The new Learned Helplessness: “You can’t do this, so I will do it for you!”

A teacher’s take on why kids need to learn to do things for themselves…

My 5-6 year old students have their swimming program this fortnight. In my class of 24, there are 2 students that are unable to dress themselves, dry themselves off, and ensure their belongings make it into their swimming bags. The other 22 can do all of those things – granted a bit of help might be needed with things like putting on swimming caps, or the occasional lost sock – but all in all they’re doing very well. Those 2 that I mentioned are also the same 2 that at school, are constantly losing things, leaving things lying around, struggling with such things as the dreaded glue stick etc. It just so happens, that it is the parents of those 2 that are coming to ‘help out’ at swimming every day… You can see where I’m going with this…

The chicken or the egg?
Those 2 parents will tell you, “I’m coming to help at swimming because my child has trouble getting themselves dressed, and is disorganised and always losing things.”
My thought is that the opposite is the case: Isn’t your child disorganised and always losing things BECAUSE you’re doing everything for them? By drying them off, getting them dressed and packing their bags, aren’t you teaching them that these are things which they are unable to do for themselves. Is it that you do not trust them to do it for themselves, or do you think they will be physically, intellectually or emotionally unable to do it for themselves? Either way, you child is receiving a message loud and clear…

“You can’t do this, so I will do it for you!”

 The ‘new’ Learned Helplessness:
“Learned Helplessness” is a person’s sense of powerless, following a traumatic event or persistent failure to succeed. It is a term used in clinical psychology. I am not by any stretch a clinical psychologist and am not intending on appropriating the term myself. However… a Social & Emotional Learning PD I was at recently discussed the presence of many of the ‘symptoms’ of Learned Helplessness being present in school-age children. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not intending to minimise the impact that true Learned Helplessness has on people’s lives, particularly following traumatic, horrific events. I do think it’s important to relay some of the comparisons that can be drawn to young children.

What is it?
The majority of people, when in a ‘bad situation’, will do whatever they can to escape it. The truth for people with Learned Helplessness is that when in a bad situation, they feel as though they have no control and will give up and accept the situation they’re in. You can see why Learned Helplessness and depression are so closely linked. When a person is subjected to an aversive stimulus that it cannot escape, repeatedly and over an extended period, the person may well become accepting of that stimulus, feeling as though they’re unable to have any control. Do a quick Google search of Martin Seligman to find out more.

What’s the connection to school-aged children?
We’ve all heard of “helicopter parenting”, students being “wrapped in cotton wool”, and so on. Well-meaning parents will do anything – and everything! – for their kids. I’m by no means saying that parents are inflicting trauma on their children by being, let’s say “overbearing”. But… by showing & telling kids (directly or indirectly) that they cannot do anything for themselves, are we engraining the same Learned Helplessness idea which will see that child accept their inabilities?

“You can’t do this, so I will do it for you!”

What are the lastly effects of children receiving that message? A new kind of Learned Helplessness?

Teachling <WordPress>

 More from Teachling:

A teacher’s take on letting kids play, Pt.2…

Re-blog: The Rise of the Helicopter Teacher

A teacher’s take on helping children learn at home, pt2…
A teacher’s take on helping children learn at home, pt1…

A teacher’s take on getting your kids to school on time… And why it’s the least you can do…

A teacher’s take on letting kids play…

A teacher’s take on parent-teacher relationships…




Handy Hints For Helping Children Learn At Home, Pt.2

A teacher’s take on how you can help your child succeed…

Click to read Handy Hints For Helping Children Learn At Home, Pt.1, Tips 1–5.

No. 6. “Know Your Child’s ‘Down time’”
Here, Andrew Fuller isn’t referring to that relaxing ‘down time’ we have when we’re surrounded by candles, having a bath with a glass of vino. He’s talking of the time at which you don’t learn new information as well as you do at other times. “As a rough guide, think of the time they go to sleep, then think of the time they usually wake up, calculate the midpoint of their sleep, add twelve hours and around that time is their “down time”. For example, if your child sleeps from 9.30 pm to 7 am, the midpoint of their sleep is 2.00 am. Adding twelve hours takes us to 2.00 pm”. 2.00 pm therefore, is the time at which that child’s brain is in ‘downtime’, switching off and least likely to be primed for quality learning. This is the perfect time to engage in hands on activities, play, relaxation, crafts, sport and other activities that are less taxing on the ‘academic’ parts of the brain.

