Monday, October 11, 2010

Sitting still -- whose job is it to teach?

Sunday morning and having breakfast with son. Somehow we drifted into a discussion on asking the right questions.

My point was as we grow up and are being introduced to new knowledge, knowing the right answers is important.

But as we progress up the learning ladder it is not knowing the answers but knowing which questions to ask that matter most.

It is the case in research. The whole point of research is finding the answers. What answers we find is directly correlated with the questions we ask.

So this report on How Fair is Britain? appears to have the statistics for all sorts of un/fairness. My question to my son is: Were they asking the right questions?

Take the issue of gender and how boys do not know how to sit still.

Or sitting still – something girls tend to be better at. "So a boy can't sit still, so he gets told off, so he starts to feel like a bad boy, so he starts to behave like a bad boy, so he gets told off some more, so he gets angry, so the teacher gets angry and so on," said [interviewer], her words tumbling out as she described the vicious circle. "And so his work will suffer."

So you must ask why do some children find it difficult to sit still?

In my toddler group (the one I help to run as a volunteer) you would always get a few children -- both boys and girls -- who refuse to sit down at juice and biscuit time.

There are some children, all under three, who would sit and would not dare get off their chairs unless told to do so, and there are children who cannot sit and would run wild around the large hall where the group is held. See previous post here.

The difference is very much due to how their parents/carers train them.

Yes, "train" does sound a bit like "training dogs". I used that verb deliberately.

We train athletes, boys and girls to play football, etc, so why not train them to sit down?

I have enduring memories of grandmothers, mothers, maids, etc running around little children at feeding time. When my son was born I was determined that I do not have to train for the marathon while feeding him.

Son was coming up six months and sitting up. I had to see my supervisor for a final session before my viva. There was no one to child-mind (as usual) so I took him with me to the university.

I put a piece of muslin cloth on my supervisor's office floor and set my son down and gave him toys to play with. He sat within that square.

When another much younger lecturer came in and saw him within that square of cloth he asked, "Is that it? He does not go any where?"

No, first of all because he was only six months old. And secondly when he manages to move out of that square he gets plonked back onto that square. I was bigger and stronger than him.

All through toddlerhood he was sat down, no matter if it was for a drink, a piece of fruit, a biscuit, etc. So much so that whenever you gave him food, he always looked for a place to sit down.

There. Trained.

He is still a bit of a wiggle bottom, but he knows there are times and places when he must sit still.

Decorum "at table" (ie meal tables) was important. No messing about. Mum and Dad would see to it.

Sitting quietly (not always the same as sitting still) at church was to be expected. We sometimes played games when he was bored but he was still required to be quiet.

[We had two "hand games". Game #1 entails holding our palms perpendicular to the ground. One of us tries to push both our hands together while the other tries to keep them apart. We switch over occasionally. Quiet and fun.

Game #2: one person places an index finger in the open palm of the other person. The one with the open palm attempts to trap the index finger which is withdrawn at appropriate times. Great fun, too.]

I keep telling "my" parents at Toddler group that getting their children to sit down with all the other kids at juice time is good training because they need to sit down at school later.

Many young and new parents heed the advice. Some -- a small minority -- simply don't get it.

As we would say in Singlish: what to do?

No comments: