Teaching for Learning rather than merely passing


A friend got in touch. The relative of her friend is scared about being kicked out from school. Who could intercede, she asked?

I should be the last person to ask; I don’t believe in interceding for someone to stay in or getting honors. Perhaps for admission, I’ll help, by way of helping compose a letter or editing one already written. But nothing beyond that.

I remember how years back when my son was 3 years old, we got something from a religious in another school and I teased him to be sure to accept my son, though I, in truth and in fact, had no intentions of  sending my son to that school. He said, if he passes the test. Very seriously. And to think I was just teasing. That was the last time I saw him and he, us.

Now to the title: should one teach for a student to learn or to pass?

I used to tutor. I had one tutee who was on the brink of passing or failing. If he didn’t take the final exam and just absented himself from it, he would have passed as then his grades would be based on his class standing. I could have told him that to avoid the risk of his failing. But I chose not to. Because that would have meant taking the easy way out. And I prefer some discipline, some integrity where school is concerned because that might just determine his values in later life? I hope it has. I’ve never told him and wonder if he’ll be sore if he knew. But I’d rather that than he took the easy way out. He had to take summer classes and an exam again before he was allowed to pass.

So it was that when my tutees have a project or a light research paper to do, I give them leads and correct their drafts, but I never wrote these for them. A tutorial center, they said, would do it. But they knew better than to ask me. And they to told me so.

Teaching for a student to pass means doing his homework, his projects, making things super easy for him. It’s like playing a computer game using cheats, though at least with those cheats, a person playing computer games still runs the risk of losing if he fails to follow the instructions closely.

If you are a teacher, do teach for learning rather than passing. You will feel so much better because you will have helped formed your student’s attitude toward work, learning, life. Far-fetched?

Allow me to share this, though I”m sure I already have in a post long ago.

A male adult, some 30 plus years old, doesn’t want to be seen lugging such domestic tools as a broom, a dust pan, etc. by people. He is a corporate executive. He was a post-martial law baby, ergo he didn’t go through those we went while in school: Green Revolution (we had plots of land in school to plant anything on) YCAP (we had to work in a government institution for a few days), CAT (which entailed our having to clean the school premises on a weekend. I don’t know what you call those concrete walls full of holes – we tried our utmost to clean those and they were full of dust.

So it was that when Mama and I went shopping in Farmer’s Market, she bought a broom. I carried it for her to the car. She asked, “Wala ka nahuya, basi may makakita sa imo nga classmate?” (Aren’t you embarrassed, a classmate might see you?) I wasn’t at  all. Exposure to menial tasks in school made for that attitude I think. Which was why I was happy when the org my son joined in high school required them to clean the toilet of their enclave themselves, sweep the floors, etc.

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