A few days ago, I posted about G's father trying to help her with her homework, and although her father has a degree in Mechanical Engineering, had worked as a research engineer at the National Maritime Institute, and had taught A level Electronics in some of the best schools in England, she wasn't just going to accept his word unquestioningly.
"I disagree with why you have to convert everything out of Newtons, Dad," she said sullenly. "Seems a dumb way of doing things."
My post brought in several messages from Asian mothers along the lines of "Aiyoh, you allowed her to challenge her father?" and "Your daughter must learn some humility."
I agree, in part. Being a secret Tiger Mum myself, I could not have taught this child. And I am glad she has a father who has the patience of a saint, and a school that supports her learning style.
Today, I sat through a presentation by the Head of her school, the British International School, Phuket. Mr. Neil Richards spoke passionately about his vision. A couple of the things that resonated deeply with me were the following words of his:
"I am committed to giving your children as many opportunities as possible to express themselves" and "Taking them beyond examinations."
Too often, schools and education systems (and by extension, teachers) are focused solely on getting their students to pass exams through memorising and rote-learning, thereby robbing the next generation of the opportunity to use their brains productively and richly. Learning to score top marks in exams without understanding the rationale behind the subject constitutes a narrow band of learning how to solve specific problems only, which given enough time, even apes can do. You don't grow your brain by drilling for hours on past exam papers or memorising things that make no sense to you, just because some long-dead Professors said so.
"Teenagers are messy, they are control freaks. It is part of their DNA to want to take control back from the parents. We allow them to do so, but not too much too soon." Wise words, Mr Richards, and the questioning, challenging and debating are all part of the process of making sense of the world around them, which they will be custodians of. We want to raise thinking leaders, not meek sheep.
My Richards spoke of his belief that Success = Attitude + Teacher + Ability. And surprisingly, Ability is only 20%, according to his 20 years' experience as an educator. He believes strongly that all learning is emotional. How a child feels inside relates to how he will learn for the rest of the day. A child who is comfortable and happy in school will learn better throughout the day. And perhaps even influence his life's choices. Mr Richards himself was influenced by Mrs Griffiths, the history teacher who taught him when he was eight, and the positive influence she has on his life. And all Mrs Griffiths did was made the eight year old Neil Richards feel confident in himself academically.
The British International School in Phuket has succeeded in implementing its Head's vision of creating a happy, comfortable place. The environment is indeed collegiate, non-threatening, sunny and relaxed. G, in her second week at the school, was not too intimidated by her new environment, and dared to put her hand up in class to correct her teacher. I give full kudos to that particular teacher, who was gracious enough to check the answer on the Internet, and concede that G was indeed correct.
G feels good in the school and I am confident that she will achieve great things, though she comes home and says that her teachers goof around in class. Today, I will tell her what her Head said, that this is all part of the grand plan.
Footnote: I am working on an article about teaching children how to think. Follow this blog and read it, if you believe in raising thinking leaders, not meek sheep. And get ready for the questioning, the challenging, the debate.