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It’s an arm day: flexing those comfort zones

The other day, I was out taking the doglets out for a walk, which is no small feat. They are bonkers. They are strong and they like going in different directions and the same direction and then swapping and changing. And then they see other doglets and people and then go all over the other way. It is a full body workout!

A lovely man asked me the other day if it was an arm day- I said yes and I was working on my Stretch Armstrong look. The bloke was lovely and my arms were getting a full on go!
It did get me thinking.

I work my arms hard when I take the doglets out for a walk but because I’ve been doing it for so long so there has been a bit of time to get used to it. Taking the doglets out and doing the Stretch Armstrong thing is something that is well within my comfort zone, even if I do get a bit of a push and a pull about when I’m doing it. Taking them can be a challenge but it’s fun and so worthwhile.

But not every push and pull and Stretch Armstrong thing ends up well, or is comfortable. Sometimes people are pushed well beyond their comfort zone. Vygotsky of education and psychology fame talks about ‘zones of proximal development’ as the sort of happy space where you’re pushed but not too far and learning can happen well. That’s me and the doglets but where you’re pushed too far, you end up in the ‘zone of eventual development’ or, more simply put, you get to stuff you can’t do. And that can be really stressful and at times upsetting.

So many learners in schools are in the zones where they can’t do it and the reasons for this are manifold. More and more I find that time is a stress factor for students in the classroom. There is never enough time and the curriculum gives no wriggle room for students who may find things tricky. Or they may find reading tricky or not be able to show their knowledge in writing as well as they can when they talk. There are so many different ways that learning and the classroom can push children too far, so that they’re just not able to make the progress that they could if their needs were met, and they had the time to really embed new learning. But it just doesn’t happen.

School should not feel like an intense arm day, with two Labradors putting you through a Stretch Armstrong routine and some. School should be challenging but supportive, nurturing and edifying. But for so many children that is just not the case. They’re left in the ‘stuff we can’t do’ zone through no fault of their own.

And we are failing them- the system is broken.

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