Fri. Sep 17th, 2021


In March, shortly after the third restriction, elementary school teacher George Pointon decided to ask his freshmen a set of questions. What would you do as president of the world? If you were a superhero, what would you do? Where would you go if you could do time travel?

Pointon, who describes his school in a “very densely populated area and very multicultural”, was concerned that his class, which had to complete another full year since entering the reception, needed a little encouragement “to communicate again “.

Although he saw them in the course of virtual lessons, his students were too young to describe their emotional development in detail, so he used the questions to get them talking about their feelings, “to promote interpersonal skills” and as an opportunity to catch up with them again.

The answers of the six-year-olds were candid, confusing and often quite funny. Some offered gnome wisdoms that seemed philosophical in their luster: others displayed skills for empathy that would conflict with Princess Di’s. Others were still happy in the folly of innocence in childhood. Obviously, Pointon collected all their answers, criticized them and published the whole thing on a weekly Twitter wire.

Pointon’s simple classroom recordings have proven to be exactly what we need. His students (their names were of course changed for privacy) provided a bright spot of humanity, joy and hope in the darkest hour. In turn, Pointon, who only began teaching this year, became an unlikely pedagogical hero: he gained about 87,000 followers in search of his weekly dispatch or, as he describes it, “exploiting the imagination of children for love.” .

Last week, at the end of the summer break, he asked his departing class for “pearls of wisdom” and his freshmen offered proper self-realization that would save more sophisticated individuals hours on the psychiatric couch. Mikey’s “Do not play football if you do not like football” offers a poignant mix of non-conformism, self-acceptance and refusal to agree with the basic elements of male bonding, while Ravi offers the improvement: “Your best is not the best not the same as someone else’s best. “Emma’s” Have friends you love “was very popular. Although I feel pretty pumped by Jack’s command to:” Run. Jump. Flip. ”

“Give me a child until he is seven, and I will show you the man,” says the Jesuits, an argument that begs the eternal question of what influence influence, genetic heritage, and circumstances have in determining people. what we become. This is the major ethical mystery that shapes our views on social welfare, education, rehabilitation and mental health.

It was also the central theme of the important documentary Seven up!, a series largely attributed to Michael Apted, which follows the lives of 14 seven-year-olds from very diverse backgrounds, who were first interviewed in 1964 and thereafter every seven years. Dressed died in January at the age of 79, after completing his last interviews when his ‘children’ was 63.

With the exception of those with severe mental illness or physical degeneration, the children’s attitudes, interests, caring, and emotional intelligence remained more or less the same. All experienced setbacks, hardships, and diverse economic journeys: but even in their sixties, the core of their childhood remained.

Everyone, from Dr Freud to the Duchess of Cambridge, was keenly interested in what was happening to us in our early years. In recent months, where schooling and socialization have been hampered, educators have become increasingly concerned about these lost years.

‘Lockdown babies’ are diagnosed in various ways as intellectually handicapped by a lack of peer-to-peer contact or, conversely, so stimulated by the amount of time they have spent with their parents, that they have become unusually advanced. Parents, meanwhile, were left to fend for themselves with very little outside help or guidance, and stuck to the theory that nature should simply go its course.

One of the most reassuring parenting advice I ever received was from a dear friend, dyslexia expert and hippie who said I should just watch my baby during her first minutes on earth. Despite dedicating her life to literacy and child development, she believed that one’s essential character is absolutely thrown at birth. “Just take a good look at the baby,” she told me. “They will tell you everything you need to know.”

FT Weekend Festival

The festival is back in person on September 4 at Kenwood House (and online) with our usual eclectic range of topics and speakers, including Jo Ellison. It will be the spirit of revival and the possibility of re-imagining the world after the pandemic. Please visit to book tickets here

Which suggests, as indicated by Apted and finally by Pointon, that instead of obsessively doubting the harm we may have done to our children, we should start observing them and rather listen. Pointon is incompetent about the role of nature and nurturing. “If I were to follow their current answers to my questions,” he told me, on the phone from Iceland, “you would think they could all be world leaders when they grow up.” He especially likes to teach this year group, he continues, because six-year-olds are still “inventing things”. He plans to continue his evaluation with his new class in September, but will welcome the input of ‘the old guard’ to see if and how their worldview begins to change.

For now, however, he hopes his threads provide a window on a ‘better future, especially if the news is such a draw’. Never before has exploitation seemed so positive or useful. And so begins the summer holidays. Run. Jump. Turn around.

Send ‘e-mail to Jo at jo.ellison@ft.com

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