A school may have a wonderful curriculum policy and a sophisticated approach to assessment, but a child’s holistic development depends on effective teaching and balanced parenting.
A child’s world revolves around his parents and teachers. Together they make, shape and guide him/her. Indeed, they mean the world to the kids.
“You Your Child and School” by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica discusses effective teaching and parenting in a comprehensive manner. This encouraged me to share its interesting insights with all my readers.
Robinson describes teachers as the “source” of the teaching and learning process. Teaching basically includes instructing and explaining. But a teacher’s role is not confined to it. “There is more to education than proportional knowledge.” With this comprehensive insight Robinson explicitly discusses “The Roles of Teachers”. According to him teachers have four major roles to play:
1. ENABLE: Robinson compares kids with plants and seeds and teachers as farmers and gardeners. “Gardeners don’t make the plants grow. They don’t attach the roots and paint the leaves. The plants grow themselves. The role of gardeners is to provide the best conditions for that to happen.” Similarly, children do the learning themselves and the role of teachers is to create the best conditions and provide them with opportunities to thrive. “Great teaching is- knowing what works best here and now and on this day.”
2. ENGAGE: Curiosity and excitement are elements of utmost importance for effective learning. Sarah M Fine argues that the key to deep engagement in high school classrooms is “intellectual playfulness”. Intellectual risk taking and open ended assignments is one such way to keep students consistently engaged, looking forward to class and work hard without getting disinterested. Hereby, teachers become friends and not hard task masters. She emphasizes that this doesn’t at all mean that the student can just sit and expect that the teacher should make all the effort to take care of his/her interest in the class.
3. EMPOWER: “Great teachers empower students in two ways. They cultivate task confidence by developing students’ abilities in their own areas of expertise. They cultivate self confidence by working together as a learning community to develop students’ abilities in all kinds of competencies.” Thereby students become independent learners by acquiring knowledge and skills to experiment, ask questions and develop their skills in critical and creative thinking.
4. EXPECT: “Great teachers have high expectations for their students and it is hard to overestimate the effect it can have on achievement.” A teacher’s encouragement, appreciation and expectation can work wonders.
All these roles can be deftly played by a person who has a natural passion for teaching and an aptitude for it, therefore successful education system like that of Finland doesn’t focus on recruiting people with highest academic qualification. It instead encourages and trains those who have a natural flair for teaching. “Significantly, TFA (Teach for America) has come to the same conclusion that great teaching is not all about academic qualifications. It’s about passion and expertise in helping others to learn. TFA studies its teachers carefully and realized that the teachers who helped their students most have some common characteristics:
· They are constantly reinventing their classrooms and evaluating their own progress with the students.
· They work hard at keeping their classrooms inclusive and at engaging parents in what is going on in class.
· They keep a strong level of focus on outcomes.
· They are unusually well prepared both on daily level and on a yearlong level by working backward from what they hope to accomplish.
· They are relentless in spite of school and community condition.
Robinson also shared an extensive survey of teaching styles conducted by Dr. Anthony Grasha. These styles are as follows:
1. Expert: Teachers following this style have high level of subject knowledge. They use knowledge as a vehicle and share their mastery of their subject. The disadvantage of this technique is that this level of expertise sometimes prevents the teacher from understanding the challenges that students face.
2. Formal Authority: The teachers who execute formal authority project gravitas and set out a firm classroom approach in the classroom. While the classroom goals in this case are often focused and clear cut there is a tendency towards rigidity which doesn’t work out with every student.
3. Personal Model: Teachers using this style tend to offer lots of examples from his/her own life. He/She shows how to do something with effective techniques and encouragement. Although it sounds very effective, it could be problematic with students who don’t learn with those techniques.
4. Facilitator: This teaching style concentrates on helping students become independent thinkers by guiding them towards discovery. They serve as consultant rather than instructor and cater to students as individuals. Yet again not all students can cope up with this approach.
5. Delegator: Under this style students are encouraged to work autonomously, acting as a resource where necessary. Grasha feels that this hastens students’ development as independent learners. But this style can only be effective for higher order thinking students.
An ideal teaching approach would be a blend of all these styles.
After discussing the roles of teachers and various teaching styles Robinson goes on to elaborate upon various parenting styles. According to him being a parent can be the most enriching experience but it needs a lot of patience and a sense of balance. Robinson has comprehensively discussed four major parenting styles in the chapter “Finding Your Parenting Style”:
1. Authoritarian: Authoritarian parents present a set of rules that their children have to follow, without offering any explanation about why the rules exist. They believe in harsh punishments and do not welcome questioning. Research suggests that the children under this parental regime tend to be good at what they do but they also tend to be unhappy and have problems socializing.
2. Authoritative: Authoritative parents have rules for their children as well but they are more willing to explain the reason behind them. When a child breaks a rule, it is seen as a time for discussion and not punishment. The children of these parents tend to be the happiest and most social, while standing a good chance at success at what they do.
3. Permissive: Permissive parents tend to be very lenient and often treat their children as friends. They prioritize nurturing and minimize consequences. Children of these parents have problems with authority outside the home.
4. Uninvolved: Uninvolved parents abstain from parenting as much as they can. They just make sure that their child has food and shelter and that is the end of it. Children of these parents have issues with self-control, self-esteem and happiness.
At the end of this description Robinson remarks that at the far end of the parenting spectrum are the “so called helicopter parents”. He says, “They are obsessively protective and never let their child get hurt, complete their homework, rush to the school to complain at the first sign of any action by teachers or other students that might upset their self-esteem.” I have already discussed the disadvantages of this parenting style in one of my articles. When children are not given the space to struggle they don’t learn to solve their problems and end up being anxious and depressed in case of any failure. Therefore, ideal parenting style will have to be a blend of the first three styles discussed with a blend of free-range parenting as I have discussed in one of my articles.
Of course, there cannot be a “perfect” way of teaching and parenting. As teachers and parents we will have to keep exploring various approaches to find the best way. I totally agree with Robinson as he concludes that parenting and teaching styles need to be flexible for “your children need you for different things at different points in their lives”.
“At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child's success is the positive involvement of parents and teachers.”