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  • Anna Brix Thomsen

Why we as Parents Must take Active Part in our Children’s Education: DAY 58

In the last blog-post I wrote about a teaching situation with three boys. In the blog-post I wrote about who these three boys were very different in their ability to read and write and I mentioned an episode where one of the boys were writing faster than the others and how I tried to equalize the situation between them.

Afterwards I had a conversation with a friend about the blog-post who assisted me to realize how I had, in that moment where I thought I was equalizing a point of competition between the boys was actually becoming irritated.

What I saw was that I had become irritated because I wasn’t able to effectively accommodate the needs of all three boys. I felt like the one boy that was so good was overshadowing the other two and that it would make them feel worse about themselves, so I actually tried holding him back to let the other two feel better about themselves. Obviously it didn’t work and I see that this is something many teachers face, like the expression says: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

So, as teachers we are faced with these situations time and time again, where we have to teach students the exact same curriculum in the exact same time and it simply isn’t possible to accommodate everyone’s individual needs. And what is even more alarming is that I’m able to see this clearly because I only have three students in my class. So I see very evidently how I’m not able to accommodate all their needs. But for teachers who have 30 or 40 or 50 students in their class, all the individual children with their individual needs becomes a ‘blur’. And even if teachers wanted to give each individual student attention they wouldn’t have time to do it and furthermore, they’re required to teach a common curriculum that in no way leaves room for individual lesson-plans.

The thing is that each child as a natural ability to learnand an equal ability to learn – at least within the spectrum of ‘normalcy’ when it comes to neurological functions. But there are so many factors that can affect whether the child is able to develop these abilities or not, one of them being whether their individual needs are met in the school system.

When I then become irritated and within my self-defined role of being a teacher try to equalize the competition I perceive to be between the students, I’m actually inhibiting the ‘gifted’ student’s ability to learn. Because in that moment where he was writing – a first grade student already able to write sentences – he was simply expressing himself.  And I don’t even know if what I saw between the children was in fact competition. So I was relying on a very limited perception and understanding, which I see is even a problem for experienced teachers. Because even with hundreds of years of child psychology we still know very little about child development, let alone the dynamics between children and between children and teachers.

The bottom line is that every child has a natural ability to learn, but for that ability to come to fruition, we must as adults provide an environment that accommodates each child’s individual needs. And this simply isn’t possible in today’s education system.

So even if I am the best teacher in the world, I can’t possible provide children with such an environment. For example: in the situation I was in with the three boys, each of them had completely different needs for their individual ability to learn effectively could be nurtured. The boy that was more behind the others perhaps needed a one-to-one lesson (which, by the way: everyone does) in a slow and calm setting. The boy that was in front of the other two perhaps needed a lot more challenges than I was given them. Here I was also planning the lessons based on a standard perception of what it is children in the first grade need to learn. But because he can already read and write full sentences, obviously practicing letters won’t be interesting for him and thus he is more likely to be distracted and play around. In an optimal situation I would be able to focus completely on his needs and I would also be able to much more closely observe what exactly his needs were. But when my attention is divided between three children, it’s simply not possible to be completely Here with each child. With these three kids it has been easy to see the two extremes and in a way this is a very cool opportunity to highlight the ineffectiveness of our education system.

But what is perhaps even more profound to take note of is the child in the middle, the child that does good but not great, the child that is easy to be around, that accommodates the teacher. Because how many children are not out there? Children who aren’t noticed because they’re simply following the rules in an almost self-effacing manner? These children’s needs also aren’t met. But we do not notice because they behave, they integrate, they fade into the education system and the fact that they don’t learn to the best of their ability is often never discovered or it only becomes evident when something extreme happens in the child who has now become an adult’s life. And by then it is too late, because by then the individual is supposed to be responsible for themselves, they’re supposed to have completed their basic education so that they can function effectively in society. But when even ‘normal’ children aren’t educated to reach their full potential, we end up with an entire society of ineffectively educated citizens.

Now, in previous posts I’ve discussed how we must change the education system to more effectively meet the needs of each individual child. However it is also important to note that one-on-one education simply isn’t possible in the current education system. And it would take a massive process of restructuring the system, let alone educating thousands of new teachers. So what is the solution?

At the moment in most families the responsibility of educating the child is primarily given to the education system in one way or another. But what if we as parents got more involved with our children’s education? What if we ourselves had the opportunity to educate ourselves and thus our children to develop their natural ability to learn, at least as a supplement to regular schooling in order to make sure that no learning gaps are formed because of an ineffective education system. This is something that I would as a parent consider seriously – because although it seems like one’s child is doing fine, it actually might not be the case. I know that this certainly is not what any parent wants to hear. We want to trust and believe that the education system is working optimally to give our child the proper education that he or she needs. But as a teacher who spends my day in the school system I can say without a doubt that this is not so.

So let us get involved in our children’s education. Let’s not simply leave it up to chance and random events until it is too late to remediate the problems our children may face. Education is not to be taken for granted – because whatever we learn or don’t learn – will determine our lives and will shape ‘who’ we become.

I recommend reading the following blogs:

Natural Learning Abilities blog series – a MUST READ!

You are also welcome to view the videos on my YouTube channel here

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