The dice were £2 for a pack of twelve in one of those stores where £2 is a lot to spend. Deciding that at least eight pairs of dice would be necessary for an ordinary class, I bought two packs. I need no longer pester a colleague from the maths department each time I want dice to use with a game to be played by students. Unlikely as it seems, dice and counters and a game, where the first person to reach the end is the winner, was effective in encouraging learning. Each time particular squares were landed on, an information card had to be picked up and read aloud and all the players had to write down what the card said. Of course, the information might have been simply printed on photocopied sheets and the students might then have pasted these sheets into into their books, saving the hassle of organizing them into small groups, handing out the equipment for the game, and ensuring that they were actually recording what was read from the cards, but how much interest would there have been and would there have been any possibility of the buzz and laughter that filled the classroom for fifteen minutes?
Teaching has become intellectually, logistically and physically far more demanding than in former times. To stand at the front and talk, as did teachers in former times is no longer an option, nor is sitting at a desk while students work silently from textbooks. Students who are used to living in a multi-media and interactive world do not learn in the ways to which their counterparts in former times were accustomed. The exams they face are significantly harder than in former times (Year 7 classes approach history in a way I did not encounter until A-level or even university days, studying sources and drawing inferences are the norm now). The ways of learning are very different from the past. Persisting as though the culture from which children and the levels of understanding expected of them have not changed demands either a disciplinarian approach, in which strict control is maintained and students learn very little, or brings a slippery slide into disciplinary problems. The best way to teach, and to keep order, I have learned, very slowly, progressing no more than one millimetre at a time, is to try to create an environment where students are so engaged with learning that they have little inclination to mess about. I shall look for further opportunities to use my dice.
I’ve been reading up on teaching techniques for the last few months myself.
As you may know I have professional artist status in visual arts and sculpture, Tax Exemption and all that jazz.
So I was invited with all the others in the county to a meeting in Thurles to attend on lecturers from Mary-I and DCU teacher training establishments. It seems the current system is training the ‘art’ out of them at a far earlier age than was previously believed. And the Government has decided that the answer is to pay artists €2000 for 50 contact hours to give them some of the tools to ask questions as well as answer them. Since the teachers don’t have the wherewithal.
Truthfully I am incredible wary about this. And am reminded of the Latin saw about fishing with a gold hook where the potential for things going wrong massively outweighs any good.
Anyway I’m attending a guidance meeting on the 30th to see.
The obsession here with grades, grades and grades is training the education out of education. The old fashioned idea of a liberal education has disappeared and many classes now are simply about equipping students with the facts to pass exams