I met a nine year old boy a few days ago, and like me, I asked him how school was that day and he replied that is was good. I went on to inquire if he had learned anything that day at school and he said that he had not.
The same boy came by the next day riding his bicycle and remembering what transpired the previous day, I thought that I would have a second go at finding out if he was serious about what he said to me the previous day. So, I called him to me and asked if he had been to school and he said that he had been. I again went on to ask if he had learned anything. He thought for a moment and said, “not much”.
Every child in Ontario schools has at least 6 hours of instructional time each day. When a child cannot say definitively that he has learned anything during that 6 hour period of time or that he has not learned much, we have a problem. How is it that in 6 hours, a child is not able to be engaged to the extent that he can learn something new or expand upon what was learned previously? How is it that a child can spend 6 hours in class, receiving instruction and at the end of the day cannot recall the instruction he received? How is it that a child can go to school and not be excited about the new information that he received that makes him more connected with increased knowledge about life and the world and how it works?
I have often asked children what they have learned at school and the answer is very typical to those I got from this boy whom I had met for the first time. Children seem not to remember what they were taught or that they weren’t taught much. If this is indeed true; if the answers this boy gave to me are true, it is safe to say that we had a problem; a big problem with schooling.
I have no intention of laying blame whatsoever. However, I believe that there is a need to look more closely at the way education is being done today. The ultimate goal should be to ensure that learning takes place. I know that many, if not all who are involved in schools will say that they believe that all children can learn. And if that is the case, everything should be done; indeed must be done to ensure that learning takes place and I believe that it can begin at the point of engaging every student. Begin at their point of need and with gentle tenderness move them along at a pace that ensures their personal progress.
I have not done anything scientific to arrive at what I am about to say. But, as I recall some of what I say going on in Classrooms when I was a school principal, I realized the scary fact that a child can spend 6 hours in a classroom and have less than 1 hour of real learning. If you look at all of the distractions, interruptions, and other factors that detract from the teaching and learning experience, what is found to be occurring within that 6 hours of classroom learning activities, would be alarmingly disheartening.
Every parent would do well to find out what occurs at school every day of a child’s life. It is not only important to know, it is necessary for the child’s well-being. And is is particularly necessary for children who learn differently. Whenever I speak to parents about education, I often encourage them to work at home with their children. If the story at the beginning is true, it is all the more necessary for parents to support learning at home.
Here are a few things that every parent can do:
-In conversation with your child, ask open-ended questions (the idea is to encourage children to think; remember that there are no right or wrong answer).
-Allow children choices (again, they will think and then choose; keeps the mind active).
-Encourage creativity (allow art, music and movement, dictation, retelling stories and creating new ones). On long trips my children and I did chain stories.
-Build language skills in as many areas of life as possible (through conversations with each other and adults, word games such as scrabble, reading stories by themselves and listening to stories read to them, learning nursery rhymes, singing, dramatic play, introduction of new words whenever possible and on various occasions, create a writing center at home with word cards and writing materials).