“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” ― Malcolm X
How do we bring Singapore beyond the next fifty years? We all know the answer. As cliched as it may sound, our children are our future. In order to thrive, our children will not only have to acquire knowledge for acing exams. Beyond that, they have to attain wisdom and develop a set of core values and critical thinking skills which will help them make sense of this VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world. Who would be the ones facilitating this process?
Parents and teachers.
In any school or institution, no matter how well researched and well-crafted a school’s curriculum is, the effectiveness lies in the lesson delivery. Specifically, the teacher’s competence, sensitivity and ability to inspire.
Observing Dana’s recent TLL English lesson, I noticed that the lesson didn’t’ start when the child enters the classroom. Instead, the relationship building began first. The teacher commenced by talking to the kids about their day, what they like, their hair accessories, their school, what they did during the recent National Day long weekend etc…Basically, the teacher showed interest in the children’s world and built bridges into their lives. In doing so, she has made a tangible connection with her students, fertilizing the ground for real learning to take place. As a famous adage goes, “children don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”.
The teacher then began lesson proper by using prompts and key words to jolt the students’ memory of what they have learnt in the previous lesson. She elicited spontaneous responses from them, not just coaxing them to regurgitate answers in haste. She was patiently waiting for students to recall what they have learnt and encouraged them to share. When they did, the teacher acknowledged them and wrote the answers on the white board – how affirmed the students must have felt!
During the course of this exercise, the teacher was not pushy. In fact, she had noticed a quiet boy in the corner. He was from a make-up class but yet the teacher involved him even though the other students were clamoring to answer due to their familiarity with each other. On this note, I must commend the teachers’ ability to manage the behavior from the 7 other eager hands as she encouraged the quiet boy to respond while keeping the objective of the lesson in focus. It pays too that the teacher knows each of the students by name.
“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” ― Socrates
The teacher had selected her resources well: She had chosen to use pets and animals – topics that evoke realism and authenticity, to teach practical skills required in completing cloze passages. True to TLL’s mission in helping students thrive, the teacher had chosen passages from an award-winning children’s literary writer to stretch the students’ contextual and linguistic knowledge further. She showed them the book, discussed its author and synopsis to ignite their interest towards something far greater than just the immediate task of completing the cloze passages. She employed a combination of teaching strategies including visual stimulus (use of pictures and videos), auditory stimulus (read aloud) and tactile stimulus (browsing the books, hands-on activities). In short, she was well cognizant of her students’ learning styles and was able to leverage on her resources for effective teaching.
To help students apply and build confidence, the teacher had used a particular framework to structure the students’ thinking as they attempted the cloze passage. As she went through the examples from the book, she encouraged, probed and lightly cajoled students to rely on inference, deduction and application of the framework. The teacher would not settle for just simple straight forward answers but patiently, using a mixture of clues, prompts and praises (we all work better when we are assured!) encouraged the students one by one to try until they finally derived at the most suitable answer – which was an idiom that the teacher had taught from a previous lesson. Even I learnt something!
Very quickly, my 40 minutes’ observation is up. The highly engaging lesson had just breezed by with all 8 students present that day (yes small class size does matter!). This adult here not only was intrigued by the content of the lesson and the book but also transfixed by the well-paced, well-planned and importantly, well-taught student centric lesson. The teacher came across more like a caring mentor, genuinely guiding students to fall in love with the subject than an authoritative dismissive classroom teacher whose focus was to execute the lesson plan and be done with it. This in itself makes learning more attractive. Throughout the entire 40 minutes, vibrant and active learning was taking place and everyone, including the active 7 year-old boys, was fully on task, fully engaged and meaningfully occupied.
At the end of the lesson, as usual, I had to wait for quite awhile before my daughter came out. This time, she had a book in her hand. She had made a ‘quick’ pit stop at TLL’s own in-house to loan the same book that was shared by the teacher in class. This time, instead of chiding her for letting me wait – it is after all dinner time, I had remarked about the book being the same interesting one which the teacher just shared.
She replied, “Yes! I want to finish reading about how this person went to Africa and helped animals who are injured and protect them! Maybe I can be a vet one day!”
I smiled, held her small hands and replied, “That would be good. Why not? Go for it!”
“The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.” ― C.S. Lewis
Disclaimer: This post is brought to you by The Learning Lab. All experiences and opinions expressed here are authentic. All photos are our own.