From: Neil Sills
To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Subject: Class Repetition
I found this thread quite interesting. Both my wife and I are teachers, I in the Arts (English, History, Modern Languages, Art) and my wife, Felina, in the Sciences (Maths, Statistics, Biology, Physics).We both teach at Tertiary level, but also have taught at infant, primary and Secondary levels. We are reasonably radical concerning the education process, and firmly believe that no child should be given abstract principles to learn before the age of roughly seven. Before this time it is a world of imagination, a Kingdom of Childhood. To this end, when our children were small, we didn't even read to them. We ourselves, read the stories and then retold them orally to our children. At the time they were around 7, they were really ready to read. Books play an important part in our life, and they wanted to imitate us. Furthermore, as colour and shapes are so important to children at an early age, art was a significant factor in their pre 7 education. Our kids, along with other kids in the school of around the same age who were going through the same process, learned to read to the level required by the State, within 1 term. It was the same with Maths. However there was one small departure here from the general didactic process in teaching early maths, and that was we started from the whole, and then moved to the parts. So the equation was not 3x4=?, but 12=3x? This gave children an idea that there is a unity of things made of smaller parts, rather than vice versa. Though this may be seen as a moot point, it encourages children to view the whole (in all aspects of life) and then see the detail. This is training the mind, not just learning arithmetic. Another curious incident occurred in the mathematical education of my elder daughter. She was having the "Maths block" at around age 11. She was getting particularly upset about this, and was using the "I can't do maths" negative reinforcement on herself. However, her teacher of the time said to her [and he was a perceptive man!]"Anyone who can crochet as well as you, doesn't need to worry about maths!" She came home very happy about that, and over the next two weeks just ignored maths altogether. She then took a little interest and started asking Felina about this little maths problem, and that little maths problem, and the next thing we know, she has completed her grade of maths, and was spending her lunchtimes (voluntarily) doing maths problems from the next year level, which she completed, and moved on to High School maths...within the space of one term, and all on her own! However, she remained in the same age group class, and in the spirit of the schooling we adhere to, helped other kids. My children are intelligent, but are not "gifted". (Except maybe in art). Their education is integrated...so art, mathematics, English, German, Science are all taught as one. There are no lines of distinction. This form of education, of course, meets a lot of resistance from teachers in the mainstream, as class preparation is extremely arduous. The kids are not taught ad hoc, but in very carefully structured lessons, with a specific didactic goal. In this instance, it is not the methodology that is really being questioned, but the effort the teacher has to make. In our school, the basic structure is Kindergarten ( always a separate area) up to about age 7. Primary school, 7-12 (Here the students have the same teacher for 6 years, and s/he really knows the students) and High School 12-18. Here the kids do diversify, and have some different specialist teachers, but still a "mentor" teacher, who stays with them throughout their High School years... At year 12 (around age 18) children do the matriculation examination, which is a State run exam for entrance to University. This school is the only school which to my knowledge, accepts the internal assessment of the students for them to receive entrance to any faculty of any university. For our kids, this examination is optional. I think this recognition of an alternative system of education by the government and the tertiary institutions speaks for itself. Both my kids are in Unversity now, the eldest (the one with the maths problem!!??) is doing architecture/engineering, and the other is doing law.
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