Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Slippers in school!

I recently read an article by the BBC about slippers in school and the benefits they have on learning...
you can read it  here

Living and working in Sweden taking shoes off in schools is the norm... in fact it is rare to have schools where shoes are kept on... especially in the younger years...

Never once has it been explained to me that it would improve learning... it was always about the cleaning bill... and noise... which yes can affect learning to some extent.

Working with preschoolers I am on the floor a great deal... so a no shoe policy is great... it keeps the floor cleaner, the work surface... in much the same way you would not want shoes on the table. It also means that if your fingers get stepped on in the construction area, or any area of the preschool, they are not getting crushed by the hard soles of shoes.

The following points were lifted in the text as benefits:-
  • Children seem to behave gentler and bullying is reduced
  • Noise is reduced
  • It's more hygienic - carpets are cleaner and reduced wear and tear on furniture.
  • Children are more willing to sit on floors and soft furnishings creating more space for collaboration, presentation, role play
  • Teachers do not end up in conflict about the "right kind" of shoes

When I look for Swedish sources about slippers to see if the same benefits can be found here in Sweden, the noise and cleanliness can be easily found.
I found one text about bullying and better behaviour, BUT the article was also very clear to explain that the slippers were not the direct cause of this but all the other actions the school and teachers had put into place of which slipper wearing was a small part...

I have observed quite a few schools during my 20 something years of living in Sweden... and I would never have put together the fact that wearing slippers help children behave better... in fact if that IS the case I have some serious concerns about children and youth in Sweden... what would their behaviour be like if they were wearing shoes instead? The noise and social interactions in classrooms and between lessons is not subdued or calmer than that of British schools... in fact I would say that classrooms are noisier here than the classrooms I have observed in UK etc.
The children in the majority of classrooms I have observed in Stockholm, and worked in/with have a large number of children that constantly talk and disregard what the teacher is saying... there is a constant noise - hardly the calmness for learning... not that it should be deathly quiet... but maybe their should be pauses in the chattering in order to listen... not only to the teachers but also the other children in the class. Not one of them is wearing shoes. Not one of them thinks that not wearing shoes makes the school more homely.

Surely if there is competition about the right kind of shoes there will be the same developing about the right kind of slippers... what are in and what are not... unless there is a school uniform on slippers... of course here in Sweden there are no uniforms whatsoever... so is that the cause of bullying? I hardly think it is the cause... I am sure that situations can arise... but it is not the freedom to wear what you want or what you can afford, or the difference between shoes and slippers that is going to reduce the bullying... it is how children learn to listen and respect each other... and also how the adults learn to listen and respect the children, and each other too... the dialogue between school and home in order to see the whole child and to support them in their learning journey... social and cognitive...

Not once I have I felt that schools are calmer in Sweden due to the lack of outdoor shoes...
I do appreciate the fact that there are no puddles in the classroom/preschool - as melting snow leaves the footwear that is designed for minus degrees... I mean who WANTS to spend an entire day with big chunky boots on that are designed for minus degrees when they are indoors... feet will get too hot, the body will not be able to get comfortable... and those winter boots get put on in October and usually come off in late March if you are lucky, usually sometime in April.... that is 6-7 months of the year with footwear that is not designed for warm indoor environments... so of course slippers or sock feet are much better...
The downside being during a fire drill, or real fire... having to leave the warmth of the school and line up outside in the meeting places in nothing but slippers (or sock feet) in the well below freezing conditions!! Its cold! I have seen children cry from the cold... and real fire escapes means you can't stop by to put on their boots on the way out... Luckily fire drills etc seldom happen.

I know for a fact that some children get bullied by having their outdoor shoes taken and dumped in the middle of the playground... my own son has had that happen to him (plus a series of other bullying behaviours directed towards him... he no longer attends that school, as the school, despite not wearing outdoor shoes were not capable of curbing the behaviour towards my son... for a week or so at a time, but not real genuine solving of the social situation).
My daughters have told me about the behaviours of the older children in schools... of the fights that happened on the corridors, the body shaming, the stereotypical name calling - all by children without shoes...

Wearing slippers is NOT the answer... but it can be a small part of making life softer... the REAL work comes in the interactions between the people... the children and the adults. Id making the choice to wear slippers part of the dialogue between colleagues where they are reflecting on the children and their communication with their environment, with their peers and with the teachers? or is it just a decision that is made... slippers =better behaviour=better learning?


Nope, I struggle with the whole reduced bullying and conflicts... its not what i have seen... it does reduce the noise of shoes in the classroom, but not the noise of desks, chairs, and voices... I also think that the preschool is kept cleaner... which makes play much more pleasant when it is on the floor... and also the economics of it... less time, less money, and also less wear and tear.

The cloakroom, where the is a shoe line... no outdoor shoes after this point. Children put their outdoor shoes on the rack under their peg/cubbie. Parents take off their shoes or put on shoe covers before bringing their child in... teachers take off their outdoor shoes and put on their slipper too! Here the floor gets wet and dirty so we have the tools to sweep or dry the messes during the day. The big silver/white cupboard to the left is the drying cupboards... essential to dry off wet outdoor clothes and sometimes waterlogged boots and shoes.

2 comments:

  1. Suzanne. I HONOUR how you don't take everything at face value. I too read the article about the benefits of wearing slippers in the preschool and lots of the points made sense. I got stuck on the policies in Ontario, shoes MUST be worn indoors at all times as a safety precaution for stepping on whatever, stubbing toes .... In some centres children also sleep in their shoes .... Can you imagine how uncomfortable that must be after strenuous play and sweaty feet? Heavens, in Ontario children would not survive if they had to go outdoors in the winter in sock feet! Hmmmmm, they do in Sweden with similar climatic conditions. The selling point for me is that the floors stay cleaner so we can really play! (In Ontario, in the infant room (for children up to 18 months) there is a no outdoors shoes policy for families, educators, visitors "because the infants are always playing on the floor". Heavens, what message does that project????

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    Replies
    1. that word MUST... it is a strange one... why MUST they be worn... is it because of fire safety and getting them outside?
      I think sleeping in shoes is completely ridiculous, and must be so uncomfortable... but there again some of the sleeping positions young children have look uncomfortable to me too! LOL

      yes it is about keeping the place cleaner and more play friendly, it is about not trampling on toes during play... which I have seen, when children have worn hard soled shoes instead of slippers... so it can't be any old indoor show, they need to be soft soled...

      yes I have had to take children out mid winter in sock feet, and yes it was awful and it was cold and they complained... but we did not have jackets or anything... but if it is a fire... and the alarm had gone off (on practice days they had their shoes etc on ready) you don't wait to see if there is time to put on shoes, you get the children out to safety... mind you after that the children worse slippers...
      most children prefer to be sock foot or barefoot in their play... and I can understand that, and see benefits in that too... picking up stuff with their feet... its a whole sensory thing going on there every day and not just for special events...

      BUT the article was mostly about schools... for children 7 and up... and my soon to be 13 yr old still goes sock feet in school as do all his classmates... slippers are not cool... but I guess one fire drill where they all have to go out in sock feet will soon change their mind...

      and since the fire department are usually there pretty fast I assume blankets and a place to be is quickly organised so that feet don't get too cold and damaged...

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