Today I noticed that the students at Troqueer Primary School are allowed to go outside by themselves without a teacher. They are also very independent when transitioning from class to class and eating in the lunch room. Children are allowed to sit wherever they want at lunch and they know when they need to leave based on their bell schedule. There is no need for teachers to escort them out of the lunch room because they know exactly when it is time for them to leave, and they do this without being told by an adult. They also know exactly how to throw away their trash after lunch and how to organize their waste based on recyclables, general waste, and food that should go in the compost.
This was very shocking to me. The level of independence given to these young children is unheard of in the States. However, after Martin (the school’s Head Teacher) explained to me the concept behind this idea, I rethought this issue. In the U.S., safety is the major concern when giving children strict rules and boundaries. Teachers are afraid of liability concerns, and this allows little room for freedom in U.S. schools. However, at Troqueer they believe that the children should learn to take risks and problem solve on their own and only report to the teachers for guidance. I think this establishes a great deal of trust between the adults and children which will make the children feel more confident in their abilities to do things on their own. This is a strategy that I think would be very interesting to study for long-term effects on the child’s life skills and learning abilities.