Monday, March 28, 2011

Is it a Teachers Job?

I was having a coffee with a friend of mine the other day (well he had decaf and that's not coffee). He is a project manager by trade but now an entrepreneur doing survey analysis and business coaching. He is thinking of starting a new coaching business to help kids prepare and manage themselves for exams effectively applying project management principles to exam and study preparation. We got to talking about math and how it is taught in school and he was telling me one of his biggest regrets is that he didn't take the time to understand the basic building blocks of the curriculum and then struggled through the rest. With shaky foundations the rest was a deck of cards waiting to topple.

I argued that the teacher should make it their job to ensure everyone has the basic building blocks solid before progressing even if it delays the curriculum a bit, he argued that the students need to take responsibility for this and the teacher can’t hand hold everyone through the basics.

Well call me old fashioned but I don’t agree. In a subject like math the basics are the foundation everything is built on. If you have foundations made of sand it is a very bad builder who starts building the walls. The teacher who doesn’t ensure everyone has a grasp of the basic in math for the next classes is only wasting their time and the students and is doing the students a grave disservice.

You can get away with flying through the basics on Geography or History because the subject is mainly regurgitating facts so there are few is any core concepts to be learned but math is one of those subjects you need to ‘get’  the basics before the rest is worth looking at.
To me it’s like trying to write a French poem without taking the time to learn the language.

Now don’t get me wrong a teacher can only lead the students to the water but can’t force them to drink. After everyone is solid on the basics and the class moves on students who fall behind despite the best efforts of the teacher might need to a reassess their subject choices. Math is not for everyone but I believe there is no-one out there who is incapable of learning the basic core concepts of math and of benefiting from them.

Unfortunately too teachers are effectively forced to move on whether everyone is aboard or not because of time and workload. I know this is true but still I believe the teacher has to try their best to get everyone up to speed with the basics, then the rest should go smoother which will enable you to make up the time.