5 years of standardizing the practice across the school (especially with all of us coming from many and varied kindergartens), 4 years of training staff, going with Read Write Inc……… and now I get the chance to go to this thing and talk about it after.
Now, I would not be painting an accurate picture if I wrote this like I just discovered the existence of parent workshops by schools to brief and train parents in reading to kids/ helping with other schoolwork. This is like telling a parent in Hong Kong their child will have to go for an entrance interview to get into a primary school <snort> In some places I heard working parents even send their helpers to attend phonics trainings because it will be the helpers who sit with the kids. And btw I heard there are even in-vitro Mandarin classes nowadays…
The difference that evening was in the presentation of the
boot camp training session. In how they coached us to give encouragement and raise our kids’ confidence levels before correcting our kids’ mistakes. In their showing us how to make the text come alive, how to have fun and in so doing inspire and instill enthusiasm.
I especially value this because somewhere in my reluctant acknowledgement that a certain amount of hard work has to go toward little kids keeping up with all the stuff they have to learn at their age nowadays (and which we feel a little sorry for them for), is the fervent hope that it doesn’t have to be too painful.
It would be nice if my child could have a little fun and still maybe make it to Harvard someday
To set the tone of the evening, they opened with this:
Can you read it?
This was very effective in illustrating to us parents how our kids might feel as they first learned to read, the discomfort of letters or sounds they couldn’t yet recognize, the effectiveness of an accompanying picture to try and figure out the unknown bits.
That alone is already quite different from what a lot of us grew up with – in primary school Kings had an English teacher who regularly flung his books out the classroom window. After a 1st from London School of Economics and employment at a major British investment bank for several years in London before a transfer to Singapore where we met and got married, there are still a few grammatical mistakes he defiantly insists on making which I’m almost sure is some subliminal thumbing of his nose at his former primary school English teacher. And truth be told, I could see Rockstar reacting like that if someone tried to “kill and drill” him. When I complain about stress-y interviews and power-tripping school administrators et al I always wonder how many “difficult” children are actually bright kids “rubbed the wrong way” by over-competitiveness, obsessive parenting or simply the way people are because there are just too many good applicants in this town – rather than having their natural strengths nurtured and brought out by the right teachers given the right opportunities and environment.
boot camp training session. We put some effort into learning cheers. Yes, cheers. A little less on extrinsic “sticker rewards” and more on intrinsic ones ie different kinds of praise like ketchup hand, bubble clap, thumbs up good job, group whoosh, firework (oo ah bang bang bang bang). We practiced them.
So I’m just sitting there thinking, this is brilliant, because I remember one bank I worked for had us all almost kill ourselves at a Pulau Ubin Adventure Camp-esque “teamwork/ bonding” exercise. Some of those guys climbing rope ladders and doing simulated parachute jumps weren’t exactly young; how come no one is worried one of the
fossils more senior bankers gets hurt? Why didn’t HR just train us to do this? I can see it now:
In dealing room…
To client: “Deal DONE 5 bucks CDO Equity tranche.”
Everyone in the room goes “Ketchup thumbs up all around!” CLAPCLAPCLAPCLAP
“Firework whatchamacallit- ooooh aaaaahh bang bang BANGBANGBANG”
To client: “You are FILLED at two ticks better on the spot..” To trader across the room: “I NEED – (whatever stock to hedge position)!”
“EVERYONE GIVE HIM A WHOOSH!” WHOOOSSHHH!
What? Wouldn’t that be cute?
Imagine getting a WHOOSH! from 80-200+ people in your standard open-seating dealing room. Probably improve the juju of the whole place, too. (Well excuse me, I happen to know a British trader who was given a stern talking-to for ignoring the lion prancing about the dealing room at CNY to improve juju. Don’t mock the juju.)
Still you scoff? You don’t get a ketchup thumbs up. In fact, betcha don’t even know what a ketchup thumbs up is. <uppity sniff> No, no wait – which would you prefer, climbing several stories up a pole for the Confidence Jump so your colleagues can cheer you on encouragingly in Team Building, or Ketchup Thumbs Up? (Suddenly Ketchup Thumbs Up in dealing room doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?)
And then the rest of it. Going through all the pronunciations. Cautioning against the most common mistakes. Teachers going round checking to see if we “get” it.
There were graphemes. I learned the word grapheme. See now, I can use that word in a sentence: I never thought I would type the word grapheme. We learned the “Magic E” – “when e sits next to another letter sometimes they talk too much so they put another letter between them but they can hold hands and still change the sound. e.g: make, name, late…
It was a very meaty session that ran overtime with active parent participation and us practicing cheers and stuff, just I don’t post all the notes (which included a table of various sound groupings) in case one of my friends is I Had To Ketchup Thumbs Up With A Smile After A Hard Day At Work So I Could Get Notes And You Just Posted All The Notes? WHY YOU NO SAY EARLIER? Because the rest of us who attended were:
That’s a joke ok, and my response to fictitious complaint is “The Ketchup Thumbs Up happens to be a complicated move you need to be there in the work-suited flesh to learn correctly“. AND if you have never heard The Hairy Fairy read and acted out so your child is enthusiastic about reading and gains understanding from the text (instead of simply reading without comprehension) then you’ve not seen Shakespeare the way it should be read.
I know I type that flippantly, but I’m not kidding – pick up any of his works and thumb through it, most of us will probably not make it through. Being shown it’s how our kids feel went miles in our understanding and ability to be patient with our kids. Next, watch the play (and fine, read the Cliff’s Notes, Wiki the plot – we are supposed to read through the text together 3 times for the school readers to gain an understanding right…) and suddenly it all makes sense. Comes alive. Is……. fun. How alive? How much fun? Watch the teacher on the stage being The Hairy Fairy. Fun can be reading together, not just throwing a ball around or having a tub of ice cream.
We always bemoan how much work and stress and competitiveness is in our kids’ schooling nowadays, and then we might get worried whether our kids are keeping up, and…….. so they remind us to leave the bad day back at the office (or Park n Shop). Don’t let your child see it. Don’t let your child see you hating reading. Stop, if you and your child are not enjoying it, rather than risk developing a bad attitude to reading.
The most powerful message for me was learning to have fun while learning with your child. My own childhood was a blur of activities and tuitions and competitions, as I’m sure many of my friends’ and ex-course mates’ were. I had to play an exam piece 3 times perfectly before I could stop, and every mistake meant having to play 3 more times perfectly. Ever tried it when you were 9? It feels like death, as you work out how many more times you will have to play exponentially and the more tired you are, guess what happens?
It may have reflected the best wisdom of the time, but it would be great if they’ve found a better way today, what with all that effort and research that has gone into children’s education. Kids already have to learn so much more when they’re so much younger than during our time, I can’t imagine how unpleasant the equivalent of exponentially increasing piano practice times in reading or writing would be today, to get through all the material they have to.
And well I didn’t get to have much fun the first time I learned to read, so I’m all for enjoying myself now.