My child is in Class 3. The teacher complains that she doesn’t know her spellings and that she constantly has to be told to learn them. But that is the way my child is! She is rather playful and does not listen to me. I have tried explaining this to the teacher, but the teacher refuses to see my point of view. Does the problem lie with my child, the teacher, or me as a parent?
The teacher that you are talking about is probably handling a class of 30 or 40, if not more. You are dealing with a single child and yet finding it rather tedious and uncomfortable to enforce certain rules, even when you have the luxury of spending more time with her, and are entitled to scold, cajole, or reward her as and when the situation demands.
Today, most parents want their children to remain children. They believe that they should be free to choose what they want to do. Hence, parents fuss when their child feels even a wee bit stressed out. They complain to the principal or at least to the teacher that the child is being pressurized. In all this, the child does not benefit at all. Those children who are motivated, and perhaps more disciplined, go through the motions of the class and the homework, and do well for themselves without feeling any kind of pressure or even an impingement on their freedom. Perhaps, these children have parents, who understand that while the school and the home are both a protected environment, the world outside will not treat their children very kindly if they do not measure up to its standards.
So what are we protesting about? Can’t an eight-year child sit at a table for half an hour working on spelling? Isn’t this the most elementary feature of writing? When we talk of writing, whether creative or not, what we mean first of all is legible handwriting. Children need to understand that just as they dress well, they should also make sure that their name is written well because the handwriting represents them when they are not there physically to present themselves. A teacher who is correcting 40 answer scripts or more every week surely deserves that respect. When anyone picks up a sheet of paper, what they notice is the handwriting. When a teacher corrects an answer script, she would naturally like the student to have taken the minimal effort of writing neatly. If spellings have been taught in class, they must come into place automatically with or without the help of parents. The teacher can only guide the student in class. She cannot devote all her time to getting the spellings in place. No doubt, she uses strategies such as marking the wrong spellings and giving the student an imposition of writing the wrong spellings two times or five times in the hope that the students will get them by heart. However, most students (and some parents) look on this as punishment and hence the end is not accomplished. Students either write the spellings with reluctance or do not write at all, knowing fully well that the parents will step in to protect their rights.
What does the teacher deal with then in higher classes? Bad handwriting, followed by bad spelling along with the inability to understand grammar, because ‘Mommy or Daddy will step in’ when things get rough. Is it humanly possible for a teacher to deal with 40 such answer scripts every week? Does she wade through them, plough through them, or just give them a cursory glance? It is more likely to be the latter, given the pressure of work and lack of interest on the part of the student and parent!
I have been training students in the age group of 9-11 for an examination-oriented program for the past two months. It relates to the skills of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Since it is a 30-hour program, we had informed parents in advance that we would make sure that the child did well, PROVIDED they supported us by helping the child have all his spellings in place. The number of words was approximately 300 and we had divided them into 50 words per week. This is not much, considering that these are words that students are expected to know by class 2 or 3. Since it was a small group, I had the time to meet some of the parents whose children just did not get their spellings right, not even the spelling of a word like kicking!
Parents don’t want to upset their children. They would rather control and deter the efforts of teachers who understand that the child is capable, and also know that life outside school is no cakewalk. With more handholding from parents, the present generation could become a more disciplined lot and be more ready to face the world instead of shying away from reality by resorting to words such as depression and tension.
Before rushing to blame the teacher or take education with the shrug of a shoulder, why don’t we as parents shoulder some responsibility as well? Education is the broadening of the mind-of the teacher, the parent and the student!
The author is a teacher educator and language trainer based in Chennai. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.