Learning Independence


The mornings have been cold and driving through the fog the other morning on the way to work was a very interesting experience. Usually, it is almost automatic that I drive to work, home again in the afternoon and drive to other familiar places. Driving through the fog, however, my awareness of other road users was very much heightened, especially everything the car in front of me was doing. There are many things in life that we do automatically, that we have learnt to do over a period of time and these have come about, usually, because we have invested time, energy  and a great deal of practice in training ourselves, our brains, to be proficient at whatever task it is. Usually, we must start with small steps, getting the basics right before we move on and perfect more advanced skills and tasks. I’m sure you can remember the ‘wobbles’ learning how to ride a bike, or doing the ‘kangaroo jump’ when first behind the wheel of a manual car?

 This analogy can be used to describe many facets of our lives, especially in our school today. ‘Automaticity’ is the term used to describe learning the basic number facts, spelling words, phonic sounds, reading, writing, tying shoelaces and many other things automatically, where we don’t have to think a great deal about doing them. Mastering these tasks allows our brains to give more space to being able to problem solve, to learn new things, in what is referred to as working memory.

Independence is something we value highly here at Star of the Sea. When children come to our school in Reception they are still on their L’s and are learning every day to develop their learning and social needs and skills so that they can become independent, confident and capable students. We value greatly the assistance from parents and others in helping our children become skilful and independent learners. You can say that these are the instructors in the ‘passenger seat’ guiding, supporting and teaching the child to drive their car along their educational journey.  We as adults need to trust that one day our children will get their P’s and be able to drive on their own. Similarly, at school, we value the children being able to come to school and get on with their learning free from having to rely on parents having to do things for them, or being prepared to step in quickly to save them. Children should be coming to school and, once settled, be free to take risks and experience the feeling of being independent, learning many new and interesting things, and making mistakes and having a fall along the journey. They will learn from these situations as well. Of course, we love and care for our children, but we also need to allow them to experience school and life in a trusted and safe environment without constantly being there to save them.

Joe De Tullio