Maximising time for the books
August 8, 2004
I still recall my first day at primary school. There we were sitting in the classroom, glad to be back with friends and just wishing to spend the first day of school having fun.
The new class teacher however had different ideas and insisted that he wanted to teach on the very first day of school; something that no one had ever heard about in my time. As things would have it, he decided to test our adding skills. Guess who he chose to be the first victim? Yes, none other than Peeping Tom!
He asked me to stand up in front of the class. He asked, "If I give you two parrots, and two parrots, and another two parrots, how many parrots have you got?
I answered immediately, " SEVEN!" The teacher looked shocked and continued, "No, listen carefully again. If I give you two parrots, and two parrots, and another two parrots, how many parrots have you got?
I again answered, "SEVEN!"
"Let's try this another way," said the teacher. "If I give you two bottles of beer, and two bottles of beer, and another two bottles of beer, how many bottles of beer
have you got?"
I answered, "SIX!"
"Good!" replied the teacher. "Now, if I give you two parrots, and two parrots, and another two parrots, how many parrots have you got?"
I again answered "SEVEN!"
This really angered the new teacher who shouted, "How on Earth do you work out that three lots of two parrots is seven?"
To which I answered, "Because I've already got one parrot at home now!"
That guy never bothered teaching us for the rest of the day, and ever since no other teacher during my years at school has ever attempted to teach on the first day of school… or for that matter dare to ask me to do any addition involving parrots.
Recently I was chatting with some young teenagers who are home on vacation. Recalling my school days - which must count as the best days of my life - I asked them what the first day of school was like for them.
To my surprise, I found out that nothing really has changed. The first day of school is still a free day where actual schoolwork is concerned. And this is understandable. Teachers and students have to get settled in; there are the usual teething problems concerning accommodation and the placing of students in classrooms etc.
I am sure however that there are some schools which are so organised that it is possible to begin the syllabus on the very first day, but I am also sure that there are not many schools that actually begin schoolwork on day one. So in large part, the first day of school is a time for students to "catch up" with each other and to enjoy each other's company.
What is not acceptable however is if that first day turns into a week. I am not saying this happens. All I am saying is that we need to ensure that in each school in Guyana, classroom work begins promptly on the second day at the least, so that our children can benefit to the maximum from each day spent at school.
There are many distractions within our school curriculum. There is always some public event or the other each term that require students to attend, thereby taking them away from study in the classroom and while this exposure to out of school activities can help in their educational development, the particular activities need to be monitored to ensure that it is truly beneficial to their development.
The visit of a foreign leader is one occasion when it is good for children to be out to physically have a glimpse of someone whose country may be the subject of a geography or history lesson. Excessive time spent away from the classroom is however not healthy. And we already have so many holidays interfering with the time spent in the classroom.
I mention these things because I note that there is some talk about reintroducing physical education in schools.
This is not a bad thing. Some of the top students in Guyana have always found the time, and often lots of time, to be involved in sports. What is important is that we emphasise involvement in sports and not just some stretching activity. Children need a rounded education but unfortunately with the emphasis on academic performance, little time is left for physical education.
Given the overall performance of our children, there may be some opposition to adding physical education to the curricula since some parents will argue that the students need as much teaching as they can get given the many non- academic activities they are required to participate in during the school years.
One suggestion that can be considered would be for physical education to take a different format and involve students having a choice of discipline whereby they would participate in activities of their choice after school hours, say between 300pm to 6.00pm. In that way, students may be able to dedicate more time to physical activity without interfering with their normal school work.
One advantage of this voluntary system is that it does not force any activity onto a child but allows the child to decide which game or sport he or she is interested in. Another is that it would allow for streaming in physical activities and more personal time can thus be set aside to develop the individual talents. In addition, who would want to do physical education in the hot sun and then return to the classroom to study?
It would be much better if different clubs were formed within a school, say a football club, cricket club, badminton club etc and students hook up with these for training after dismissal time.
Peeping Tom is proposing physical education take place at the end of the school day. What do you think?