What Parents want Teachers to Know: 5. Co-operation

Cooperation: Schools seem bent on fostering a crazy level of independence, when at the office I’m working hard to build cooperative teams where people work with each others’ strengths, assist each other to overcome individual deficiencies, and together advance a common cause.

If you cooperate like this in the class room, schools apply their technical term and say it’s ‘cheating’. But John Sweller (UNSW education researcher) tells us that people learn by seeing things done properly and then, with gradually reduced supports, practicing it themselves. If the teacher is not giving the appropriate support, then, heck, why not seek it from classmates?

If nothing else, this is an indicator that the educational process has let a child down: teacher’s problem, not child’s.


What Parents want Teachers to Know: 4. Stickers

Stickers: I don’t know who invented stickers, but they had an inside running on what delights children. More strength to them on that front, I say. It gotten out of hand at school though! Stickers for this, stickers for that, badges, stars, stamps, you name it, there’s a reward for everything (and don’t make me repeat my disdain for food rewards: treating children like circus animals). Occasional recognition of achievement might be in order: but for things that are worth rewarding, and through which the child will learn that some things are really special and meaningful. The others are cheap shots that avoid the intellectual effort of designing programs to foster internal satisfaction and a sense of achievement.

Oddly, (some) teachers spend so much time on extrinsic rewards they undo children’s internal growth. Research indicates that if people are rewarded for doing things that they actually enjoy, or gain satisfaction from, they are DE-motivated. Imagine if his art pals gave Rembrandt a stamp on his hand, a sticker for his workbook and a star to wear on his smock because the Portrait of an Old Man was really cool! I’m sure he’d toss his brushes on the floor and walk away in disgust at the diminution of the satisfaction he’d had in his achievement.

The better rewards? Class room privileges: roles (properly rotated) in helping in the classroom, and participation in class meetings (oops, I don’t think children get to participate in their class planning…another anti-lesson in cooperation, responsibility, planning and achievement)