Friday, 17 October 2008

Sleeping beauties and cross play - dealing with interested and uninterested students

In the textile class, I had a rather interesting experience because I saw the two extremes - both interested and uninterested students.

There were a few girls who refused to participate and literally sat there for the entire period of one and a half hours. (I have to say this is the only incident i've seen, and indeed very uncommon.) I had a chat with them and they said school was really boring. I asked them about their hobbies and what they'd rather do - they said sleeping all day, and drinking. They were also checking their make up and eyelashes every now and then. Therefore I dubbed them sleeping beauties. I heard they had been playing truant, and it was getting worrying.

In fact, a couple of them had already finished the work, and were only refusing to write posters for their products. I also asked them whether there was anything at all that they liked about school. It set them thinking I thought, and one of them however said a firm no, and the rest looking rather hesitant, followed suit apparently because that's more cool. Very typical teenage rebellious attitude. It's clear that they aren't bad people at all - they are merely distracted and uninterested.

So how do Finnish schools deal with that?
I had a chat with the teachers there and realised that the law requires them to report any truancy problem to social workers because basic education is compulsory for everyone. This is usually the last resort as they'd first talk to the students and families about the problem.

It's difficult to manage these children especially in a class. The teacher really had no choice but to leave them on their own and attend to the rest of the class who actually wanted to learn. Finnish teachers stressed the importance of the student's own motivation and initiatve in learning.

Honestly that doesn't seem to be helping the children much, and 'leaving no child behind' is really an ideal. I get the impression that these kids are very rare in Finnish classroom, and teachers have traditionally had little to do with enforcing discipline.

In contrast, as soon as the lesson was over, I saw two girls waiting eagerly at the door because they wanted the teacher's help with making costume (as shown in the picture below) for a crossplay. The teacher said very shyly, 'I couldn't resist!'

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