[Education] Treat teachers as partners in educating your child, rather than vendors

A noble profession. (Pixabay)

By Marcus Goh and Adrian Kuek

The recent announcement of West Spring Primary School’s “no texts and emails after 5 pm” rule has cast a spotlight on the prevailing attitude towards teachers nowadays, which is that parents are paying teachers for a service. The idea is that parents pay teachers via taxes for the service of having their kids taught.

Compare this to attitudes in the past, when parents deferred to teachers in terms of teaching and disciplining their children. It’s clear that teachers have been relegated to being vendors in learning, rather than being partners.

Perhaps this might be an unforeseen consequence of how the school system is structured, seeing how schools do actually engage vendors for enrichment and other courses.

Teachers as your child’s learning partners

Nevertheless, treating teachers as vendors rather than partners is harmful for a child’s education. It reduces the learning process to a purely transactional one — put in tax money (or parent volunteer hours or other forms of “payment”) to get good grades for your child.

An education is so much more than just scoring high marks. It is about loving the subjects that you learn and taking the initiative to know more. A good teacher imparts his or her love of the subject into each class that is taught, and the hallmark of a good education is a student who seeks more knowledge in the subject out of curiosity and passion.

Working towards being learning partners 

So here are five ways that parents can treat teachers as learning partners, instead of vendors.

1. Respect their boundaries when it comes to communication

Many teachers fear giving their mobile numbers to students and parents for this very reason — that it becomes used and abused as an ad hoc form of communication. This is why West Spring Primary School’s principal, Jacintha Lim, should be lauded for having implemented her rule regarding communications.

Imagine if your boss incessantly sends Whatsapp messages after working hours (though for many of us, that might be a reality). That’s the same feeling teachers get when having to contend with after-hours communication. It’s not to say that parents are the ‘boss’ of teachers, but that a sense of responsibility is what drives parents to answer such messages.

2. Allow teachers to discipline your child if necessary

If it hasn’t been made abundantly clear by now, the Ministry of Education and all schools have guidelines and limits for punishment that take into account physical and emotional safety. So when a teacher is forced to discipline a student, that disciplining takes into account the child’s safety. Punishment is never the first option, it is often the last recourse that the teacher has when it comes to teaching.

So give your child’s teacher the respect and autonomy to administer punishment where necessary. It’s not just about your child, but also about how his or her classmates view and learn from the incident as well. Negative reinforcement is sometimes required for better behaviour and learning — that’s why we have laws and fines for adults, right?

3. Talk to the teacher directly if you have any issues

For a teacher to be effective, he or she needs authority over the students in class. If nobody listens to the teacher, then how will learning take place? For that reason, don’t undermine your child’s teacher’s authority by criticising them in front of your child. If a child’s parents don’t respect the teacher, then it’s likely that the child will have the same attitude.

Take it up directly with the teacher if you have any doubts. It is better to have direct communication, rather than a “broken telephone” style of complaints through your child that is not going to improve anything. It will also be more reassuring when the teacher explains the rationale for certain actions that you might disagree with.

4. Be understanding when teachers make mistakes

In the heat of battle, which is what teaching a rowdy class of students can be like, mistakes can be made. Remember that working adults also make mistakes at work, and teachers are working adults, too.

Be understanding when that happens. If it’s a minor mistake or one that can be cleared up with a simple phone call, then let it go. You might want to inform the teacher about it, but if it’s not severe or frequent, then treat it for what it is — a one-off incident.

5. Yes, you can complain — but go through proper channels

As with all industries, there are some bad eggs who become teachers. If after talking to a teacher directly and considering all other avenues, you are not satisfied with the resolution, then it might be necessary to provide feedback to higher authorities. That is perfectly normal.

However, blowing up the issue over social media does nobody any good. In fact, Internet shaming is fast becoming a problem not just in education, but for most industries. You might attract attention to the behaviour of the teacher in question, but your child, the class, the school and even you might be the victims of unintended fallout.

This applies to students, too.

This article was written for and first published on Yahoo Singapore’s Grade Expectations.

Grade Expectations is a weekly feature on education in Singapore. Expect fun activities, useful tips and insightful news on learning. It’s not just about your child’s grades — it’s about raising a great child!

Marcus Goh runs Write-Handed, a creative writing studio. At the same time, he teaches English at The Write Connection. He has been a specialist tutor for English and Literature (Secondary) since 2005.

Adrian Kuek runs Joyous Learning, an enrichment centre that specialises in English, Mathematics, Science and Creative Writing for Primary. He previously served as the academic director of one of Singapore’s largest enrichment centre chains for over seven years.

If you liked the article, follow me on Facebook and Twitter for more (presumably) good updates!

To get in touch with me, send an email!

Author: By marcus goh

September 2, 2017 |

[Education] How to make Maths more enjoyable for your child – marcusgohmarcusgoh

Learning Maths in a forest. (Pixabay)

By Marcus Goh and Sim Kian Ming

Maths can seem daunting to both students and parents, especially at the upper primary levels. The values are larger, the amount of information provided is less, and there is so much working to write down (for problem sums). Hence, the right attitude towards Maths makes a huge difference when it comes to tackling PSLE Maths.

Inculcating the right attitude towards Maths starts from a young age. Make Maths enjoyable for your child, and you’ll see them develop a genuine interest in the subject. Here are five ways to make it much more fun for your child.

1. Use trigger activities

Telling your child to practise solving sums of a dry Maths topic is not going to help anyone. What you can do instead is to use a suitable television show or movie, and then ask them to think about the applications of maths in these shows. In this way, the positive feelings your child has for the show or movie can be transferred to the maths topic in question.

