develop friendships and meaningful relationships with real people. All they see is a filtered view of the world and this filtered view is toxic and destructive.
From my experience, often children will claim they’re talking with or messaging their parents during break times so it’s ‘ok.’ This firstly is a load of crap, as most teenagers wouldn’t be constantly messaging their parents and secondly, if they are, their parents need a slap across the face for being so stupid. Stop trying to live your life through your children. If you have nothing else better to do than message your kids all day, then go and get a job, or volunteer somewhere. There’s lots of need in the community, so make yourself useful!
Having said that, most parents don’t do this and the children are just making it up as an excuse. The fact remains however, that it’s a disconnect with the environment, space and purpose of education. For those people who say, well it’s part of life now, then I think they’re missing the point as to how damaging this part of life is. In the 19th century, opium was a widespread part of life. That was not something which was a wonderful progression in the development of humanity, neither is this. Phones and technology are tools to be used to benefit communications, work and create some great efficiencies. However, at the same time, like firearms, they’re a dangerous tool in untrained hands and that’s the reality of this technology with children.
A phone manipulates and controls their behaviours, dominates their attention and rescues their ability to cope with the real world. Removing the phone, not only from schools, but from children in general until they have the skills, maturity and abilities to use it as a tool and not have it use them as a tool, is vitally important to their long-term health and well-being.
The Australian school phone ban is great! It’s a big step towards modernising education and making it relevant in the 21st century. Let’s hope this ban expands to all schools in Australia and across the world. If you can’t go six hours without a phone, then you have far more problems than that supposed ‘emergency’ for which the phone was originally intended.
In life, we can always come up with ten reasons for not doing something. The negative talk of most people determines why something shouldn’t be done more often than why it should be done. In general, people don’t like to take risks and this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
However, taking risks is how we grow and develop. If we’re so risk averse that we’re not willing to try anything new, then this really doesn’t allow us to reach our potential on any level. Yet when most people encounter something new or different, they will run through in their minds all the reasons why it won’t work, rather than all the reasons why it will.
This is common at work and in people’s social lives. The comfort of knowing the outcome is a wonderful thing to be able to hold onto as it gives us certainty, which is always comfortable to have. However, this certainty can often hold us back from interesting and exciting experiences.
One really good example of this is abseiling. Over the years, despite this being a really safe activity to do, abseilling has been the most challenging activity I’ve seen for many students and teachers alike. You can see them talking themselves down, even before you get started. Some people won’t even put on a harness because they’re afraid of heights, rock falls, ropes breaking, slipping back, falling off the cliff, being dropped off the cliff, the rope being cut, the anchor giving way, the double anchor giving way, looking stupid or afraid whilst on the rope. Despite this huge bunch of negative talk, what’s the one reason you should forget all of this and just go for it?
Now I can’t answer this for anyone, but what’s important is that we encourage people we’re working with to find the one reason for doing something. This might not be easy, as the easiest thing to often do is nothing, but where does that get us? It disempowers people and means they will never be able to live up to their potential.
The irony of all this is that often by not doing anything, or taking any risks, people end up with a false sense of what real risks are and often the risk of doing nothing is far greater than the risk of giving something a go.
When you’re setting up an activity which might have a high-level of perceived risk and a high-level of resistance from participants, why not chat with them about the benefits of taking a risk on something. Use a tangible example of that as well, to ensure they can see how and why finding the one reason to do something, versus the ten reasons not to. This is massively beneficial to their own personal development and growth.
There will always be plenty of reasons not to do something in life, but if nobody took any sort of risk, then we’d still be living in caves. Even if something doesn’t work out the way we thought it would, taking that risk can mean we end up having a wonderful and unexpected experience and learn and grow from this. This is followed by other experiences we have as a result of finding that one reason why, versus the ten reasons why not.
Take a risk today! Try something new and different and surprise yourself as to how wonderful that new experience can be.
