Interview with Rosalyn Spencer
This is a book for parents everywhere but especially those who are worrying about problems their child may be encountering in school. This book may be the proof you need to know that it is not your fault, that you have done the very best you can for your child under the circumstances and that perhaps it is the school that needs to examine their methods.
This book is for teachers and child-care professionals too. If you already use a caring, human scale approach towards children and their parents then this book will affirm what you are doing. If you are a teacher or professional who uses â€˜throw-awayâ€™ comments and/or find yourself blaming the parents when things arenâ€™t working in the classroom, this book should help you to see things from a different perspective. Hopefully, it will encourage you to think again.
This book may be of very great interest to adults who struggled through school themselves and left school with few (or no) qualifications and low self-esteem. It will give you the opportunity to reflect on your own schooling and examine whether your lack of success was really down to your lack of ability or was it down to lack of encouragement and / or imagination on the part of your teachers?
Finally, this book is for anybody who enjoys reading memoirs and narrative non-fiction, especially if you have an interest in parenting and education.
With over 25 years teaching experience, my lifetime's work has involved finding ways of helping individuals to succeed ranging from young children struggling to survive in mainstream education and teenagers in care, to setting up and running a children's nursery and then a non-fee paying "alternative" small school. I have also had the enlightening experience of home educating my own two children.
In order to spread the word about alternative approaches to mainstream education, I visited all the small schools affiliated to the national organisation Human Scale Education during the summer term of 1997. Together with my two children, then aged 7 and 12, I travelled around England and Scotland in a caravan for ten weeks visiting fifteen small schools. This trip was a pivotal factor in kick starting my writing career as well as being the basis for my Masters Degree in Education by Research.
Following publication of articles about my findings in a number of magazines, I was commissioned by Human Scale Education to write a detailed report resulting in the publication of "15 Small Schools" in 1999. I subsequently wrote a number of other feature articles, mainly about alternative educational approaches, before taking a break from professional writing to concentrate on other work and the completion of my MA degree.
After working with children in residential care, I gained a position as a Nurture Group teacher at a large state-run primary school. This involved working with young children who had emotional, behavioural, social and/or personal difficulties. I also became involved in setting up and running a number of parenting classes, and training children to work as Peer Mediators in their schools. During this time, I had feature articles published about Nurture Groups, Environmental Issues, and Parenting Guides in addition to continuing to write about small schools and home education.
Over the years I have found working with parents extremely rewarding and effective in improving lives for children. Since 2006 I have been working as a Youth Offending Service Parenting Coordinator. Some of the parents I work with are very needy but for some parents, their childâ€™s crime goes against the grain as the parents have given their child a perfectly good upbringing. The majority of young offenders have learning difficulties, and the majority of parents Iâ€™ve worked with have told me that their childâ€™s behaviour problems often started, or became more intense, when their child moved from Primary School into Secondary School. Listening to parents (and also their children), I have learned that there is usually a close link with the way the school deal with a childâ€™s learning difficulties and the childâ€™s behaviour both in and out of school. Whereas for some troubled families school is a lifeline for the children, and there are numerous teachers who have turned around the lives of their pupils, sometimes against all the odds, I often hear a very different story from the families I work with. I wrote â€˜Working with Parentsâ€™ after observing a parentsâ€™ group one day. It seemed significant because the stories they shared about their problematic experiences with schools recur over and over again in my work.
Now that both my children have left home, I spend my free time taking photographs, playing classical guitar, swimming, walking, and of course, writing. My book â€œWhy I Started a Small School: A nurturing, human scale, approach to education and parentingâ€ is due to be published by Matador on 27th March, 2013.