Sympathy for students

Are students put on too much pressure to learn?

Secondary students have 25 1-hour lessons a week, learning about 15 to 20 different topics in two weeks. Subjects include Sciences, Maths, Languages, Art, Music and Information Technology. Most teachers and parents expect these kids to learn and retain these information to pass their assessments and hence, advance to the next academic year. Granted that most of us have been through these before, have you ever thought about those that are struggling? How about those that dropped out of school because they can’t cope? Or those who committed suicide for getting low grades?

Adults expect children to speak multiple languages. Languages they cannot even speak themselves. Children should know science theories. Theories we all forget as soon as we leave school. Children should learn how to act, play an instrument, design a spaghetti tower, play sports. They should learn things that are mostly useless outside school. I can bet all my fortunes that in most schools, a 13 year old student would know more about physics than his Spanish teacher. Why? Because Physics is not the Spanish teacher’s ‘specialty’. Is it supposed to be the students’?

Granted that not every adult is as bad as I picture them to be. Not all parents expect their kids to be Einsteins or Darwins. But I can also guarantee that not all parents care about their children’s academic worries more than they care about their sports team’s standings in the league! A lot of children do struggle. In fact, all students struggle at some stage in their academic life. The question is, do their primary caregivers and/or teachers notice that they struggle? If they do, do they do anything about it?

In every class there are at least one or two students who do not understand a certain topic. This often gets unnoticed because of a high student-teacher ratio. However good a teacher you are, there is a huge chance you will miss out on subtle clues that a child is not coping well in your lessons if your classs is so big.  Such students might constantly talk, disrupt a classmate, be rude to you, or sleep in your lessons. Yes, they are trying to get your attention, but more often, that is the only way they know how to tell you that “Miss, I’m not joking, I don’t get what you’re saying and I need help!”.

Most teachers would react unpleasantly to the situations given above and it is hard to blame them when they do, They have lesson plans to follow, they have 30+ kids, in most cases. There are very few teachers who actually observe their students, who knows about these subtle clues, who cares about the kids’ learning.

And the parents/primary caregivers? What do they do when their children are struggling to learn? Do they help them with their homeworks? Do they even ask their kids how their schooldays were? Or do they immediately run to the nearest Educational or Child Psychologist to ask for a diagnosis for their children’s supposed ‘learning and/or behavioural difficulty’, once they notice their kids are struggling in school because they are too lazy to help them?

Adults also expect kids to concentrate for 5 or more hours a day, every day, 5 days a week. Can any adult do that? I know I can certainly not.

I am not asking for a major change in education. I did not write this blog to say that kids should stop going to school. They should. What I’m asking for is an increased understanding of children from the people around them. Know your children, know your students. Be aware. We have all been kids once, right? We know what it’s like. If you have turned out alright, that means you had help from others. Help your kids. Ask them how their school days are, and really listen to what they say. Check their notebooks if you have to. Make sure they are learning. Spending a good half an hour a day talking to your child about their studies can help turn an unmotivated, low-achieving student, to a smart, driven, and confident learner. Remember, they are kids. They need your help!

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