Thursday, 19 February 2015
Calm and Serenity
'There is, in good schools, enough leisureliness to prevent the children or teachers feeling hurried. Children of five are still slow in doing quite simple things, such as washing and going to the WC, or putting away their materials and preparing to move from one place to another. From a sense of there being time to do what has to be done, comes a feeling of calm and serenity. Without serenity no environment can be satisfying to a child; nor should he be forced beyond a pace at which he can go without confusion.'
When I started teaching it was just about OK to say things like that. Nowadays people look at you as if you are crazy. Once I taught a boy, let's call him 'A'. He moved to the school where I was teaching from another one nearby and I met his previous teacher. 'Poor Andrew,' she said. 'He's just not very bright, I'm afraid.' On his first day he said: 'I don't have much luck, Mr May. My dad left, and then we had to move house and come here. Now my dog's died.' Then he settled down to make a model with cardboard and a roll of sellotape.
Every day after that he came to school and spent most of his time making things with cardboard and paper and sellotape. His reading and writing weren't so hot, but if you wanted a good model 'A' was your boy. A dozen years later I was passing through the village, stopped at the Post Office and there was 'A's mother. 'Guess what,' she said. 'He's doing engineering at 'A' level. And he still gets through a couple of rolls of sellotape every week.'
'A' needed space and time and serenity and calm. I'm not sure he would get them today, because he would need to progress through his levels and sub-levels on a termly and half-termly basis.
The picture is from 'The Practical Infant Teacher' (1929) It's an example of a sentence to be used in 'the sentence method' of teaching children to read. I am fond of the sentence method. It is closely related to the 'look and say' method, which is how I learned to read. More of this another time!