Wednesday, 5 October 2016

A new era in Education

Ever since starting my enrichment centre 3 months ago, the focus of my days have taken on a new dimension. Besides seeing to the needs of my kids, I'm immersing myself in rich research and surrounding myself with other people's children. Life couldn't be more enriching!

During our September holiday Astronaut camp, I was hanging around making sure everything ran smoothly. Even though I wasn't teaching them, the kids came up to me with comments and questions.

I was drawn in and became more and more involved, as it was impossible to resist these innocent faces and incessant questions, and found myself thoroughly enjoying being with them.

As an incidental discovery, I've found the answer to a contradiction which had baffled me for years. At every PTM, my daughters' teachers would tell me how well-behaved they are, what a delight it was to teach them, and all of them won model student awards.

Yet at home, they came nowhere close to this brilliant picture painted and the hubs and I concluded that they had the Dr Jekyll-Mr Hyde syndrome.

Now that I'm on the other end, I tell parents what a pleasure it was to have their child with us, how well-behaved and well-mannered they were, and the parents are surprised and divulge that such is not the case at home.

Ah! I'm concluding that children know how to be on their best behaviour in front of teachers they like. I had some of the P1 and P2 girls coming in half an hour before camp started because they wanted to see if there was anything we needed help with. Such sweet darlings. It is such a joy to teach other people's children! I'm one of those mums who find it impossible to teach my own kids. Tempers will flare and the relationship risks being ruined, so I don't even try anymore.
What's that machine?
When you have a bunch of riveted, absorbent minds watching you (notice how Kate is the only one not bothered with me) knowing that what you say and what you do will have a great impact on them, that knowledge and responsibility is at once astounding yet humbling.

Of all the sayings I've come across about teaching, this one struck me greatly.

"To teach is to stand on hallowed ground."

How sacred. We have the potential to mold hearts and minds.
Memory work
Children at every age present so much for us to marvel at. The pure emotions of the little ones, the wide eyes and the quick smiles. The inquisitive minds of the older kids and their desire to do their best. Facilitating them, encouraging them to work together, to go beyond their comfort zone, seeing them grow in a short span of a few days, there was a tangible reluctance all around when it was time to part.

Besides the holiday camp, Kate has been following me down to my centre and she enjoys the weekly classes. Although I wish our team could churn out curriculum fast enough to include #4 and #5, I'm glad that at least 1 of them gets to benefit from this whole new approach towards learning.

After 10 years of disappointment at our education system for being mostly concerned with teaching to the test (although now I understand the constrains), and believing that there must be more that can be done to impart real education to our children alongside content delivery, I am finally heartened to discover that there is a way, and we can bring that to a new generation of children.

In the process, I have been learning a lot (embracing life-long learning!), reading voraciously, and picking the brilliant minds around me. My dear partner, Michelle, never fails to inspire me with her passion and dedication towards the development of children, and her generosity of mind to share with us her special gift of deciphering every child's learning needs and identifying how gaps can be closed and potentials stretched, so that as a team, everyone grows along and becomes strengthened as educators.
Patterning activity
Our activities may look random, but each activity is backed by scientific research and careful thought has been put into designing it for the best learning outcomes, while disguising it as play as that is the form kids learn best.

Take for example this activity at last week's session, where Kate was developing her sequencing skills. It might look simple, but patterning and sequencing is such a critical skill. By encouraging kids to spot patterns, they can create and use patterns to make sense of the world where there is none; by providing order in chaos.

All about patterns. Patterns are one of the first ways we see predictability, hence allowing us to make educated guesses. In school, patterns are essential for Math (basic patterns), Science (life cycles), English (reading) and social relationships (cause and effect), to highlight simple examples.

Do you know that out of all mental skills, pattern recognition is said to have the highest correlation with general intelligence? Imagine that.

Ever wondered why IQ tests and the GEP tests are full of patterning questions?

Although patterning is taught in school, here it is taught as a skill, instead of being part of a subject.

Therein lies the difference. As such, our children understand that patterns exist in an infinite number of situations, vis a vis being exclusive to a particular subject. They also come to the realization that their actions can affect and impact patterns, and create or break them. Powerful realizations.

The problem in schools is that we teach too specifically, hence students are not able to apply theories across subjects and their knowledge does not expand past the classroom walls.

Mastering pattern recognition requires persistence and practice, and the younger the child starts, the better. Experts go so far as to predict that the younger the child is able to observe patterns in his environment, the stronger their future thinking skills will be. (I'm going to expect great things from Kate!)

Besides that, with each activity, not only are we developing the essential skills, we incorporate positive learning habits and encourage a growth mindset; core tenets of our approach. Kate's teacher noticed that whenever she is presented with a task which she found challenging, she would use avoidance tactics and ask to go to the toilet or ask for permission to look for me (what a convenient excuse).

Her teacher makes a conscientious effort to guide Kate to adopt a different approach to facing challenges, and by gradually building up her confidence and sense of achievement by small successes while praising her efforts, Kate will be on the path to a more positive learning attitude.
Analogies worksheet
When Kate moves on to K1 next year, she will work on analogies, which is more than just an advanced form of patterning.

What is analogical reasoning? Analogical reasoning is one of the quickest way we learn new concepts and make sense of things by comparing them to what we already know. It is a core cognitive skill that contributes to general fluid intelligence, creativity and adaptive learning capacities.

In fact, studies have proven that analogical reasoning is a significant predictor of mathematical reasoning. Thus we can think of these as the building blocks for a strong foundation in academic studies. More compellingly, analogical reasoning may help students become more innovative, adaptive and intelligent; qualities our children require to forge ahead in future.

I don't know if this fascinates you, but the fact that there are activities which can be done and approaches which can be applied to shape our children's brains and learning in such a powerful way, simply blows me away.

It is as though I have uncovered some hidden treasures that I have almost lost hope searching for. The more I am discovering, the more I want to delve deeper, and the journey is doubly exciting with a team of like-minded educators as we deconstruct findings and reflect on the processes.

Looking back on how my life has unfolded, there were times when I was in two minds about whether to go back to work as an occupational therapist or become a stay-at-home-mum and relatives talked about how my overseas education was 'wasted' as I stayed home to care for my 6 kids. Fortunately, my parents were 100% behind me and never once complained.

On hindsight, education is never 'wasted' and coupled with the experience and wisdom gained through my parenting journey, I am where I am today, and although never planned, it feels so right doing what I do, and everyday I am energised and ready to go! Life has turned out marvellously.

I have also had the opportunity to meet some of my readers and work with their children, and that has been wonderful as well.


More: Reviews of our holiday camp.


~ www.mummyweeblog.com - a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

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