Mr. Anwar said there were three teachers at the School of Peace, including myself. I met the superhuman Zu on day one. Today I met Karina. A young Malaysian woman, she teaches the three days I’m not there. She says the kids don’t respect her and she has to lecture them to respect their teachers. She grows angry and they get to her. She’s young, she doesn’t get it yet that respect must be commanded, and if that doesn’t work, earned. She said the previous teacher used to smack the kids hands with a ruler when they misbehaved. We both agree we don’t want to do that. She asked how I punish them.
Luckily for me, a very generous soul on the Mr. Money Mustache forums, who goes by the user name iPep, gave me oodles of advice on teaching kids these ages. I adopted some of her suggestions and came up with this. I trace my hand in the corner of the white board. When anyone breaks the rules (that we as a class came up with – mainly being quiet and not hitting), I mark a finger. Once every finger has a mark, I say ‘wah wah wah’ in descending tones. Then we stop the game or activity and I have them write in their notebooks. Today it was “I will keep quiet when the teacher is speaking.” They wrote that ten times. Ha ha. The second time around, they began shushing each other to avoid that again. Still, they got the five fingers and had to write. Looking back, I’m quite impressed with the fact that they didn’t hit each other nearly as much as last week. Huh! I need to complement them on it.
So, I’m going to send Karina my lessons and the class rules and the technique for handling the class when rules are broken. It seems to me that when there’s an understood course of action for rule-breaking, there’s no need to get angry or emotional. I get to be cool-headed, matter of fact. I think that makes for a safe learning environment for everyone.
Today I learned that the third teacher, Zu, is paid. Thank goodness – she’s here everyday, she clearly knows what she’s doing, and she does it all with a ten month old baby on her hip. Wow.
In many ways the children at the School of Peace are very similar to my son. In others, they couldn’t be more different.
Despite my best intentions, I feel I’ve failed to instill a love of learning in my son. When it’s time to do homework, Khan Academy, Latin or music, he complains. He regards thes activities as chores. Not so with the students in the School of Peace.
As I write on the board, the children copy down the words before I have a chance to tell them to copy it down. My son would NEVER take that initiative.
Even during the five finger ‘punishment’, the class writes with little prodding. No complaints. No dragging the exercise out. When done, they call to me excitedly, “teacher – teacher!” They expect me to evaluate their work using a colorful pen. “Well done!” or “Super Effort!” They love it! ( And this is punishment!?!?) My son couldn’t care less what I wrote on his work.
The kids are super competitive. We played a word game pitting four teams against each other.
Driving home today it occurred to me that my son is likely reflecting my projections.
In this early retirement, I’m not pursuing my own love of learning and writing to the level I expect of myself. With all of this ‘free’ time, I should have no problem writing for six hours a day, right? Yeah, right.
To be honest, some days I don’t write at all. The dark playground distracts me and holds me hostage. I look at my son and see he’s not doing the kind of work he needs to be doing.* In his down time he doesn’t read or study volcanoes, he watches Dan TDM videos on youtube. I feel like an old curmudgeon thinking, “you’ll rot your brain!” You look at successful people – they pursued interests in their formative years that blossomed into life long careers: Bill Gates, Einstein, Abraham Lincoln. They’rotted their brains’ on state of the art computer architectures, physics problems, or the book
- Pilgrim’s Pride
. I just don’t think passively watching Dan TDM enter into minecraft rooms is going to deliver my son to a place of satisfaction and meaning.
But I digress.
In any case, I’m not convinced the refugee children are motivated by an innate love of learning. I’m not sure what drives them. They’ve clearly had teachers in the past who instilled in them a discipline for doing the work they’re told to do. I’m not entirely convinced they understand what they copy down. But we’re working with what we’ve got.
At home – I think we need to agree on a schedule. We’ve had family meetings and discussed it, but we’re not where we need to be.
As for the Rohingya kids – tomorrow – I just realized I need to compliment them. Even if I punished them today – it was all for being too noisy. It wasn’t for hitting. That’s a great improvement! I need to remember to congratulate them for that solid effort tomorrow.
I brought the guitar in today and played as we all sang “I’d like to teach the world to sing.” I think by the end of the day, the kids were totally over the song, but a few boys seemed interested in learning how to play.
For math, I taught powers of 2, 3 and 10. It was gratifying to see the lights come on when they realized how powers worked. I taught them ‘thousands’ ‘millions’ ‘billions’ and ‘trillions’. Hey, if the dollar keeps strengthening those units may come in handy!
One of the girls slipped me a note. It said, “We love you teacher Laura, we love you very much.”
After arriving at home, I took my son to Tesco to buy clay for his Egyptian artifact homework. As we walked he asked about class. I explained the math portion and he asked how fast the kids were. “Well, Arfat maybe solved the power of twos to 11 in three minutes.”
“I can do that!” my son said. For the next 3 minutes and 45 seconds, he multiplied twos, and felt proud that he’d been as fast as the quickest kid in class.
Okay, maybe my son does have some interest in learning – but for some reason, the interest comes from competitiveness, not curiosity. Oh well, maybe one will develop from the other. And, maybe he and the students in my class aren’t so different.
*he’s not doing the work I think he needs to be doing.