Starting School

After his first day at school, the boy’s mum asks, “What did you learn today?”

The boy replies, “Not enough. I have to go back tomorrow.”

Yes – that  age-old institution, which lays the foundation for the people we become – school. A magical place that provides you with five key skills you’ll need to use throughout your whole life: reading, writing, ‘rithmatic, queuing up for things and… kiss-chase.

The first day

How many of you actually remember your first day at school?

Nope, I don’t either – ‘infantile amnesia’ that’s called, before your brain has developed the capability for long-term memory. Nothing to worry about though, by all accounts – you’ve not blocked it out because the experience was so traumatic.

My 4-year old son, Dylan, just started school a couple of weeks ago, which was quite an emotional day, filled with expectation, excitement and energy.

Mind you, from a parent’s perspective, it’s not just about the first day, there’s all the preparation that goes into getting them ready for that first day. Making sure they’re able to go to the toilet on their own, get themselves dressed, unwrap their sandwiches, do their own ironing, make their own packed lunch…

My son’s class is called ‘Otters’ – with Miss Stokes as the teacher. Before he started, I thought it was probably also a good idea to get him out of the habit of calling her Miss Joke.

 

The classroom

Early education’s hardly recognizable from what it once was, back in the day when the classroom held the lingering aroma of pencil sharpenings and un-chilled milk. There was a time where you had to sit at a table and listen to what the teacher was telling you. The trend now is to make “learning fun”, and enable “learning through play”.

I’m beginning to wonder who is actually being educated though: As parents, we were all asked to sit down at the induction evening and listen whilst the head teacher requested that we refrain from calling the kids “clever” and call them “good learners” instead.

A couple of weeks in and I ask my son what he’s been doing all day. The only thing he can ever remember is “playing CBeebies on the computer”.

These days, teaching’s all based around the psyche of individuals and personality profiling. In the 70’s, Honey & Mumford identified 4 sets of personality types:

  1. Pragmatists
  2. Analysts
  3. Activists
  4. Theorists

If you’re interested in knowing which category you fall into, you can complete their Learning Styles questionnaire, which consists of a series of 80 questions, or the shorter version has 40.

However, I’ve come up with my own, much simpler, method for how to identify these 4 personality types within a classroom – it involves looking at how children engage with the universal currency of sweets.

OK, it boils down to this – think back to your classroom days and how you behaved around sweets. Which one of the following were you?

  1. The one who covertly brought in sweets in a bid to make new friends.
    [Pragmatists – seeks out solutions to problems]
  2. The one who asked lots of questions about those sweets – what they were, where they came from, who they were for…
    [Reflectors – gather data to analyse]
  3. The one who tried to ‘acquire’ the sweets without actually being given them.
    [Activists – impatient, bend the rules to get things done]

That just leaves the last type – Theorists

  1. The rationally objective one who informed the teacher about the sugary contraband.

Homework

Homework’s another thing I haven’t yet got my head around as a parent. We’ve also been advised not to call it ‘homework’, but ‘home learning’ instead.

I think there may be a gap in the market for some sort of hypnotherapy package, which eliminates the words; ‘clever’ and ‘work’ from people’s vocabularies.

My son hasn’t actually done any home LEARNING of his own yet. I, however, get a new book to read every night and had to spend an hour last weekend collating and labeling family photos for him to take into school!

I’m just waiting for the request to send him in with ingredients for cooking, so I can do what my mum did and send him in with random replacements for the actual ingredients that are needed. My experience in cooking class was a bit like the TV programme Ready Steady Cook – we’d identify the contents of my carrier bag and then decide that the carrot cake everyone else was making was perhaps not achievable with the flour, butter, cheese and pasta spirals my mum had packed me off with. I did, however, come home with the cheesy pasta bake for tea that mum had hoped for!

Still, the teacher got her own back on my mum – she sent me home with Bubble and Squeak – the tormented and twitchy class hamsters for the weekend!

Summary

So, the learning journey continues and, as the apprehension of the first day of school fades, and as I practice incorporating the word ‘learning’ into every other sentence, and think about changing the name on my son’s book bag to my own, I eagerly await the LEARNING that lies ahead.

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