Lost Learning Time

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The other night, my daughter came to me with four books in her hands and asked if she could read them to me. It was 7:30pm, just before her bed time and she had to get up early for school the next morning; therefore, I had to say no in order for her to get her much needed sleep. I had to say NO to my little girl learning; I had to say NO to the ‘baby’ of the class, the one ‘who won’t catch up’ with some of her peers due to her age; I had to say NO to the young school girl who wants to read, the one who ‘isn’t quite where she needs to be’, so that she could go to bed & get some sleep ready for the next school day...

The next school day where she will be given an allocated reading slot, where her reading will be informally assessed, most likely not with her teacher and at a time when she isn’t focused but instead is still thinking about the math class she just had or wondering what’s for lunch; in an environment where there are constant distractions, not just for the reader but for the listener also; distractions from the daily hustle and bustle of the school; distractions from the few children that don’t want to learn and whom can be destructive; background noise and other teachers politely interrupting to ask the TA that’s with her something that cannot wait 5 minutes...

Don't get me wrong reading is something that happens ALL the time naturally - cereal boxes, road signs, magazines, sub-titles on films and so on, so her skills are always being developed, but this type of reading is a far cry from losing yourself in a book, albeit the riveting tales of Biff & Chip that 6 year olds read!

Was the fact I told my daughter she couldn’t read to me when it was beautifully quiet at home, when she was focused and raring to go, when it was a ‘want’ not a ‘requirement’ and when she was in the right mindset, a learning opportunity missed or was getting her off to bed ready for school the next day the right thing to do?

I LOVE education and love watching children learn and grow but I cannot help but think we are getting it wrong in schools. There are without doubt fantastic schools and even better teachers but I feel the education system has started failing our children. (I say ‘started’ loosely as I feel this is a huge ongoing problem that stems back to my grandparents days as pupils in the mainstream system, when the Butler Act was in play, along with the tripartite system which had an aim to provide parity of esteem (Holborn, 2008) except there’s evidence to suggest the aim wasn’t met, but I digress)!

During my time volunteering in a local school I was given the opportunity to mark the pupil’s spellings. I should point out I was only there 1 day a week and was there the same day each week. However, being given this opportunity was a huge eye opener for me. There were many children who were not getting full marks - 15/15 not even 10/15 so I started to question why…

Each week the pupils, aged 7/8, are given an A4 sheet of paper with 15 spellings down the left and five columns to the right which they are to practise and complete at home. Then there is a spellings test every Thursday. These spellings are marked and the next lot handed out.

It was whilst marking books, I realised that on the day I was volunteering there had been minimal work and focus on spellings during class time, which led me to wonder if the children had the chance to revisit the more difficult words that they got wrong – I was told “no; there is not enough time to keep going back there are too many words they have to learn by the year”. My problem with this is that they are not learning. They were not even being told which words they had got wrong – just that they had got 6/10 for example. Sure there are TA’s who work with those who are ‘behind’ but the focus seemed to be on the statistic not the learning for the child.

See, this for me is not the fault of the teachers’ it’s what is expected of them that is the issue, because of this the children are expected at ages as young as 4 to do homework. Which brings me back to my first point; they are exhausted after school, they just want to relax and why shouldn’t they. Then when they have de-stressed, are in the comfort of their own home, are in peaceful mindset and wanting to learn again, its bedtime…therefore passing up valuable learning time.

What the answer is I am not sure so for now may the cycle continue…

(Holborn, 2008. Sociology Themes & Perspectives - 7th Edition. 7 ed. s.l.:Harper Collins.)

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