#5’s form teacher has been calling me regularly complaining of his bad behaviour. I know he’s a very naughty child, but I was wondering what sort of bad behaviour he was up to that she had to scold him almost everyday. I asked her if he had been getting into fights again and she said no. I decided it was time to nip it in the bud, so I asked her to text me daily after school with either “Bad” or “Good”. This was so that I could either punish him or reward him immediately so he knows what he did right or wrong, instead of waiting for a week or two to hear from her about his ‘generally bad and disruptive behaviour’.
I sat him down and told him Mrs Ng called me again and I was very unhappy with his behaviour. I asked him to explain himself but it seemed that he didn’t even know what sort of bad behaviour she was referring to. Finally after much thought, he ventured, “Is it because I always talk without putting up my hand? And I play with my eraser and frog pencil?” (I discovered that the frog pencil was a mechanical pencil his teacher gave them for children’s day).
The next day, I asked him how did he behave in school. He said, “Er, bad? Is it during origami class?” (He thinks I now have immediate information about his movements in school) I asked him to elaborate. He said that during Art lesson, they were given origami paper and taught to fold a dress. He did not want to fold a dress so he folded a crane, and the kids seated around him must have been watching and they would probably have talked. The teacher scolded him for folding his own thing and for disturbing his friends.
I explained to him that he could not have his way, as there are both boys and girls in the class. Sometimes it would be ‘girly’ stuff which he does not want to do but he still has to do it because it is difficult for the teacher to please everybody.
Even though I explained it that way to him, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and wondered if it should have been the way. Yes, I understand it is easier for the teacher to control the class if they were all compliant robots and followed step by step, but could she have been more open and receptive to kids with other ideas? Aren’t we trying to imbue creativity in our students? And it’s origami class for crying out loud, not Math lesson.
I spoke to some mummy friends about this and they said that most of the teachers they have come across in primary school expect such obedience. However, friends with kids in the international schools said that if you wanted to fold a crane, go ahead and fold a crane. The teacher might even have gotten the child to teach everyone to fold a crane. It reminded me of the enrichment class #5 went to during the June holidays and when he was not able to fold the dumpling the right way, he invented his own way and the teacher was flexible enough to allow him to do so.
Some of the mummies shared even more absurd stories of how some teachers insisted all the students paint the picture using the exact same colours. I guess now we know why Singaporean kids are not creative and can’t think out of the box. At the time when their creativity should be allowed to blossom, it is stifled. I wonder if we can find a way to marry the two, where we can encourage creativity and individuality within boundaries, in a setting where teachers feel able to handle the class.
The next day, the teacher texted me that he behaved badly again. She said that he was disruptive in class, talks unnecessarily during group work about unrelated topics and doesn’t put up his hands before speaking. Or if he does put up his hand, by the time he is called, he would say that he has forgotten what it was that he wanted to say. And he makes strange noises while lessons are going on. (Ok, I have no idea why he makes such noises.. perhaps he’s bored?)
I told him that he has to put his hand up before talking and to stop making strange noises. I didn’t know how else to deal with him so I spoke to #1 and asked her what she thinks (I was sure she has seen these sorts of issues with the boys in her class).
She looked up from her revision and said, “You know mum, this system is very strange. In primary school, we have to be quiet and raise our hands before talking. Spontaneity and creativity is not encouraged. But in secondary school, it’s the reverse. They want us to shout out the answers and contribute. He would fit right in where I am now, and the teachers would love him, but sadly, he will be pressed into this mould and over the years his desire to speak up will be curtailed as he is repeatedly punished for it.”
I was mulling this over and mentioned it to a teacher friend I bumped into in the market and she said that it was probably more the individual teachers, not the system. She lamented that #5 is the type of student the system is hoping to produce. Creative, out-spoken, courageous kids. Kids who dare to be different. However, some teachers do not support it as it is harder to handle.
|So much learning going on in free play|
A few days ago, his teacher called me again, saying he was extremely naughty during recess. He and another boy shot rubber bands at their classmate. I questioned him about it, and in all earnestness, he tried to explain to me that they were trying to protect their friend (the king) from the enemy (the boy who was shot) and the rubber bands were their weapons. Sigh. This boy of mine. He sticks out like a sore thumb in this rigid sterile school environment. I’m sure he would feel right at home a generation ago where the boys happily caught frogs and fought one another with twigs during recess.
His teacher was exasperated and asked me how was his behaviour at home and what was his schedule like. I told her that after lunch, he spends his time playing with his baby sister, then does his homework. He goes to the playground every evening for an hour to play with the neighbourhood kids, usually soccer or ‘catching’. I could hardly believe my ears when she said “I think he’s playing too much. You should limit his play time. And you should start giving him tuition. He’s already in P2.”
I was speechless.
I think his teacher and I, we’re from a different planet altogether.
I did not give any of my kids tuition until the P6 year, as I believed that if they were of average intelligence, I expected them do relatively ok for the exams if they pay attention in class and hand in all their homework. However, this is not the case. They ended up failing just about every subject in P5. Read about it in “Why parents are forced to spend on tuition”.