On the 28th March I had the great honour of speaking at the House of Lords on behalf of Loving Classroom. It was a pleasure to be welcomed by Lord Andrew Stone, a peer who has advocated for mindfulness training in politics and indeed in schools and workplaces.
It was a pleasure to stand with our international team and explain the work we do and our vision for a changed society. Here is my contribution to the day’s presentation:
Thank you for taking the time to listen to us.
My name is Gemma Perkins and I’m a passionate educator and entrepreneur. After getting my first class degree in psychology I went on to do teacher training – A PGCE in primary education. I worked in primary schools for 18 months before leaving full time teaching. But I left with a purpose.
I saw a lot of things in education that I wasn’t happy with – and I was in one of the better schools. I saw young people who were unable to share, pay attention and recognise the importance of school. Students who were taken out of subjects like PSHE, music, art and PE lessons because 4 hours of maths a week wasn’t enough to bring them to the national average. I saw teachers dealing with unreasonable workloads. More than anything it felt like people were treated like statistics and not human beings.
This is a result of our current political attitudes to education which I’m sure is something we could get into a long discussion about.
Aside from teaching I had spent 8 years volunteering in something that I truly believed in. A youth leadership programme which teaches students skills that just aren’t paid full attention to in schools. Things like self motivation, team dynamics, active listening and setting effective goals. These are soft skills that anyone – adults and children alike, need to learn to be effective in their daily lives.
I started my own business delivering these skills to young people in order to plug a skills gap that I frequently see in young people. I thought I was being very clever going back a step to cater to soft skills. But then I had the pleasure of meeting David and finding out that he had stepped back even further.
So many people are unable to access their learning, reach their full potential or find a sense of personal peace because they are struggling with dysfunctional or challenging relationships. How can you focus on studying effectively for GCSEs when there is so much peer pressure weighing you down? How can you be productive in a work team if your self esteem is underdeveloped?
I believe that relationship education should be the foundation of our education system. Humans are social creatures and if we teach our young people how to be integrated, harmonious and above all, happy individuals then that will prepare them for learning skills and acquiring knowledge down the line.
We cannot assume that young people will pick these skills up at home or on the playground. The skills of respect, compassion, listening, kindness, gratitude, love, care and friendship need to be deliberately taught like any other curriculum subject to ensure that each and every child has a sturdy foundation for all future relationships – working or personal.
Teachers are the best resource in the world for creating change. They are our everyday role models, our leaders. Having a community of educators who are proficient in emotional intelligence will benefit them, each young person they interact with and eventually society.
Many people I speak to are unwilling to allocate money for training because they are caught up in short term thinking about budget cuts. I ask you to quietly reflect on this. How much does it cost a country when young people have challenging social relationships? Poor educational outcomes? When members of society with the poorest social skills and life satisfaction turn to dysfunctional coping mechanisms like crime, drug abuse, delinquency. How much does it cost society, both emotionally and financially, when someone turns to violence as a way to be heard?
All of these negative outcomes come with a long term cost to society which is damaging but preventable. Emotional intelligence combined with a happy and healthy social life can protect from much of these issues and this is why it is critical that as a society we have the foresight to invest in high quality relationship education.
I am thoroughly excited to be involved in a project that could change the culture of education in the UK and worldwide. I picture a world where the focus in schools is on well rounded young people who have rich and full personal relationships, a better sense of self, a confidence that they have a place within the humanity being and a drive to do something – no matter how big or small – to support their fellows in society. If, like me, you can see the value in this kind of future for young people then I hope you will find a way to support what we are doing at Loving Classroom.
The Loving Classroom team preparing to speak in the house. From Left to right:
David Geffen - Founder of Loving Classroom
Lord Andrew Stone - Gracious host for the day
Naomi Geffen - Cofounder, editor and Love Engineer
Issa Jabber - Mayor of Abu Gosh, Israel
Gemma Perkins - Loving Classroom UK
Thulani Makhoba - Loving Classroom South Africa
Avihai Osadon - Loving Classroom Israel
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