Latent & infectious old school mindsets
Posted July 17, 2012on:
As I prepare for another iteration of the inservice teacher course that I offer, I am aware that the biggest barrier to learning is mindsets. This is why I one of the expectations we discuss during the first session is learning, unlearning, and relearning.
The mindsets of my course participants is relatively easy to spot, monitor, and change because I will meet them over several weeks. Less obvious is the mindset of teachers in schools who do not even know that they have harmful mindsets.
Last Friday, I met with my son’s new form teacher (his class is on their third one!) to provide feedback on what my wife and I think is a harmful process.
The previous form teacher implemented a system where groups of eight-year-olds take turns to stay back in class during recess to clean the class up. Each group is assigned to do this one day of the week. The tasks include sweeping the floor, wiping the board, and disinfecting desks with Dettol. They are allowed to enjoy what is left of recess once they are done.
I have no problem with the kids doing chores. I applaud it given how many kids have maids to carry their school bags nowadays.
I do have a problem with kids being told to do those chores during their already short recess. Some take the task so seriously that the theoretical five-minute task can take up all of recess.
How do we know? My son packs his own recess food and when he came home with the food intact on two occasions, we had to ask him why. He told us that he did not have the time to eat as he had class duty to perform.
What of the kids who did not pack their own food? What of the times when they had to hurriedly down their food after their duties were done?
If the group task does take just five minutes, then why not do this during curriculum time? Is five minutes too much to spare or does the task actually take longer than that? Is how ever long it takes too much to inculcate this good habit?
My wife pointed out that the class duties were unsupervised. Why? The teacher has to bring the rest of the class down for recess. We confirmed this with the new form teacher.
If we do not expect the teacher to supervise the handling of chemicals during break time, why is getting kids to sacrifice some or all of recess time acceptable?
We learnt that the previous form teacher justified the use of Dettol because fewer students got sick after the intervention. This is what I mean by an old mindset.
The Dettol intervention is an industrial approach. The attempt is made to sterilize the workplace instead of teaching kids good personal hygiene. The former is a short term and futile gain because you cannot sterilize everything. The latter is a longer term and better approach.
Old mindsets can be invisible until you discover them like we did. But they are highly infectious because they pass from a more experienced teacher to a beginning teacher as if they were golden truth.
If only it was possible to wipe minds of this persistent and infective thinking with Dettol. Sadly, when it comes to change, there are very few quick fixes. I will stick with changing mindsets one person or class at a time.