No. 7 “Eat a good breakfast”
“If your Mum ever said have fish or eggs for breakfast because it’s brain food, she was right! As long as it’s medically safe to do so, a breakfast that is high in protein (think cheese, milk, bacon, eggs) and lower in carbohydrates (think cereal, orange juice and toast) promotes concentration and learning. Also encourage your child to drink lots of water- the brain runs on it! Students who don’t eat breakfast are not only more likely to gain weight; they will also have to work harder than others to do well at school.” Ew, fish for breakfast. I think parents can exercise common sense here. Obviously, Coco Pops every day for breakfast – although delish! – are not the best choice. Or worse, no breakfast at all. Give your child the right fuel!

No. 7 “Use Music”
“There is a growing evidence to suggest that playing instrumental music softly in the background enhances learning.” Avoid music that’s likely to be distracting, such as pop songs that they’ll want to just sing along to, instead of knuckling in to their homework!

No. 8 “Use aromas”
“Most people have had the experience of smelling a particular aroma and having a series of memories flood back. Partly this is because your olfactory nerve is directly linked to the hippocampus, which is the part of your brain where memories are integrated. The aromas most often associated with improvements in concentration and memory are lemon, basil and rosemary.”

No. 9 “Monitor their use of video and computer games”
“Video games are incredibly popular and give a sense of great mastery, challenge and involvement. Boys particularly use video games in a social way. It is important to realise that the use of video and computer games is not completely passive. Too much playing of these games can be negative. These games can be so compelling they become addictive. While some games require quite intricate problem solving, the skills learned on these games do not appear to readily transfer into other arenas of life. Very few of the games require creative problem solving or an opportunity to be an active participant in determining a story line. Some exposure to computer games is good. Too much, though, can be toxic. Sadly, there is no research that tells us what the right amount of time spent of computer games should be so you’ll need to think about the balance of your child’s life and their range of activities and interests.” Treat TV similarly.

No. 10. “Help them to build the essentials skills for success”
“Three of the skills needed for success at school (and in most areas of life) are concentration, memory and sequencing or getting things in the right order. The games that parents play with their children such as Snap, Uno, Concentration, Battleships, Monopoly, Chess, Jigsaw puzzles all play an incredibly important role in developing these skills of success. Computer versions of these games are not as effective in helping children develop these skills. To really help your child to succeed at school every so often switch off the TV, unplug the computer and pull out a game.”

No. 11. “Limit the amount of part-time work”
“Senior secondary students should not work more than ten hours a week at a part-time job. If they do so, there is clear evidence that their marks will suffer.”

Download the summary at, extracted from Andrew Fuller’s “Help Your Child Succeed At School”.

Also read this post I reblogged, about What NOT To Do If You Want Your Child To Succeed, based on the article The Overprotected Kid.

What other Handy Hints for improving learning at home do you know of? Please share them in the comments section below!

Teachling<WordPress> < Twitter>

Handy Hints For Helping Children Learn At Home, Pt.1

A teacher’s take on how you can help your child succeed…

It’s Parenting 101. Limiting TV time, making sure your child gets plenty of sleep and helping them set up a designated learning space. Yes, it’s common sense. But hey, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded.


It goes without saying that a school isn’t the only place learning occurs. You’ve previously heard my thoughts on why I’m not fond of homeworkand that I think kids should get more opportunities to play and just be kids, but alas, parents are always asking me what they can do, to help their child’s learning. It’s actually a question I love to hear as it demonstrates a parent’s understanding that learning is a partnership between home and school; child, family and teacher. Naturally, different children need extra help with different academic areas, but this list – based on Andrew Fuller’s “Help Your Child Succeed At School” – outlines the basics.

