Category Archives: Uncategorized

Class Size and Visions of Teaching

Patients waiting on hospital trolleys. Long waiting lists for social and affordable housing. Services and systems often struggle to match resources with what people need.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation has justifiably been a consistent advocate for smaller class sizes in primary schools for many years. So strong and focused have they been in their advocacy that one former ministerial advisor describes them as “the best lobbyists in the business.” Continue reading

Learning can be fun without being sugar-coated

Making learning fun is often associated with playing educational games or having children compete with one another for prizes. Such fun can thrill without nourishing.

But learning is also fun when children are given time and space to think, when they can express their ideas and have them respected, and when their contributions – even their mistakes – are used to advance their own learning and the learning of others.

The intrinsic motivation of the second type of fun contributes to a love of learning that may endure.

Why I Respond in the Same Way to Correct and Incorrect Answers

I posed the subtraction question 92 minus 18 for a class to calculate. One child answered 74. Another said 86. My response to both children was the same: “How did you get that answer?”

I did not indicate to one child that the answer was correct and to the other that it was incorrect. I wanted each child, and their classmates, to figure out for themselves if either answer made sense or not.

I want the children to become sense-makers who are willing to interrogate their own ideas. I want them to rely on logic when figuring out if an answer is right or wrong and not depend on the external affirmation or disaffirmation of a teacher. Continue reading

Everyone Teaches (just not in school settings)

In Berlin early on a Sunday morning, with few cars on the streets, local people will wait at a red pedestrian crossing light until it changes to green. In Dublin, for many pedestrians a red light serves merely as a signal to pause briefly before crossing if no traffic is in sight. Why are Berliners so law abiding?

A tour guide explained that it is because they want to show good example to children. Adult pedestrians could flout red lights if no traffic is about, but they know that if they do, young children may begin to do so too, and not having the road experience of adults, such actions are more likely to be detrimental to children. Continue reading

Teaching is More than Facilitation

The word “facilitator” is related to the word “facile” which means “easy” or “to make something easy.” Making something complicated easier for someone else to understand is part of what a teacher does.

However, in our society the term facilitator has other meanings, many of them linked to the business world or to a discussion conducted by a chat show host. Often the idea of facilitation is linked to someone who is neutral about content and someone whose role is to bring about consensus in a group or to get everyone present to contribute. Continue reading