For purposes of anonymity I will give the students a code name, our private school attendee will be called ‘Tom’ and our state school attendee ‘Jerry’. They are both 12 and a half years old, and I asked them both the same questions in a relaxed comfortable environment. Neither of them had access to the other’s answers.
Of course their answers do not represent the views of every student their age nor of every student at their schools.
1. What is your favourite subject and why?
Tom: “Drama because its a great way for me to express myself and feel relaxed.”
Jerry: “Art because I like expressing how I feel creatively, and I love paint!”
2. Do you take part in any after school clubs? Why/Why not?
Tom: “I take part in Drama club but I’m going to switch to Parkour (a sport that teaches you to move rapidly through an area by overcoming obstacles through running, jumping and climbing) because I’ve tried out a session and it was really fun! I have to take part in at least two extracurricular activities at school.”
3. What do you think the role of a teacher is?
Tom: “Make students work work work work (breaks out into song). Simply set kids some work to help them learn but it can be boring because sometimes I don’t understand the actual work that is set.”
Jerry: “To teach… I feel like our teachers at school are just permanently stressed out so I don’t really know how much I learn…”
4. What do you think teachers could do to improve the way students learn?
Tom: “Use more interactive things to teach, like an iPad or something because it would make lessons a lot more enjoyable and I learn better through technology.”
Jerry: “Teach teachers how to communicate by using lots of different styles because sometimes I find it really hard to understand what they are actually trying to say.”
5. If you had to work in a teaching environment, would you?
Tom: “If I had to then I would like to do what you do because it would be easier to teach one student at a time.”
Jerry: “I would only become a teacher if they let me teach a small class – how can I teach 30 naughty kids? I wouldn’t get any time to help those really clever ones or to calm down the naughty kids and help them get the work done.”
The majority of private education schools encourage students to participate in extracurricular activities to ensure that they have a more well-rounded experience. It also provides them with an edge on their personal statements to college or work experiences. Attending a private school means that the intake is limited and selective, therefore it is easier for them to encourage participation. However, the sheer scale of the student population at a state school means that the resources are just not there to encourage every single student to partake in an after school club.
Jerry’s class size is double that of Tom’s and in some subjects even more, yet it is fair to say that both feel as though they do not learn in the same way as the majority and there must be an adaptation to teaching style to truly enable every student to learn in an intellectually stimulating environment.
Both of their favourite subjects have a ‘relaxed atmosphere’ which is very insightful as it can help account for the recent surge in home-schooled students’ successes. These students find themselves in a familiar setting, one that they feel most comfortable in, thereby making learning a smooth and even enjoyable task. Similarly there has been a steep rise in the number of students diagnosed with a learning difficulty (particularly dyslexia/dyspraxia). This may be because we now understand learning difficulties in greater detail. However, in line with recent studies, we must also be able to accept that these conditions that affect how your brain processes information is in part to do with the fast paced learning environments that our students now find themselves in. There is a clear correlation underlying the ‘one size fits all’ teaching style with exacerbating the pressure students find themselves under when not being able to keep up with the work pace of their classmates.
If there is one thing to take from this interview then it is the fact that the world is changing around us; technologically, competitively and interpersonally. We must be able to take these changes on board and provide the next generation of students with a range of educating styles, which should not be limited to, but must include greater 1:1 support.
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This article was first published in The Huffington Post on 11/01/17 by Farida Ahmed.