Aug 14, 2009

Teach out Imagination

Attended Matilda's 'Three Way Conversation' last night (oldies like me remember it as 'parent/teacher' night, but the new title appears to include the student).

Matilda has loved school and more importantly, her teachers. She worked hard to please them. This year has been different. In a large class with several classroom management problems (disruptive and argumentative students), Matilda feels lost and is intimidated by her 'no-nonsense' teacher. Matilda feels she is not getting any praise and this is disheartening for her as it is what motivates her (a sense of responsibility for her own education does not).

It seems this year Matilda has not been completing her work in an acceptable amount of time and as a result has many worksheets half finished in her desk. The pile up of unfinished work starts to stress Matilda as it builds up. It is a visual reminder constantly that she has a lot left to do and is not keeping up with other students.

The teacher advised Matilda that she needs to work quickly, I suggested that faster is not always better (thank you Tovani for that advice in Do I Really Have to Teach Reading?). The teacher advised that Matilda's problem is that she constantly stops working to day-dream. I should have been disappointed, I should have scowled. But I didn't. Matilda's favourite activity is writing short stories, and she is good at it. I felt a rush of pride (my little girl is just like me!).

I asked if she enjoyed the worksheets and she said they were boring. Problem 1 - the work is not engaging.

I then asked the teacher what do the kids get to do after they finish a worksheet. The answer? Another one. Seriously. I asked if the kids couldn't get to do something like read, draw or write stories. The teacher quickly realised what I meant and said that the kids could take up something fun once they completed all the necessary work. A compromise was established where Matilda will have a list created of her work for that day and she can tick off her progress (she loves ticking off lists).

Matilda was also advised that this is year 3 and she is old enough to ask questions when she needs help.

Another teacher told me that the Primary students have to realise they will soon be in High School and have to be prepared. High School teachers talk about students needing to be prepared for work. If kids are always preparing for the next step how can they focus on the one they are currently up to?

So for my fellow students wishing to teach next year, lets remember to make our work engaging (yes kids can have fun and learn at the same time!), lets include motivation and not judge a students abilities based solely on speed.

And furthermore... Go Matilda! Keep on day-dreaming - lots of great story plots in the making!

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