  1. Most Learning Doesn’t Happen At School!
    “Children spend only 15% of their time at school. They spend more time asleep (33%) than they do at school. Most of their time (52%) is at home, awake, mucking around, playing, and learning about life and it’s what they do with that time that is important.” Remember that you play a much great role in your child’s education than their teacher.
  2. The Learning Space – Getting Organised
    Work with your child to create a dedicated space where they can do homework, projects and read. As you know from their bedroom, kids have trouble keeping things neat and tidy! They’ll need help with this initially, but you can help them figure out ways of keeping their stationary in order, the workspace clear and clutter free.
  1. The Learning Space – Lighting
    “Natural or indirect lighting such as a desk lamp is best for learning. It is best for your child not to study under fluorescent lighting as it is related to raised cortisol levels in the blood stream (an indicator of anxiety and agitation). Cortisol also suppresses language functions.”
  1. Limit TV/ Computer/ iPad Time, Of course!
    Don’t make them go cold turkey. An hour and a half per day is plenty. That’s not to say they should be doing ‘homework’ for the rest of the time: Arts, crafts, playing outside, listening to and making music, socialising, relaxing, family time, the list goes on. Oh, and keep electronics out of the bedroom and away from their ‘learning space’.
  2. Plenty Of Sleep!
    “A good nights sleep (at least 8 hours) is essential for optimal brain functioning at school. Memory consolidation occurs during sleep especially during dream (or REM) sleep. During the normal 8-9 hours of sleep, five dream (REM) cycles occur. Adolescents getting only 5-6 hours of sleep lose out on the last two REM cycles and thereby reduce the amount of time the brain has to consolidate information.Teenagers need as much sleep as children, partly because their brains are doing so much development. Always remember there is no such thing as a sleep bank. So just because you slept 10 hours one night doesn’t mean you can get away with only sleeping six hours the next night. Students who don’t get enough sleep have to work much harder to do well at school.”

 Follow  to read Handy Hints For Helping Children Learn At Home, Pt.2.

Teachling<WordPress> < Twitter>

Download the full summary of Andrew Fuller’s version at

Image sourced from here

The highs and lows of teaching: From making a difference, building great relationships and shaping the future, to homework, reports and helicopter parents.

A teacher’s reflection on 6 months of blogging…

13,000 words later and I feel like I’ll never get sick of posting. Over the past 6 months I’ve had the joy of having some good chats with fellow educators like the experienced, very enthusiastic and full-of-ideas Norah Colvin, to new teachers such as the very switched-on and similarly enthusiastic Cultivating Questioners, as well as blogs such as ijstock and Cognition Education. Let’s admit it, every blogger loves to get comments! When a comment comes through from people of the same wavelength as you, it’s always exciting, isn’t it!

More than a chance to network, hear from other people that are passionate about education (teachers and parents alike) and learn new things, blogging is a great chance to just hammer your thoughts out on a keyboard, send them into cyberspace and get things off your chest. Particularly when you work in a profession which is constantly evolving, and which there seems as though there’ll never be a manual on ‘how to teach’. Therefore, all schools do things differently and of course, you’re never going to agree with everything that goes on within your school and system. It’s always nice to hear you’re not the only one!

I started this blog to share My 2 Cents on a range of education-related topics. Long story short, one of my rabbits was sick, and after consulting ‘Dr Google’, I discovered that hardly any professionals post useful advice relating to their profession online. I felt, as a teacher, that I could easily write about what I do, and that it might help a parent, a teacher, anyone. Thus began, “A teacher’s take…”

A summary of my posts:
A teacher’s take on getting your kids to school on time… And why it’s the least you can do…
A teacher’s take on why schools should scrap ‘grades’, and give kids real ‘feedback’…
A teacher’s take on rethinking education…
Ken Robinson’s take on how we should be viewing education…
Ken Robinson’s take on schools, and how they kill creativity…
A teacher’s take on letting kids play…
A teacher’s take on positive teacher-student relationships…
A teacher’s take on student reports… And why they’re a waste of my time!
A teacher’s take on homework…
An Australian teacher’s take on America’s Common Core…
A teacher’s take on parent-teacher relationships…
A teacher’s take on respecting teachers, pt2…
A teacher’s take on respecting teachers, pt1…
A teacher’s take on earning respect from students…
A teacher’s take on positive thoughts and how kids let negative thoughts consume them…
A teacher’s take on independence and helicopter parents…
A teacher’s take on the jargon of explicit teaching…
A teacher’s take on “How Children Learn”…
A teacher’s take on self-help and parenting advice…
A teacher’s take on blogs…

Teachling <WordPress> < Twitter>

Ding, Ding, Ding – Why are half my students still not here?

