Dylan Williams’ sage advice for all teachers, new and old, at the start of this year really resonated. At a time where much of the education forum seems concerned with the potential growth of grammar schools or the quality of a content-based curriculum, it was refreshing for someone to shine a spotlight again on the importance of good relationships between a teacher and child.
At Jamie’s Farm we too are reflecting on our practice at the start of a new school term, both so that we can ensure a week spent on the farm truly is a transformational experience for young people, but also so we can unpick what creates our success and share this with other professionals. In particular, how we show we care and how this can translate to supporting young people to bring the best out of themselves. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs states that for a child to achieve the pinnacle of “self-actualisation”, they first need to climb all the arduous contours leading up to this peak: Do they have food and water? Do they have safety and security? Do they have a sense of belonging in their relationships? Do they experience feelings of accomplishment? The same must be true of a classroom environment. Pupils realise their full potential academically only when all the above are addressed and met.
On the farm, building a trusting and caring relationship with a young person is the most important step in allowing them to transform. And a core component is creating a place of safety and security. We foster this sense of safety and security from the moment pupils arrive at Jamie’s Farm through our core values: positivity, passion, collaboration, generosity and professionalism. For young people, many of these values are recognised in the interactions we have not only with them, but also with our colleagues. There is a relentless positivity with children and with adults alike, staff work openly and honestly with each other, supporting high expectations and also actively vocalising our worries and struggles. We want to replicate the structure of a functioning family unit so that young people feel secure and trusting.
Even without all this recent reflection though, what strikes me most as a newcomer to the farm is the absolute, knocking your socks off, blatant amount of care there already is here. It shines through in everyday interactions, in thoughtful praise and in genuine concern for your . Perhaps this is the not-so-secret ingredient that allows young people to flourish whilst they’re here at Jamie’s Farm.
Written by Laura Mathews
Laura has joined Jamie’s Farm to take on the role of Education Manager at our new Monmouthshire Farm, due to open in the autumn of 2017. Until then she is based at Hill House Farm in Box, Wiltshire.