Tag Archives: #learning

Streaming sun in bountiful knowledge

University grounds

I’m lucky. I feel lucky today, with sun streaming to one side of me, radiating onto my hand as it meanders across this page, and over my cheek and the slightly exposed skin of my neck. My heavy, dark coat rimmed in faux fur, covers the rest of me and my side bathed by the sun is toasting to slowly thaw me.

The other side of me is under dappled sunlight where crisp air dominates and numbs my nostrils with every breath in. It’s the kind of freshness that lets you know you’re alive.

I love the stark contrast between the crisp, still air and the nourishing sunshine. Sipping my rich, hot chocolate enhances the disparity as it warms me from the inside, the heat journeying up to meet up with the heat spreading in from the outside. I always enjoy waiting for my brew to be made at the little corner, crêpe café because I get a chance to marvel at the jars of Nutella that stand proudly on the row of shelves running the inside parameter of the café. They capture the steam coming off the pans as they watch over those busy cooking crêpes and preparing hot drinks below.

I look around me as I sit on a wooden bench bordered by an immaculately trimmed, green hedge. Knowledge and life surrounds me, invigorates me. It’s the combination of youthful and joyful life, hungry for knowledge, and the old masters of the past, eager to pass on their knowing and wisdom. The stone building beside me stands in prestigious honour of those masters from the last 160 years that have passed through its corridors.

And I’m part of it; the jovial conversations of small groups, the intimate sharing in twos, and the quiet reading and contemplation of singletons. Combined, they are the bountiful energy and opulence of life. Fertile minds and lands to support nurturing and growth, with a fertile sky above in a most prefect blue. Even the raking of fallen leaves behind me into clumps of scrunch and rustle add to the richness.

With such warmth and a wealth of autumn hues that mottle against lush greens, I’m fortunate to be part of this, part of everything!

But my time of reflection is up and I too must move onto my purpose to impart some of my knowledge and in the process, grow my intellect in a way that only groups of learning can.
Suddenly, I’m aware of the clipping of boots on the bricked path in transit to their own destination. And my own footsteps, over the brittle crumple of dried leaves as I make my way to those corridors of bounty with my loaded bag on my shoulder, into my classroom.

Fertile grounds for fertile minds.

dirty face childrenFifteen-year-old son two came home from school yesterday, cornering me in the kitchen as I had just finished work, with his chest out and bag still on his back. He seemed very ready to tell me about school.

‘Hello.’ He kissed me. ‘You’ll never guess what happened today.’ He leaned back against the wooden, kitchen cupboard.

Still standing beside the kitchen door, I asked, ‘What?’

‘We walked into this year seven classroom today,’ he said in a voice more intent than is typical for him. ‘We never normally go in there. And there were three, five, ten and eleven times-tables written on a white board.’

His brown eyes sparkled more transparent than usual, probably due to them being so wide stretched, which allowed extra sunlight to reflect into them. Enthusiastic eyes they were, bursting to tell me more.

‘And so we asked our teacher, were you teaching time-tables to the year sevens?’

‘And?’ I waited.

‘He said he wasn’t but they’ll soon have to because the year sevens don’t know their tables!’


‘True,’ said son two. ‘They’re thirteen and they don’t know their tables. How dumb are they!’

‘No, it’s not them,’ I said, saddened by what he told me. ‘It’s not their fault, they haven’t been taught.’

‘Yeah I know,’ he said. ‘But they don’t know their tables!’

‘The question is, why don’t they know them?’ I asked. ‘That’s ridiculous.’

Son three called son two away. That left me standing in the kitchen, thinking. Surely teachers, parents and carers, understand that you need maths. Everybody needs maths. You can’t study subjects like geography, law, economics and science without maths. Or if you want to be a plumber, electrician or nurse, you need maths too. And times-tables are a fundamental of maths. Children need to get to a good standard of them. They’ll struggle to get a job without those fundamentals.

Sure, there is great emphasis in the classroom now on learning to problem solve and the theory of addition and subtraction. However, that’s not enough — you have to know how to apply the theory, and know how to do it quickly. Maths is a language all on its own, with symbols just like an alphabet.

Learning the theory and practicing it, it’s no new concept and happens for students of all ages of all subjects. Take any student in post-graduate studies. They must understand the theory behind concepts and then implement the theory against practice. It happens always. Theory and practice go hand-in-hand. Teachers themselves would have studied to become a teacher from theory, and then applied that to practice.

Different ideas and expectations on learning and maths exist across the world. Here in Australia, it seems many children of thirteen are moving onto that second level of more independent learning without knowing their tables. In the past, it was considered that by age 12, children would know their times-tables.

In the UK, a new primary education curriculum will come into force in 2014 with a greater emphasis on times-tables and where children by the age of nine, will be expected to know up to their 12 x 12’s. Currently, children are expected to know up to their 10’s by the age of 11.

So why is it that many children in their junior years of learning, do not know their times-tables? Or maybe the question is, why aren’t they learning their times-tables by the time they are twelve or thirteen?

Maybe it’s because of an extremely crowded school curriculum and teachers having to do so much more than they once did. The reality is, schools cannot teach our children everything. Our children today are exposed to a far broader range of learning and experience than any other generation before us.

Maybe our lives and our children’s lives are so busy, that there doesn’t seem to be ‘time’ to be still or be together to learn at home. Maybe parents and carers need to step up and take back some responsibility for their children’s learning rather than relinquishing it all to schools and believing that schools should teach their children everything.

It has been said many times over that parents, carers and family are the greatest teachers with the most influence on our children’s lives. The not sharing of responsibility for our children’s learning, challenges the notion of a duty of care on children, as is the whole issue of obesity, but that’s another story for another time.

Why can’t schools and parents, carers and family join to share the learning for children? Why can’t parents sit with their children for half an hour a day and go over times-tables, or spelling words, or any other part of a child’s learning that has been identified as something that needs working on? I know some do spend the time but I also know many don’t, and many are so busy scooting children off form one activity to another after school that there doesn’t appear to be time to sit and be, to play and to learn from that play, which is just as important to learn formally.

Maybe that is the problem. The world has become so busy and complicated that there is no time to just be. To be still and to have time to explore.

Maybe it’s time to get back to the fundamentals of life so that kids will know that 3 x 3 10.


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