Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Light At The End of the Tunnel?

You'd think that you'd see the light at the end of the tunnel that you are in if you keep walking it.

Entering the 5th month of school and I find myself still 'chasing' the students for the same thing - bad writing, mindless copying, untidy work... the list though is slightly shorter is still made up of the same thing.

I am still amazed that kids today have bad, no, let me rephrase, extremely bad handwriting. Makes me wonder whether they learned how to write at all. Read somewhere that the keyboard is slowly nudging handwriting out, making it obsolete. Today I found myself teaching a girl how to write her 'e' so that it doesn't make her words even more difficult to read. And I thought handwriting is something they work at in primary school. For those teaching in schools where compliance and a sense of responsibility among students is present, such problems are not common. But in normal day schools like mine, often it's hard to go beyond the kids' attitude. They are just not bothered!

When I think back of myself as a student, I was really compliant.... compared to my own students. Though my teachers used to complain of my squiggly writing, my work was generally neat and complete. Today, majority of my students hand in half completed work. And if I don't punish those recalcitrant ones, I'd end up with a big number not doing any work at all. If at all I give homework, I can count on at least a third not completing it, if I don't check it there and then in class.

Checking for work done these days involve flipping through individual exercise books cos some have learned the art of handing in empty exercise books. They expect to get away by the sheer presence of their exercise books in the pile of books! What I do these days is to immediately correct their books... and for it to be possible, I've had to tailor my lesson for the day to ensure that I have adequate time to go through each student's work. The students have 'wizened' up to the constant 'punishment' that I mete out instantly and quite a few prefer to do their work now, though completing them is still an issue. Who says punishment doesn't work? All those psychologists who keep saying that we need to engage them verbally only should go into the classrooms and teach!

I've given up trying to give them any homework for now because I find instant and immediate action much more effective. And if they can complete their work in class it's far better than them taking it home and not doing anything about it. And completing it also means that they can't feign forgetfulness of the previous lesson. I've learned that it's quite impossible to engage a student who does not want to assume responsibility or take pride in his work. But you still can get compliance if you are really strict with him cos the aversion for punishment will make him do his work. So, no matter how hard I try to make sure that I engage them, discipline and its enforcement is still necessary if not, a must. Kids when given a choice would choose the path of least resistance. Life is way too good for them and they don't feel that sense of hunger that seemed to spur us, the earlier gen, to do well. So if discipline becomes the path of least resistance (because of the more 'pain') they'll prefer to do their work than face the 'pain'.

One comforting thought though is that the people on the list is getting less... but those who remain there are totally hardcore! There's an old saying... spare the rod, spoil the child.... I think it still holds very true.

2 comments:

Thomas C B Chua said...

AJ 7, watch out ! Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel turns out to be an oncoming train !!! So, don't rush too fast. Take the bulls by the horns. You have so many more years to stretch yourself.Don't snap before your retirement.

AJ7 said...

One advice which I am taking... it's dawning on me that it's better to be 'lam-nua'. The whole system is crumbling under all the cosmetics.