Teaching the Child, not the Method

The idea of teaching methods is rampant in education today.  Policy analysts spend their time looking to the research to determine the “best” way to teach our children.  Once one method seems promising, it is often rushed to be integrated into the curriculum with teachers having to change the way they have taught and children being forced to learn a “new” way under the guise of progress.  The problem?  I’m not at all sure this works out best for everyone.

I come to this conclusion from two separate avenues.  The first is more academic and stems from my experience as one of those analysts who had to read through a large amount of educational literature to rate the quality of the research and the applicability of it to a regular classroom setting.  What I found was disheartening at best.  Often methods that were found to be efficacious – that is, they had positive results in a controlled setting with researchers whose focus was exclusively on the method being tested – were hardly effective – that is, they didn’t really work when they were applied in real-world settings.  It’s not too surprising as it’s very difficult to control all the various nuances that exist in a real classroom.

The second concern is as a parent of two children who have vastly different learning styles than perhaps the majority, but certainly what has been the focus in the classroom.  With my eldest who has been through the public education system, I have seen him struggle to grasp what is going on and seen very little in the way of alternate methods to work with his style of learning.  We have had the joy of some truly outstanding teachers and those years have been wonderful, but by and large, we realize how stuck his teachers are with having to tow a line that doesn’t work for all kids, ours included.  With my youngest, we’re homeschooling because I see how she learns and how very different it is from a typical classroom environment.  I want her to love learning, but I have seen first-hand how that can be squashed in the wrong type of learning environment for the child.

What are we to do?  Quite simply I think we have to give our teachers more freedom to teach the children they have, not the method they’ve been given.  I implore those in charge of making these decisions to sit back and follow the lead of the teachers who are, after all, the ones who are working directly with our kids and get the opportunity to learn their styles.  Even if researchers come across an amazing new method that shows promise as being efficacious and effective, it still won’t work for all kids because nothing ever does.  As such, teachers need the freedom and the set up (*cough* smaller classes *cough*) to be able to better focus on helping each and every one of our children reach their full potential.

I firmly believe that if we are able to reshape the classroom with a focus on having a variety of tools and methods available to our teachers (which also means good funding for the classrooms which should be attainable by taking away funding for the bureaucracy behind the scenes), we can ensure our children are given the best chance to develop their skills.  We can also make sure that our children don’t come home hating school.  Or worse, hating learning.

By Tracy Cassels

October 19, 2015