Friday, March 25, 2011

Setting Boundaries

One of the things I do for my gal is to have lessons with her... well not everything since I am semi-illiterate where Mandarin is concerned. I used to follow her (learn Mandarin while teaching her) when she was in lower primary but work got in the way and I gave up. So, while I can read, I stumble more and more over characters not known. Time constraints have made it stressful to keep going back to the dictionary. One of the hazards of working moms. But I still have sit down lessons with her.

The thing is, because I don't set boundaries for her, she happily does whatever that comes her way. The results has been quite encouraging. She writes better than okay for her age... where English is concerned. And I throw in what she terms as fun stuff... anagrams, poetry, puzzles, word games. She used to be wary of puzzles (word and logic) probably because this is something they don't do at school. But after getting a hang of it, they often clamor for more. Occasionally, I'd email short stories for them to read on their IPads.... I tell them we're going green, cut down on paper wastage. The kids all have IPads... so I turn that into a novelty for learning, for now.

I've learned this too... given the right 'support' from parents (and teachers), we can often move or set boundaries where kids learning are concerned. We can tickle their brains, prod it and set forth more creativity or fill them with just facts, just for passing exams...

I've learned too from the experience with my boy, most stuff they learn.... they forget soon after the exam is over. So if we fail to work on the attitude and instill a love for learning for themselves, we will fail to inculcate lifelong learning for them and miss the opportunity to set them on a path to continually better themselves. We've got to teach them that there is a world out there that we must try to understand because it's supposed to make us more humble when we begin to understand how small we actually are. That unfortunately has gotten lost in the myriad of results that we chase these days. We set our boundaries for them and limit their potentials.

At schools, we teach them to write. And they write beautiful and flawless essays from memory. Ask them to write something original. They tell you they don't know where to begin. For continuous essay writing (one title or a phrase is given) in SPM, majority of the students will only write descriptive or narrative essays. There was one year when I made my students memorize a few types of situations for descriptive and narrative writing - a person, a scary experience, a trip, a happy occasion - and I made sure I taught them how to modify the beginning and the ending. I even had one student score an A2 for her English! She cannot speak or write well... but even for language, memorizing helps. Continuous Writing makes up a big part of the overall marks. So, it is not uncommon to have students score A+ (under the current grading system) in English but still not be able to write or articulate their thoughts well. We've all fine tuned our memorizing abilities down to the dot! And it works super well. Again we set our boundaries.

Other Half suggests that I take out the old exam papers from our time for the kids to do... I told him we don't have to look far. Just take our neighbour-down-south's Primary Six exercises for comparison. Even my Form 5 students won't be able to handle them well. The vocabulary is just way beyond them.

Kids learn Geography and History. But they have mostly local content. I think learning about the savannah, prairie, tundra helps us have a better idea of our world. I think learning about Hitler, Mao Tse-tung or even Napolean Bonarparte helps understand our world, of how we can learn from past mistakes. But what do we do? We build our own tempurung (coconut shell) and poke a few holes in the shell to allow some view outside.... limited learning which limits our world. Boundaries...

But unfortunately, in the end, it's still the A(s) that matters.... Boundaries!


AuntyKambing said...

gee... i feel so stupid cos i dint get any As in my A-levels

AJ7 said...

PP: You where got stupid... Tabik you for your chim-ness in your literary skills. 8) Today's world is all A(s).. but when many of these go out.... they start from scratch, sometimes worse than scratch.

PreciousPearl said...

i think if i'd relied on my literary "talent" to earn a living i would have starved to death long long ago :-D


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