New Zealand is a small place. So when one part of our waka shakes, we all feel in some way feel it. This week my heart hurts for the people we already know who have perished in the earthquake in Christchurch and the other souls currently missing. Like most people I feel a bit useless to do anything other than give some money to the Red Cross and send good thoughts to the people who will face untold difficulties in the weeks and months ahead.
Of slightly less significance is the news that I officially survived the first paper with a very good, but not great, pass. I also spent the bulk of this week unplugged from the world at a residency run by my university. This is the longest have I gone without internet since my week-long sojourn into North Korea (yes THAT Korea) in 2008 so was in serious internet withdrawal by the end of the week.
However the benefits of going offline was that I was finally able to put some faces to the names of the fellow students on my course. To say that I was impressed by the diverse make up of the student body would be an understatement. I had assumed that freshly-minted graduates would make up the bulk of the students on the course. However the majority of students were like me: people who had been in the workforce for a number of years or even decades and were taking on a second (or even third) career who happen to be scattered all over the country. I have special admiration for the large number of parents taking the course, especially the ones with babies and young children, who are juggling family and life commitments along with a hugely challenging course. Alongside seeing some awesome teachers in action, one of the most useful parts of the residency were the conversations with fellow students. These conversations made me realize that the fears and anxieties about exam performance, assignments and our looming teaching experience are actually quite common amongst the student body.
However I was staggered by the breadth of knowledge areas that primary teachers have to build up teaching expertise in. Alongside English and math (which cover the traditional three Rs) we also have to become proficient teachers of social science, the arts (Drama, Dance, Music and Visual Arts), health and physical education, science, language learning and technology.
I am exhausted just writing the list.
I was a bit disappointed that my beloved ICT and e-learning did not get a look in however I could see how I could use it in other parts of the curriculum.
I know there is a view that schools are wasting time doing ‘frivolous’ things like the arts when they should be spending time on core learning areas like reading and math. I have trouble following the logic that if we spend time teaching kids music and movement, it is at the expense of their learning in hard subjects. I realize that time is a finite quantity however effective teaching in areas like PE and Social studies can inform other areas of the subject areas of the curriculum. We can’t expect kids to develop writing skills if they don’t have rich experiences to write about.
My favourite workshop of the residency was the dance teacher who modeled a lesson which would get kids moving, laughing and learning some literacy along the way. Playing rugby is an application of math and physics just as much as brut physical power. Dan Carter knows that if he’s kicking into the wind, he needs to put some extra force behind the ball to get it where it needs to go. Likewise music, social studies and technology all have the potential to reinforce the ‘core skills’ when the subjects are taught well.
But even if there weren’t educational benefits from the ‘soft’ areas of the curriculum there is a far more important reason to embrace a love of areas outside science and the 3 Rs. Our kids lives would be awfully bleak if they spent all day at school strapped to their seats quietly learning their ABCs and 123s. Their lives are enriched by running, jumping, making music and creating bits of art. Actually adults lives are also improved by doing these things too.
Speaking of which, I need to go to bed because I’ve got an early stand up paddle boarding class out on the harbour tomorrow 🙂