A teacher’s take on getting your kids to school on time… And why it’s the least you could do.


A couple of weeks into the new school year here in Australia and one thing is frustrating me more than assessments, meetings and a new bunch of rascals combined. PARENTS! Specifically, why is it so darn hard to get your kid to school on time? Seriously?! 9am can’t be that hard, considering we teachers are there before 8am every day (That may come as a surprise to those that think we work 9-3:30, hehe).

Before I rant, let me chuck in some quotes, to prove it’s not just me… Michael Grose’s Parenting Ideas website is fantastic if you haven’t explored it already. He says here that “School absenteeism is a huge problem in Australia – and much of it is parent-condoned”. Shockingly, the average student misses 12-15 days of school each year (doesn’t sound like that much really, however…), which equates to a full school year lost over the span of their education. Yikes!

Grose continues that “Australian kids spend only 15% of their total time at school. They spend more time asleep than they do at school. So we need to maximise every day to get full value. That means turning up to school every day, on time”. There are always a few stragglers, coming into class late, whose parents bring them to the door after the bell has gone, give them their cuddles, say their goodbyes, holding up the start of the school day for the whole class. One day last week, we didn’t actually start the school day until 9:07 (Even then, one boy didn’t arrive until 9:45!). When the bell rang at 9am (following a ‘warning bell’ at 8:57) only half of my class were present! Let’s say though, very conservatively, that the beginning of my class’s school day is held up for just 2 minutes each day. That’s almost 7 hours missed across the year; more than a full school day.

Last year I had a perpetually late mother get stroppy with me for, and I quote, “You don’t acknowledge me in the mornings when I bring _ into the class!” For real? You bring your son into class late every day and you want me to engage you in conversation, despite that fact that you’re contributing to the whole class losing more than a full day of school this year?

Punctuality isn’t just about teachers griping about a lost couple of minutes. It affects all students in a class and is a problem all around the world, with some UK schools beginning to issue fines to parents of tardy students!

Parents, get your kids to school on time. Better yet, get them to school 5 or 10 minutes early. That will give them a chance to have a chat to their buddies, maybe have a quick run-around outside, unpack their bags and come into class to get settled. They’re ready to start the school day when the bell rings.

The alternative is to rush around in the morning, get them to school late, give them no time to socialise and get settled, and come into class late, embarrassed and ashamed that the whole class is waiting on them and that they haven’t had time to organise their belongings.

Why it’s the least [many parents] could do:
No doubt ‘Parent’ is becoming fewer and fewer peoples’ full-time job.  Most parents now are so-called ‘working parents’. Of course this means you’re going to be busy, busy, busy. Not only are you thinking about your child constantly and caring for them; organising play-dates, planning dinner, getting the kids to their sport games, music lessons, trying to get on top of the house-work. You’re also holding down your own job, rushing around to meetings and so on. As a result, more and more parents are taking a hands-off approach to their child’s formal education. With less time in your day, you might not be able to get to school during the day to help in the classroom or attend excursions. With nights a blur, parents are often telling me there’s no time for homework (if you’ve read my post about homework you’ll know that I’m not too fussed about that, anyway!), and are often too busy or tired to get to school for parent-teacher meetings and information nights. If you’re one of these parents – and rest assured I am by no means ‘having a dig’ at you – then, at the very least, the extend of your involvement with your child’s schooling is making sure they’re at school every day, and that they’re there on time.

Teachers are there to support you and help you give your child the best possible start to their life. Sometimes, you need to help us to help them. Get your kids to school on time.

–          Teachling <WordPress> <Tumblr> < Twitter>

More from Teachling:
A teacher’s take on why schools should scrap ‘grades’, and give kids real ‘feedback’…
A teacher’s take on letting kids play…
A teacher’s take on parent-teacher relationships…

Further reading:
Heidi Scrimgeour’s “Late for school again: But does it really matter?
Livia McCoy’s “Student absences: They hurt more than you might think
DEECD’s “Every day counts: The importance of full-time attendance
Michael Grose’s “It’s not ok to be away… Or to be late to school

Image credit:

Forget Homework, Let Kids Be Kids

A teacher’s take on homework…

Hands up if you loved doing homework when you were a kid… Nobody? Fair enough. Homework stinks, but it is so cemented in our idea of what children do that it seems to be here to stay. Somewhere, many years ago, some absolute liar spread the rumour that getting kids to do uninspiring worksheets on their own time, will improve their learning. Let me present some reasons why homework should be outlawed.