For example, if your child is a fan of “Spongebob Squarepants”, ask him or her if he or she can figure out how many Krabby Patties are sold at the Krusty Krab each day and use this as a trigger activity for the topic of Money.

2. Give meaningful contexts to topics

Sometimes, students just don’t see the point of what they are studying. And you can’t blame them — it’s only when we’re adults that we can see the value of what we’ve learnt as children. Give them a real-life context that shows what they’re learning is useful, and it will help students relate better to what they are learning.

For example, explain how Area & Perimeter is important when it comes to buying furniture. You need to ensure that the furniture you buy fits within the area that you are buying it for, and that the perimeter is long enough to accommodate all the shelves you want to buy.

3. Help your child use inductive reasoning to understand concepts better

Inductive reasoning is the process of deriving a method to solve a question through one’s own observations. When you ask a child “How would you solve this?”, you’re actually challenging your child to use inductive reasoning. This is not to say that you just leave your child alone to figure out concepts alone.

Rather, guide your child along and provide him or her with options that will help in understanding the topic more holistically. In this way, your child gains a greater sense of accomplishment because he or she will have figured out the answer based on his or her own abilities. Children will also remember the concept better since they have experienced the thought processes of deriving the solution.

4. Help your child use deductive reasoning to practice the application of concepts

For more advanced questions, students frequently need to use deductive reasoning to solve them. While inductive reasoning focuses on deriving concepts and understanding certain topics, deductive reasoning is about applying these mathematical rules.

One way is to give your child real-life examples, like tabulating the bill using mental calculations when you eat out. This will also help give meaningful contexts to what they have learnt, allowing you to implement two tips with one action!

5. Mix topics to allow your child to apply concepts in new ways

Integrating different topics is also a good way to help students enjoy Maths more. It takes a little bit more work to provide such examples to your child, but that’s how Maths works in real life too. Assembling IKEA furniture requires knowledge of Angles and Area & Perimeter, after all.

Perhaps the most versatile topic that could be mixed with other topics is Money. Ask your child to calculate the final cost of what you’d like to buy, and offer to give him or her a small cut if he or she calculates it correctly. You’ll see your child mixing skills from different topics in no time!

What other strategies do you use to make Maths enjoyable?

This article was written for and first published on Yahoo Singapore’s Grade Expectations.

Grade Expectations is a weekly feature on education in Singapore. Expect fun activities, useful tips and insightful news on learning. It’s not just about your child’s grades — it’s about raising a great child!

Marcus Goh runs Write-Handed, a creative writing studio. At the same time, he teaches English at The Write Connection. He has been a specialist tutor for English and Literature (Secondary) since 2005.

Sim Kian Ming has taught in MOE schools, enrichment centres, and as a private tutor for over 10 years. He has also served as an Editor at an international educational publishing house. He is currently the Mathematics Specialist at Joyous Learning.

If you liked the article, follow me on Facebook and Twitter for more (presumably) good updates!

To get in touch with me, send an email!

August 24, 2017 |

Listen to Your Child’s He(art)


“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” ―Pablo Picasso

Art plays an important role in education. It is introduced from young to nurture creativity. Creativity is not confined to artistic pursuits—it is also essential for science and even math. The possibilities are endless. Bringing your child to theatre performances is an excellent way to foster creativity.

We spoke to Charlotte Nors, Executive Director of The Singapore Reportory Theatre (SRT) to learn more about the importance of creative arts in your child’s development.

Tell us more about SRT’s productions for children.
SRT set up The Little Company to stage plays for children. When The Little Company was launched 15 years ago, SRT wanted to offer class theatrical productions that adults and children can enjoy. That way, both parents and children can spend quality time.

Most of our plays have been based on literary classics, such as The Ugly Duckling and the recently ended Charlotte’s Web. We aim to make novice theatre-goers see things in a new light. At the same time, we want to keep a sense of familiarity with evergreen works. These productions also stimulate children’s interest in classic literature, which is important in this rapidly changing digital era.

We always ensure that education meets entertainment, edutainment so to speak. Such as learning about the importance of friendships and helping other people. I am immensely proud of our work; we now cater to nearly 70,000 children and adults. It bodes well for the future of theatre – and arts-loving generations to come.

The recent production, The Three Little Pigs, says a lot about our devotion to quality. It was created by Anthony Drewe and George Stiles – the team behind Honk! which won the Oliver Award ahead of Lion King in 2002. They had created Mary Poppins for Cameron Mackintosh as well. World-renowned creators of theatre producing for SRT’s 2-year-old audience. There is no better proof.

Why is it important to get children involved in the arts from young?
Exposure to the arts is important. Our children rely too much on digital entertainment so we must find ways to engage them in offline activities. Experience is life’s tool-box; ideas emerge and opinions are formed so our children are better equipped to take on new challenges.

How do the arts improve the parent-child bond and how can we get children interested?
Watching a play is a great way to spend time together. We encourage parents to read the book with their children first, then have a post-play discussion. Ask them about what they had watched and how the story was told. You can even go on to doodle the scenes together. It is really up to your imagination.

Besides plays, are there other offerings tailored for children?
We organise holiday programmes where children spend a week of mentorship with artists in the mid of preparation. This is one area we want to develop further to nurture an artistic sensibility.

Arts education is crucial to children’s development. It bolsters your child’s creativity and prepares him/her for the road ahead. Moreover, it offers quality time. Enjoy the art of bonding!


July 11, 2017 |
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