When the Teachers Teach

When the teachers (or teacher’s aides) teach  every day and  diligently follow well developed curriculum, the students learn.  Robert learns.

One constant in Robert’s learning at school, as far as I can say based on Robert’s worksheets from school, is Saxon Math 3.  Every day he completes one part of a lesson with the help of the teachers, and then works independently on a second part, which is equivalent to homework.  Except he is doing  his homework at school.

He still makes errors.  Sometimes many, sometimes few.  But he learns to be independent.  The school teaches him that and teaches him well.

Today at home, Robert, for the first time, worked independently on the test.  It was the test for the  lessons 25-29 of  Saxon Math 4.  I gave Robert instruction.  I gave him compass (as one of the problem called for drawing of a circle with a radius of 1.5 inch.  I brought him a math journal and opened it on the page with a perpetual calendar.  Then, I went to the kitchen.  A few minutes later, I lurked.  Robert already solved correctly first two problems, but then he got stuck.  I passed him a ruler and placed the compass a little closer to him. It was a cue and he read it correctly.  He drew the circle with 1.5 ” radius and then measured its diameter.  He finished two pages of problems with 80% accuracy.  He missed one problem, because he did not read the whole instruction.  (Dividing a circle into 6 parts).  But the errors are not important.  What is important is that he worked without calling for help.  That he did not freeze, as he often did in the past when he was not 100% sure what to do.

I have never before  left him with the test alone.  I usually sat next to him, pretending to do something else, but at the first sign of Robert’s hesitation, I jumped to assist him.   I cannot help it.  So the fact that Robert completed the test with only one cue from me (ruler and compass), is not of my doing, but is the effect of the instruction he received at school.

It is not about the content of the teaching – third grade versus fourth grade math.  (For Robert, both levels are equally difficult, because of language).  It is about significant change in behavior. Yes, Robert can independently complete  a whole page of similar arithmetic problems.  He did that many times in the past.  But the tests in Saxon Math require reading, require flexible switching from one operation to another – to count elapsed time, to find a date on a perpetual calendar, to draw a circle,to solve a word problem with multiplication, to change units of time, to compare numbers after first completing some operation.  In the past, with every new problem, Robert would stumble and wait for a prompt.  Now, he stumbled only once.

Not surprisingly, I feel great. I feel great for many reasons.

1.  Robert demonstrated ability to  THINK much  more independently than before.

2. My strongest conviction, that children learn when the teachers follow good curriculum (and not worksheets haphazardly taken from internet) was validated yet again.

3.  Mostly, however, I feel great because … it was not me, but others who brought this change.

I like teaching Robert.  I am glad and satisfied when Robert learns something with my help.  But whenever other people manage to teach Robert something, I feel more than happy.  I feel like the heavy load was taken of my shoulders. I stop being bitter and no more I feel alone in my educational endeavor.

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