Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today.
by Julia Hanschell
It’s funny how thoughts collide. This has been that kind of week for me.
I read an article about how difficult learning is now in some parts of the world for students who have no access to internet and intermittent teaching available.
The global concern is that we are facing the likelihood of losing a generation.
I also re-watched a splendid movie, Under the Tuscan Sun, which had a memorable conversation.
The heroine of the story was leading a displaced, post-divorce life and was kindly told by a friend, “They say they built the train tracks over the Alps, between Vienna and Venice, before there was a train that could make the trip. They built it anyway. They knew one day the train would come.”
There is no doubt that we are all feeling displaced right now, caught in a seemingly endless cycle of hope, anger, apathy, gratitude, disbelief, resentment, longing and fear.
However hard it may be for some of us to cope, at some point we will need to stop grieving the loss of the lives we have enjoyed and start laying the tracks for a train that will one day make the trip.
On an educational level, the prospect of losing a generation is unacceptable.
Right now we need to ensure our children focus on building tracks for the train of their ‘new learning’ that is inevitable.
I think we can agree our children are currently being taught in an irrelevant way: remember, regurgitate, recite.
What is obviously missing are the skills of exploration, research, evaluation, analysis, synthesis, debate, collaboration and communication.
Ironically, these are the focus of the School Based Assessments (SBAs). Yet SBAs create more frustration than genuine success.
With reduced contact teaching, independent learning by students and more parental involvement required, parents have the opportunity to guide their children in developing these skills.
It won’t be easy as it is spectacularly unfamiliar territory. No, it is not fair on parents, but we are in a ‘no-choice’ zone.
The truth is, our children are accustomed to being fed information, rather than searching for it.
Then they expect to be told what to think, and are not helped to learn how to think. With thinking comes questions, linking information and making connections.
Communicating thoughts in writing is the most complex skill of all which takes persistence and practice, made technically easier (I hate to tell you) through extensive reading.
Now, in this social lull, is the best time to lay tracks. Plan to lay a ‘sleeper’ each day.
So what do these look like?
The first ‘sleeper’ of the ‘tracks’ is that of reading with a level of fluency that enables comprehension and inspires critical thinking.
Parents, your first objective is to get your child reading quality material. Fact or fiction; genre is irrelevant.
If the physical act of reading, involving automatic phonological decoding is difficult, have your child listen to audio books; just get as much information, of varying kinds, into their heads as possible.
This first step is a giant leap. Habits take twenty-one days to establish, so this will take uncomfortable perseverance, not to mention curtailment of more attractive and familiar means of entertainment.
You cannot measure the value of reading. Ensuring it happens is entirely in parents’ hands.
‘Sleeper’ No.2, is conversation with your children. Talk to them about the facts of current events in the news and ask how these relate to their lives.
Encourage their opinions. Even venture into the realm of conspiracy theories and ‘fake news’.
They will find thinking difficult and global events unfamiliar, but ply them with questions because you want to inspire logical debate.
You need to help them analyse and communicate in as complex language as possible. If they use limited sentences, help them expand them.
‘Sleeper’ No. 3. Suggest research with which to discuss any topic more fully. Have your child ‘look it up’ and start to discern.
You need to drive them to the internet they have embraced for distraction and use it as an instrument for evaluation.
If you can wake them up to seeing how global events will affect their lives, you just may motivate your child to find out how. Remember children are self-focused and often enjoy proving their parents wrong.
‘Sleeper’ by ‘sleeper’ you will lay the track, preparing your child for the type of education that must soon surpass their current learning method.
Be in no doubt that YOU must transform YOUR child’s apathy into curiosity. Even if teachers cast aside old practices and ignore the pressures of huge syllabi, they have dozens of students; parents don’t. Who has the most power?
With that power, comes investment. You can expect resentment. Be fearless; you have a track to build and that track is your child’s life.
Bette Davis said, “If you have never been hated by your child, you have never been a parent.”
YOU are your child’s greatest resource. YOU control home activities. The old days may return in some form but not as they were before.
So, consider our current educational dilemma, a golden opportunity.
Julia Hanschell can be contacted on smartstudying @gmail.com.