In a past life, I was a secondary school teacher, and standing and teaching in front of 32 adolescents was something that came very naturally to me… While I understand it’s not for everyone, I enjoyed listening to their banter, watching their world views evolve, and being part of their lives. My ‘firm but fair’ approach made me a popular teacher and I am still in touch with many of them, as young adults. As a successful teacher, people often ask me if I was ever tempted to home school my own children. My answer is always the same. I would rather have gouged out my eyeballs than teach my own children! That’s not to say I don’t love them but teaching your own children is a world away from teaching in a classroom.
‘Learning and Teaching’ is one of Stotan Group’s core values. Stotan is passionate about engagement and learning from one another. Yet, as a result of the current requirement for many parents to home school their children Australia is currently facing a ‘learning loss’ highlighted recently by Professor Natalie Brown from the University of Tasmania. Additionally, Professor Stephen Lamb from Victoria University states that children may experience a loss of weeks’ worth of reading education and numeracy ability.
Friends, colleagues and the Stotan community have asked my advice on how to best navigate this daunting process and minimise the ‘learning loss’. I have dug out old USB drives helpfully labelled ‘Year 8 Plague’, ‘Shogunate Japan-busy work’ or ‘Year 10 Econs Circular Flow’ and offered them up. These resources, collected and collated over years of teaching, are full of worksheets and ‘cloze’ activities, digital copies of textbooks, maps with linked activities, and endless ‘wordfinds’. They have been shared with many colleagues, and now I happily share them with friends who are home-schooling.
While these resources are useful in that they can provide a framework for delivering a lesson, they are not a substitute for meaningful engagement – and this seems to be the part that is the most challenging for home-schooling parents. Friends have told me they are not confident, and their kids are sensing this, so they are not engaged. When they try to ‘teach’, their kids are not listening and seem bored. Some have said the work is too hard and they, as parents, don’t understand some of it, so how can they help their child learn?
Teaching is a performance for an audience.
The delivery part of teaching is a performance and as such, has the audience in mind. We have a script refined over many years and, while we might adjust language and timing to suit the individual learning needs of our students, generally it is the same. We use the volume and intonation of our voices; we use our bodies and even the direction of our gaze to aid us. A good teacher can silence a class with nothing but a pause in mid-sentence or ‘the look’ – and we all have our own. We know instantly when a lesson is or isn’t going to work, and when this happens, we have the skills to pull something else out of what seems like thin air. Teaching is a craft as well as a vocation. Teachers are in an environment designed only to facilitate teaching and learning. Unlike home, there are few distractions like toys, television, and snacks.
Parents without teaching/learning training and experience cannot be expected to step smoothly into the role of a classroom teacher. There may be shouting. There may be doors slammed. There may be feelings of inadequacy. As a parent, you are not expected to engage in meaningful teaching/learning with the same gusto and success (whatever that might mean) without the training and experience of a qualified educator. As an expression of gratitude that my kids are old enough that I don’t have to home school them, I would humbly offer some tips that hopefully make your experience a little easier.
- Buy a wall clock you can write on with a chalk marker. Mark the clock with the units of time you will be doing set tasks. Kids are visual and enjoy knowing and seeing how long they will be doing a task.
- Allow time for physical movement with regular breaks. Hopscotch maths, catch game spelling, cooking and outdoor science are great ways to integrate physical activity into learning.
- Keep one exercise book/journal for each learning area. Having separate, labelled books also allows kids to be more mobile when they are completing written tasks.
- Use the resources provided to you by the school as a guide but tweak your timing and delivery to suit your kids. Your child’s teacher will be familiar with his/her learning style, but you may not be. It might take some time to work this out, so don’t be too hard on yourself or your child.
- Remember USSR (uninterrupted sustained silent reading) after lunch at school? There is a reason it is embedded in the curriculum (though often under different names these days). Reading is learning. Allow one hour each day for ‘silent reading’. The material isn’t important at all. Just get them to read a physical book. Graphic novels are winners for ‘non-readers’.
- Once a day, have your kids teach you (or siblings) something. There is strong evidence that learning by teaching results in deeper and longer-lasting acquisition of information.
- Allow older kids to have conversations with their peers about their set school tasks. In a classroom, kids would typically be able to compare what they have done with their peers, and it reassures them they are on the right track.
- Don’t know the answer to something? Say you don’t and add it to a ‘research list’. Teachers value critical research in the classroom but are often restricted by time. Create a hypothesis and allocate a set time every few days to explore trusted websites and build evidence for a theory.
- Ask your children what special subject they want to learn and have them prepare a presentation on it. Almost everything can be mapped back to a learning experience.
- Ask your children for feedback about how you are going as their teacher. All good teachers ask for feedback.
It is important to keep in mind; all schools will be making allowances for gaps in learning when this pandemic is over. Your child’s school, in fact, the entire education system, will be doing everything it can to ensure the impact is minimal. So, don’t panic. And when it comes time to hand your children back to the school, look your teacher in the eyes and say … thank you.
‘Learning and Teaching’ is integral to the Stotan Community, as we aim to inspire others. We are passionate about ensuring everyone, regardless of age, has an opportunity to enjoy both. If you have any questions or need any assistance, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.
Onwards Always Together Stotan.