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Education for all

Five bloggers, five countries, one dialogue

From broken windows to broken homes?

Picture: Pavel Mylnikov

Sometimes conditions are less than ideal...

During my studies I had several periods of teaching practice where we worked in state schools as language teachers for four to six weeks. I dealt with both a gymnasium, where mostly talented pupils study, and a typical school on the outskirts of my city. So, I can compare them and share a couple of my ideas about what I saw there.

First of all, every pupil has his own psychology: It’s natural to like some subjects more or less or to feel irritated by an inexperienced teacher (or one whose methods and techniques are forever stuck in the past). However, the pupils in the gymnasium (high school) had more motivation to learn. That may be a result of the strict discipline they followed in primary school. But were the teachers the only reason for that? Of course not – a person’s environment matters a lot! Parents who encourage their children to reach higher goals during their upbringing end up with talented and self-confident pupils, who are also able to express their opinions more clearly. And by surroundings, I don’t mean just the atmosphere in a family – even your neighborhood and city have some impact. It makes me think about the broken windows theory – maintaining urban environments in a well-ordered condition stimulates citizens to behave well. What I’m driving at is that we should not consider a pupil’s failures as a result of their problems or conflicts at school only.

The thing is: parents could be of great help to those children who fall behind. But most such children live with only one parent who has to work a lot as a breadwinner and can’t spare much quality time for the kids. Therefore, there should be additional lessons at school where pupils who are not as successful as their classmates gather together to go into more depth on a certain topic one more time. But here the question of payment for additional working hours for teachers arises. It’s not so seldom that local authorities refuse to spend more money from a city’s budget on education.

Picture: Pavel Mylnikov

Kids need family support, even if it's just a question of playing together

When it comes to financial matters, the teaching staff is generally more motivated to work in a gymnasium not only because of the bright children, but due to salary levels that are usually higher than in comprehensive schools. It seems to be a bad gig for those who start their careers in a typical school, doesn’t it? Positive energy from the kids and financial support as your sources of motivation are things many probably envy in their colleagues who work in gymnasiums.

There is no ideal pupil, of course. The key is to find an approach that will motivate them to learn. In case of missteps or bad behavior, a teacher should not just look for ways to punish a pupil. I think it is better to use hints that make the pupil himself discover his mistake and correct it – just like Socrates’ maieutics.


June 6, 2012 | 2:45 pm