Saturday, June 23, 2007

“You are all individuals.” “I’m not.”

Jon M’s post about exam marking and its comments triggered this post.

What am I doing when I write? I want to communicate something which is uniquely mine – it may cross into the general experience of others, but the way I tell it, is exclusive to my life. The story that I am struggling to write comes from the questions in my head that I am attempting to answer. So it’s imperative that I think for myself rather than think in the prescribed way that someone else has dictated.

What do we want for our children? I want that same free and creative thinking for my offspring and the courage to express those ideas.

Now, I know that my ‘readership’ is predominantly based in Britain, and you may need to suspend your disbelief to swallow the following information. Here in Thailand it is said that the education system is based on by rote learning and so with a number of international schools to choose from, many international parents, including Thais, choose British schools because it has a world reputation as the best education system. It teaches children to think and apply, it is believed, rather than to swallow what is provided and regurgitate on request.

And yet it doesn’t, despite being considered so great by the rest of the world, encourage any form of individuality. In fact, if you have a child that is ‘an individual’ it fails them in any number of ways. As a parent I want to encourage my children to take risks, and think for themselves, but in classes of 30 or so, this simply isn’t encouraged. Indeed any kind of independent thought and behaviour is considered to be subversive and anti social.

I am aware of chiding and coercing Son to behave in a way which is ‘acceptable.’ Schooling (from the age of about three at nursery) has been a constant struggle for both of us. Parents’ Evenings are an ordeal in which I have to sit and listen to a) how intelligent my son is but predominantly b) what a disruptive influence he is. Letters, emails and phone calls home cause my heart to sink.

What do you do with a child who is constantly discouraged from his enthusiasm because it doesn’t fit the pattern of behaviour expected of a group of children? I do realize how hard it is on one teacher to cope with a classful should one child incite the others, but I hope with all my heart that he meets a teacher along the way who realizes how unique he is and that he isn’t turned off for good.

7 comments:

Jen said...

I suppose the sad truth is that we all have to conform in one way or another...

At least he has your family support which allows him his uniqueness to shine... he'll be fine and, from what I've seen of life, people grow up into the people they're supposed to be so long as they're nurtured by someone who understands.

He has you... he's one of the lucky ones.

JJ said...

We do have to confirm Jen, and that's why I find myself chiding him all the time, and yet he is unbelievably bright and clever; but not remotely turned on to anything. I also know that he's discouraged because all the time we've told him to tone down, wait for others to finish speaking, or whatever controlling 'manners' society expects of a 'nicely brought up child.' You are also right that he has us, at least we see some of his behaviour as positive...

JJ said...

Of course I meant 'conform'!

hesitant scribe said...

JJ - I think we all 'survive' schooling and education. If we're lucky we have parents like you who help us survive, and teach us the balance between conforming and remaining true to our own individuality.

As for rote learning - it has its place. I am no happier than you with my children's education in the UK. Large class sizes, discipline issues, a constantly changing curriculum and/or ethos of education as the government tries to win voters' favour...

Yup. I wouldn't worry too much. He's got you! :)

Emily Hendricks said...

He has you, right? You'll make sure he keeps his bubbly energy. Don't worry, he'll be fine. Em

Jon M said...

It's okay to 'conform' as long as somewhere we can be ourselves and there is a constructive reason for conforming. Iworry sometimes because once words are typed, written, whatever they can become ambiguous and sometimes, our system doesn't always seem to allow for children to thing divergeantly, to interpret things in different ways. Maybe it's not so much teaching as how we judge, assess, classify children to distraction in our system.

JJ said...

Thanks for the kind comments everyone. It is hard. I know I can't run his life for him, but I wish I didn't have to watch it being so hard for him.
Lots of cotton wool, that's the answer: wrap him up and prevent him going out ... ;)
JJx