Jun 13, 2013

All it takes is ONE

Today was a remarkable day for me, my Belle and her 30 classmates and here is why.
During the last school break, I decided to throughly look through Belle's activity books and before I could go through her English book, she brought a complain to me. 
Apparently her English teacher had them do 3 pages from the activity book which required them to listen to an audio/reading from the teacher's part before attempting to answer the questions.

Obviously this was the section for 'listening skill'. The teacher was apparently too busy with the preparation of English week and she asked them to do these 3 pages themselves despite knowing, correct answers can only be obtained upon them listening to something, despite Belle asking her, "But this is a listening activity!"

So i decided to do what I always did back when Belle was in Sri Sedaya, write a note on the top of the page and ask Belle to go and show it to the teacher.

While Sedaya, it was usually addressed to her BM teacher for some further explanation on 'frasa' and to her Math teacher over why the laziness of not using exercise books to attempt the math questions instead of scribbling at the side of the text book pages, this was to a GOVERNMENT SCHOOL TEACHER.

Common perception is that, it's easier to question people you pay to do the job, than it is to question government staff. Even Belle herself said, she thinks she's going to get into trouble for asking. I only encouraged her not to fear questioning what requires questioning and at the same time told her to do so when she found the courage for it.

Belle walked up to the teacher today, gave her book opened at the page, and told her teacher, "My mother has a note for you." 

When the teacher saw what I had written, she immediately started defending herself and told my daughter, "I never asked you to do these pages, why did you?" but Belle rebutted and said that she did. A classmate of hers heard them and walked up to the teacher's table to see and told the teacher, "Yes you asked us to do it." As if 2 student's admission wasn't enough, the teacher asked the class. Half of them said NO while the other half said YES. Then she decided to tell Belle, "You didn't get to do the listening part because you were absent," and Belle replied, "I wasn't absent, Teacher. I asked you about the listening part that day also." After that 3 other students confirmed that the teacher did ask them to do it, did not do the listening part and that Belle did ask her about it that very same day to which the teacher's reply back then was, "Just answer what you can," and she left the class.

Finally the other half of the class who said NO, checked their books and said YES as well. 

Right after that, she decided to conduct the listening section for those pages and the children in the class had to erase all their previous answers because everything was obviously answered wrongly.

How terrible! Just to defend herself she rather accuse Belle of being absent and for doing something not asked, without even being sure of what she did and did not do?
It's sad when the ministry puts listening skills into the teaching of English, and the teacher does this on top of the limited hours they have for this language. 
I don't think she expected to get a NOTE from a parent written on the activity book or to even think that someone was checking their children's work and of all language ENGLISH. 
(By the way, the book is not even marked once, and the 2nd term has already started.)

If she was very busy, the least she could have done, was to hand out grammar or vocabulary worksheets to them instead of making them do something that required a listening aid. It's called planning, plus if she really forgot she made the mistake, she didn't have to play the blame game with a 9 year old. Adults I tell you!

I congratulated Belle for her courage and she asked me why? 
My reply : "Well the fact that you told me, and I wrote the note, and you went to ask, which brought attention to your other classmates who backed you up when the teacher claimed it to be your fault and finally having the lesson done right which benefitted your entire class, is worth congratulating!"

Her 2nd question however was, "If the teacher didn't do the listening part today? What then Ma?"
My reply : "This Saturday is report card day, she'll have to answer directly to me!"

Lesson learnt : Listen to what your children tell you and proactively involve yourself where, when and however you can. All I did was to put my stamp of parental authority on that book (it worked in Sedaya and now I know it works in government schools too) and it bore fruits for the entire class (exactly what I wanted as I was more concern over what her classmates were missing out because Belle is going through a good English program at home with me). This should work as a lesson to the teacher that she's being watched and I don't think she would try this sort of stunt again, at least not in the class with Belle in it. 1 person is all it takes to drive a change, and in this case it was Belle! Well done. This is a case in a Standard 3 classroom. I would like to believe, if every parent worked as an auditor to their children's work, we can catch the mistakes our kids make and guide them as well as the mistakes the teachers make and nip the bud! We are after all their first teachers, who better to do the job? Teachers are just humans too, and they sometimes need to be pushed back into the right track.

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