Over 50 years ago, the first year 9 residential outdoor ed programs started to emerge. It was a good idea! Nobody likes year 9s. (14-15 years old) They’re moody, annoying, think they know everything and don’t pay any attention in class. Consequently, sending them out to the bush somewhere where they were someone else’s problem was a genius idea. Why not send Year 8 as well? In fact, let’s send any students that regular classroom teachers struggle with! It would probably make their lives better.
Rather than address the fact that ‘main stream’ education is a complete waste of time, getting rid of students from the school is a much simpler solution to a far more complex problem. However, I’ll avoid going off on too much of a tangent for the moment in why our whole education system is broken and focus on the real issue. Sending year 9s away is now a huge waste of time.
Granted, everyone still loves to get rid of their year 9 students. I’ve never heard a single teacher say, “Oh I’m going to miss having my year 9s here.” No, the resounding sound of champagne corks popping throughout the school can still be heard every time a bus departs for a year 9 campus. Parents equally love the chance to make their dysfunctional year 9s someone else’s problem and spend time travelling or just enjoying going out for romantic dinners again. Which is all very nice, but to what real end?
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a year 9 residential program, most of them are structured around a rural or remote setting in which both outdoor pursuits are undertaken, as well as an academic program. Many that I have come across are just boarding schools in the bush, so not really outdoor Ed programs as such, but a seemingly great way to hide and lock up your year 9s from the outside world.
Having worked on year 9 residential programs for many years, they’ve either been too long, too short or have lacked clarity and purpose. The students, in my experience, have only really benefited through osmosis and the true educational value of a residential program more often than not, was completely lost on them and the school. Sure, it was a good piece of marketing for the school and you could dump a whole year group somewhere else for a bit, but what was the point? Other than getting all students into a regular daily routine and doing a few jobs, very little else in terms of longer lasting growth was ever achieved.
From all the years of running programs and expeditions with year 9s, I was convinced that we were running them for the wrong year group entirely. The concepts of goal setting, leadership, teamwork and sacrifice are somewhat foreign to the self-centred, self-focussed year 9s. More often than not, you barely shifted the dial in their lives. They simply lack the maturity to truly benefit from a residential experience in which expectations are high and independence is the key theme. Sure, they still get something out of it, but let’s be honest. Take anyone away for an extended period of time and something will happen. Therefore, why not rethink this flawed concept and move to a year 10 program instead?
One year makes a huge difference in the level of maturity and adolescents’ ability to appreciate, engage with and learn from a residential experience. If you want to introduce concepts such as leadership, introduce it with students who are starting to have some idea of what that means and an understanding of its implementation and benefit. Too often I see teachers insert the word leadership and they have no idea and understanding themselves as to what this really means. For year 9s who struggle with the concept, it can be overwhelming and confusing, or else set them up with the idea of how great they are… when they’re really not.
However, Year 10s (15-16 year olds) are at a tipping point. If you want to have a far greater impact on a young person’s life, it’s going to be during this year. Much of the unruly, lame attitude and behaviour of year 9 has been dispensed with and now, they’re far more open to self-reflection and growth. You can realistically approach them and the residential program with a far greater focus on being independent, critical thinking risk takers and problem solvers than you can with year 9s. Working with year 10s gives you a far greater opportunity to help them build character, explore what’s important to them in life and focus on leadership and life skills in preparation for their senior years, thus setting them up for life.
The difference in maturity in these two year groups is stark and the results would be too. For year 9s, you spend 80% of the program battering them around the head with rules and program structures to help stop them from doing dumb things and making stupid decisions. When they finally get it, you’ve only got 20% of the program left to be able to do anything useful with them. However, with year 10s, you have the potential to reverse this and instead spend 20% on structure and 80% on the experiential learning and reflection.
To continue to run year 9 residential programs is a phenomenal waste of time and missed educational opportunity. As the world changes and we need to up-skill students with a far more diverse set of flexible, adaptable critical thinking and adaptable experiential skills, we need to look at ways of maximising the impact of this during their time at school. Why waste all that time, energy and effort on rule enforcement with a year group that will struggle to truly understand and embrace the opportunity before them? Instead, it’s time we ditched year 9 programs and move them to year 10. As a result, the long-term benefit to students and the community will be vastly different and truly set students up for success.