In my office – which reaches from Jurien Bay in the Midwest of WA, to Derby in the Kimberley, I deal with students (and adults!) every day, who have struggled within the school environment. Usually with learning to read, spelling, comprehension, writing and maths.
Now, when you are having difficulty in most of those areas, it is probably fair to say, school is not a great place to be! For 12 years! And yet it is where we send our kids to acquire those skills.
Parents are the best teachers for the first five years of their children’s lives, but they are not trained in teaching children literacy and numeracy skills.
For kids to be successful in literacy and numeracy skills, they need teachers, specifically trained in the methodology of teaching those subjects and in recognising the learning styles of students. These two factors exist side-by-side and when one (or both!) is missing, a student cannot possibly reach their full potential.
This is when I see them, bright, eager-to-learn young people, starting to believe they are dumb and stupid because they struggle, every day, to learn. It is not a fault of the teacher – they don’t know, what they don’t know. They believe they have been prepared to “teach” in their four years of training. But if their training was specific to those two factors, methodology and learning styles, why are so many children reaching high school without “functional reading ages”?
(A ‘functional reading age’ (10-11 years) is considered to be the minimum skill level needed for a student to experience success with secondary school learning.)
So any time I hear that the system is going to the heart of the problem, teacher training, I get quite excited. This is where the fundamental changes need to occur.
This opinion post published in The Australian by Jennifer Buckingham, Research Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, appealed to my optimistic nature.