Sunday, April 18, 2010

Oh the Pressure

Oh the Pressure

It’s true, here at my school kids can fail the year and they sometimes do, but the pressure for grades is a bit much. Many students have outside tutors to get work done. Some tutors are absolutely fantastic and students learn a lot from them. Other times it seems as though the tutors do the work for the student. One of the reasons that this happens with tutors is because they get pressured by the parents to make it perfect for their child. To a degree parents hold the tutor responsible for the student's success. I have seen papers that were obviously done by a native speaker and what can I do about it? Just talk to the student. I can’t really make them redo it.

The best example of this kind of pressure for perfect grades was when a friend of mine called to ask me a favor. He wanted me to correct his 5 year-old daughter’s English story. First he said it was the pronunciation of the story, but he read it to me, she didn’t, she wasn't even there. Then he decided it was the grammar I needed to fix. He asked if there were mistakes when he read it to me over the phone. There were. He asked me to fix them and I said, “No. She is 5 years old. 5 year-olds make mistakes. They should make mistakes, they just might learn something from them.”

I let him know that it’s not that I didn’t want to help, but it shouldn’t be perfect. Five year olds don’t speak perfectly, (or read perfectly) even it’s in their own language. I’m a native English speaker with a Master’s Degree. I don’t speak the way a Colombian 5 year-old speaks English as her second language. It makes no sense to me to correct minimal errors when the student doesn’t even know who I am or why I changed anything. She goes to a different bilingual school here. If the child makes a mistake, maybe her teacher can teach her something. A teacher teaching children so they may learn, there’s a novel concept.

Although in the past I had wished sometimes that students were a bit more motivated by grades, but I think this push to have children be high achievers sometimes has the reverse effect. Instead of learning to learn something, all they care about is grades. Sometimes it gets to the point of cheating for the grade, and that’s obviously not learning anything.

No, I will not correct English grammar errors for your 5 year-old Spanish speaking daughter who I've never met, who isn't my student, and who wasn't even there. Children learn by making mistakes. Call me mean, but I remember when learning something by not doing it perfectly the first time was a valuable lesson.

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