One of the frustrating things about teaching in schools is that you can’t always treat children as individual all of the time – you need to treat them like a class some of the time whilst at the same time constantly reminding yourself about their individuality.
This is not always as easy as it sounds when you are trying to get through the amount of learning that each students needs to be taught and to learn.
Images in Matthew leave no doubt about the importance and urgency of a school’s focus on children and their learning. The focus must be on children as individuals, not simply children as a collective. We do not teach classes, we teach individuals. We only do it in class groups to achieve economy of scale.
In my role I am continually reminding teachers that each of the students in their class are little people with different ways of learning and of showing their learning. We try to teach to the range of learning styles (e.g. aural, kinaesthetic, visual, logical, holistic etc) but always knowing that each child has a preferred learning style. Some teachers might find this daunting and more than once a teacher has said to me “Does that mean I have to teach everything 20 different ways?” the answer of course is no – use a variety so that every child has his preferred way of learning some of the time.
In Matthew 18:12-14 we are invited to imagine the response of the shepherd upon realising that one of his sheep has strayed. Straight away his heart goes out to the lost sheep and he leaves the ninety nine to go in search of the one. We sense the shepherd’s deep compassion and concern and his immediate and urgent striving to attend to the stray.
What does this look like in our school? Is there a sense of urgency about under-achievement or social unease? Will we ‘do whatever it takes’ to attend to children whose levels of achievement/development are below that which we might reasonably expect?
This is certainly the way we operate at MCC. We might teach classes but we know when individual students are struggling – we know it by what we observe students doing in class, we know it by the questions they ask, we know it by the results they achieve and we know it by poor behaviours.
We try to get a holistic view of why they might not be learning, through teacher conferences, discussion with parents and individual chats with the child.
As Simon Birmingham (Federal Minister for Education) reminded us last week; “There are three partners in the learning process: students, their parents, and schools. If students aren’t learning then each partner has a role to play”.
Dr Thelma Perso