Firstly, kids these days are constantly busy, moving from one organised activity or event to the next and their days are planned to the minute. Take a class of 20 five-year-olds that I surveyed. Every single one of them stated that they partake in some form of ‘organised’ activity outside of school weekly, on a school day (ie. After school, Monday-Friday). 17/20 students participate in an organised sport weekly, outside of school on a school day (eg. basketball, football, swimming). Half of the students said they engaged in more than one organised activity weekly, outside of school on a school day (eg. Some combinations of instrumental music lessons, dance classes, tutoring, sport, art classes). Remember, THESE KIDS ARE FIVE!

Not only do we then deal with the obvious stress and exhaustion for coping at such a young age, with such busy schedules, but we’re forgetting a key point – letting kids be kids. A typical day might go something like 7am wake up, breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed, 8am-4pm school, 4pm home, afternoon tea, 4:30 swimming lesson, 5:30 dinner, 6pm homework, 7pm shower, 7:30 bed. I reiterate… This is a five-year-old’s schedule, so imagine what that of an eight-year-old or 14-year-old might look like.

Kids need time for playing with friends, and just as important is having time to play alone and be creative and use their imaginations. And what about some downtime to perhaps relax and watch some TV or do a drawing? We can’t forget that homework actually puts pressure on parents too, that are trying to juggle assisting their child with their homework (alongside everything else the child is doing), plus worrying about their own lives, jobs, finances, cooking dinner, keeping a tidy home, operating their chauffeur service and so on!

So, how can anything that makes children anxious, takes away the opportunities for them to experience regular ‘kid stuff’, all while giving them a negative experience of learning ever be considered a good thing? Oh, and here’s the kicker – teachers hate homework too because it takes an awful lot of our time away from doing things that actually improve student learning such as planning lessons, giving students feedback on their learning and actually teaching!

When done properly, I will admit that homework can be a valuable experience and create links between home and school whilst reinforcing and extending the child’s learning experiences. Homework can foster lifelong learning and study habits, responsibility for one’s own learning and develop organisation and time management skills.

Homework must be balanced with the range of home obligations, out of school recreational and social activity, cultural and family events and so on. Kids already spend most of their waking hours doing school work and much of the rest of their time is already planned. Homework becomes a chore, the dreaded elephant in the room and leads to stress, exhaustion and most negatively, it makes children hate learning and hate school. Parents always seem to think there is either too much homework or not enough and teachers can never please anyone. So what do we do about it? Don’t ask me. You didn’t expect me of offer solutions did you… I just felt like airing my grievance!

So, what do YOU think of the dreaded H-word?


 –  Teachling <WordPress> <Tumblr>

 More from Teachling:
An Australian teacher’s take on America’s Common Core…
A teacher’s take on positive thoughts and how kids let negative thoughts consume them…
A teacher’s take on independence and helicopter parents…

Image source×420.jpg

Parent-Teacher Relationships: From respectful, to indifferent, to just plain rude!

A teacher’s take on parent-teacher relationships…

Parents, who do you have a better relationship with – your hairdresser or your child’s teacher? The profound and lasting impact that a positive, respectful parent-teacher relationship has on a child’s learning and determining their life-chances, is often rarely realised.

A teacher’s life is dedicated to facilitating a supportive, positive environment in which all children can be challenged to achieve their best in all areas of social, emotional, physical, behavioural and cognitive learning. Too many parents are at best indifferent toward their child’s teacher, and in some cases are just plain disrespectful, untrusting and rude (I’d guess that all teachers have had to deal with, as a minimum, some form of verbal abuse from parents at some stage of their career).

My last three posts have all explored the idea of respect for teachers – the importance of students respecting their teachers and the lack for respect for teachers from society in general. I’ve missed a major stake-holder in the education business, so I’ll use this post to address them… parents! How well do you know your child’s teacher? Do you respect them? Do you trust them? How often do you communicate with them positively?                      

