Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The Inadequate Me

Life has started for me at the new school.

I like the systems in place. The people are helpful, just that I don't get to be in any of the cliques.

The school has the correct focus. It really focuses on teaching and learning. It frees up time after school for teachers to carry out remedial and supplementary classes. When there are workshops, they are done in place of the weekly meeting. The only 'meeting' they have is the once-a-week meeting. They don't have surprise workshops or meetings. They don't have workshops or meetings that last past 4.30pm.

I am grateful and relieved that I am finally at a place that wants teachers to teach, and means it.

I am taking the last class and the first class for the same subject, Maths.

Tonight, I am seized with a great sense of loneliness and inadequacy.

I am going to have my first morning remedial class with the children tomorrow. I have asked them to come early to school at 7am three times a week so that I can have a short session with them to practise more Maths questions.

I think I am stressed.

These are P3 children, but some of them do not know how to add or subtract one-digit numbers -  something that they should have mastered at P1.

Some of them do not know how to read. And if they do, they read without understanding what they are reading.

I first came across 'reading without understanding' syndrome at my previous school.

It was beyond me to try to comprehend what it really meant and how it could happen.

To most of us, reading and comprehension of what we read go hand-in-hand. How can you read without understanding what you are reading?

At best, these children are just pronouncing the words. They seriously don't understand what they are reading. So they have problems in just about every subject that involves words.

Maths is the worst among all subjects. It not only requires a child to read (word problems, short-answer questions, MCQs), it also needs him to have the analytical skill to solve problems.

When a child can't even read, the least you can expect of him is to do Maths.

Today, we were doing Number Patterns. The children had to fill in the blanks with numbers after understanding how the pattern works ie. whether it was to add 1, 10, 100 or 1000 etc to the numbers.

I heard the teacher-aid in my class saying to one of the kids,"Are you stupid or what? Is there something wrong with your brain? You need to see a doctor ..."

The children had a lot of difficulty with the simple worksheet that I had designed for them.

It makes me wonder how they come to this stage. How can they add and subtract 4-digit numbers when they think for a long time over '23 + 1'?

What were they doing at K1, K2, P1 and P2?

I had thought I could help the weakest student since I had managed to teach a weak P1 class well eons ago.

But recently, I find myself getting discouraged, and doubting myself.

I feel inadequate to teach these children.

I don't know how to help them, really.

The First Boss had told me I could abandon the more challenging objectives eg. being able to do two-step word problems and don't have to finish teaching the P3 syllabus, but honestly, I am really not comfortable with that.

Am I not short-changing the children if I don't finish the syllabus?

An HOD once told me, these children are like babies. They need to learn how to crawl first (the basics) before knowing how to walk.

Deep within my heart, I wonder if I can make them walk even, eventually.

People who are not teachers always imagine that it is easier to teach weak students and more challenging to stretch high-ability students. The irony is that it is always a breeze to teach the high-ability students as they are intrinsically motivated to learn. They stay focused for long period of time and they have this hunger to learn.

Children who are weak learners have very short attention span. They are not interested in studies. They get distracted easily. Worse, they distract themselves by making verbal noise as they do work.They don't focus at all. They don't listen to you. They don't even copy the things you write on the board correctly. We have to try to get their attention back every 2 to 5 minutes. Every day, I have 5 to 7 absentees. At least 5 or 6 of them absent themselves on a weekly basis. The parents think it is okay for them to skip school at the slightest 'ailment' or when they don't manage to get a red T-shirt for Chinese New Year celebration. Never mind that they are not Chinese. Most of the time, they don't have an MC or even an excuse letter from the parents.

I wish I can be convinced that 'all children can learn', but it's a fact that some children are just not academically inclined.


Anonymous said...


Dont feel inadequate. You are doing your best! Its really not your fault. Dont be so hard on yourself.

Keep up the good work!


Rain said...

Thanks, Spring! I guess it's hard not to doubt yourself when you can't seem to make the kids improve.