• Charli

Wellness Matters 30.07.2021


During my tenure as a teacher, and with an insatiable curiosity to understand how children develop, I taught at most stages from nursery to secondary S6, with a happy blend of additional support needs thrown into the colourful mix.

On each occasion I have stayed in the school just long enough to watch the young people progress and realise that we all become older versions of our younger selves. By that I mean that fundamentally very little changes in our perception of the world, but when put in the right environment and holistically nurtured, we can become better versions of our toddler self. Conversely if the environment is wrong or no longer suits our needs, the outcome can be challenging at the very least.

Metamorphosis in nature is exciting to watch, especially tadpoles to frogs and caterpillars to butterflies. Keen to provide a meaningful and enriching experience for our pupils, when I was a nursery teacher, I decided to buy a ‘butterfly kit’ .

We set up our lepidopterarium and followed the instructions carefully until eventually the tiny legs of a butterfly emerged from its chrysalis. And then stopped. No more of the body came out. We swiftly removed it from the tank so as not to alarm the children. The next butterfly did emerge but had a very damaged wing and was unable to manoeuvre itself towards the sugar water, and died. The 3rd butterfly to emerge was fully formed and we watched its red, black and gold wings flit around its butterfly home, resting occasionally and feeding on the sugar water.

We had arranged the nursery with insect related books and resources, and recounted the story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar at least once a day. We collected information and themed our snack around insects. Children at this early stage of learning are sometimes referred to as being like sponges, absorbing what is put in front of them, but give them an opportunity and they will enquire, participate and learn much more through action that passively.

We watched our little friend for a few days, took photos, drew pictures until it was time to release the butterfly into the wild. It was early spring, flowers hadn’t fully appeared, there was frost on the ground most mornings but according to our instructions, it was time to release our butterfly.

Worried but hopeful that it would find a sheltered spot and sufficient food, I opened the tank, the butterfly left and a sparrow swooped down and flew off with our precious insect in its beak. Honestly I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Neither, as it happened, I accepted that this was the circle of life.

We didn’t repeat that experiment again, but we did learn about seasonal change and made a point of looking for caterpillars in the natural environment outside and then studying butterflies in the garden, having planted buddleia.

Learning from our experiment continued and we would encourage pupils to observe and try to replicate colours and shape, with support and encouragement. Sadly, all too often, when parents arrived and were presented with these colourful, and sometimes imaginative offerings, they received no more than a cursory glance.

I think we can all be guilty of being too quick to give more than a passing glimpse into the efforts of children, family, colleagues and friends. But by enquiring, supporting and engaging with feedback we can all learn how to improve, develop and grow.

Many years later I came across this short video which illustrates the impact of peer support and development when we observe detail, open our hearts and minds to feedback and learn from each other.

Austin’s Butterfly.

I have been refining, re-working, editing, and revisiting my content with deep intention over the past few weeks to boost sales of my coaching service. It’s working: feedback is positive, enquiries have increased and I continue to learn and improve.

Growth will only properly occur if we are mindful, curious and position ourselves in a healthy environment.

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