Read this popular Ron Clark CNN article (plus a follow-up article here). The open letter to parents called for parents to “be a partner instead of a prosecutor” and to “have our backs, and we need you to give us the respect we deserve”. “We know you love your children. We love them, too”.

Alternatively, if you want to read a colourful rebuttal, read this Laurie A. Couture post which includes claims that “Teachers routinely inflict an environment of chronic physical and emotional distress on children” and that school children are held as “hostages, against their wills” by “factory-like” schools that force “the population to deny the self, homogenize, obey and consume… ignor[ing] their bodies, emotions, passions, interests, questions, ideas, creative impulses, purposes and needs”.

Yikes! All I can say is for the sake of teachers everywhere, I’m glad Couture’s son is, as she terms it, “unschooled” because imagine if she was a parent of one of your pupils. Perhaps parents need reminding that a teacher’s priority is to do what’s in the best interests of the child. We’re not the bad guys we’re sometimes made out to be. We’re not in it for the holidays, as some people believe. We’re obviously not in it for the money. We’re teachers because we care about children. Surely that’s worth some respect?

–  Teachling < WordPress> <Tumblr>

The ‘respect series from Teachling:
A teacher’s take on respecting teachers, pt2…
A teacher’s take on respecting teachers, pt1…
A teacher’s take on earning respect from students…

Helicopter Parents – More harm than good?

A teacher’s take on independence…

So, Destiny’s Child would lead you to believe that if one buys her own diamonds and her own rings, then she is an independent woman. Does that 13 year old (yikes!) song define independence… someone who is self-supporting or self-reliant?

Clearly, parenting styles have changed and with any change there’s also bound to be side effects. Is so-called ‘over parenting’ leading to a cohort of children that cannot do anything for themselves and in turn actually expect everything to be done for them? Make my breakfast, tidy my bedroom, defend me when my teacher says I’ve done the wrong thing, let me do whatever I want with discipline, fix all of my problems for me… A post from a fellow blogger ( got me thinking about independence and the important learning curve that MUST take place for children on their journey toward it, and the potentially detrimental effects, perfectly well-meaning [helicopter] parents are having on their children. I’m talking here about a small percentage of parents.


As a teacher I’ve come across a plethora of parents that are always there to step in when things for their child aren’t quite going to plan. Maybe it’s been a playground disagreement, maybe the child’s being playing up in class, maybe there’s been a difficulty with their learning, maybe it’s been suspiciously adult-like completion of projects, maybe it’s generally parents taking matter into their own hands and in the process taking them out of their child’s.

I’ll restrain from going on too much of a rant, but here’s a Teachling Tip – Relax! Your kid’s going to turn out alright. Not only that, but they’ll actually be better off by you “cutting the cord” (or if that’s too much too soon, at least “slack the cord”). Giving them space to figure things out on their own and dare I say, make mistakes along the way, will teach them valuable lessons in building resilience, taking responsibility for their actions, their belongings, their relationships, their learning, and so on. If they have a problem, don’t solve it for them and certainly don’t make it your problem. Guide them if you will, or completely step back. They’ll figure it out, trust them.

Children need to learn to take responsibility, as an essential step toward becoming effecting individuals and citizens. Given I teach first grade, examples of children that are yet to develop any sense of independence appear insignificant, but isn’t this the best time to change habits (after all, it’s much easier to change habits early, rather than try to break established habits later!). “Mum left my book bag at home” (um, no, it’s your book bag and you should be responsible for bringing it to school). “I just got back from the bathroom and I don’t know what to do” (well look around, every other student in the class is eating their lunch, what do you suppose you should do?). “I don’t have a chair to sit on” (there’s a two spare chairs at the table behind you, just pull one of them over). Maybe I’m expecting too much – they are 6 years old after all. But, put it all in a context where everything is done for them, they’re never held responsible for wrong-doing, someone is always there to protect them from failure, and you find yourself just a few years away from a child with serious independence issues. I mean this in the nicest way possible – A child needs to learn to fend for themselves.

Here’s another Teachling Tip – Start by making your child responsible for their ‘things’ and soon they’ll learn to take responsibility for many aspects of their lives and their independence will grow. For example, make them pack their own schoolbag, maybe even make their own lunch, carry their belongings to class, and more! What do you think? Am I expecting too much?

(Image source:

Helicopter parenting is a popular blog post topic. Read more…