Some Old School is Good School

Learning & Teaching MethodsI confess. At my school, we do some things that are very old school.

I follow what’s happening in the profession very closely. I read with interest what educators around the world are doing. I note that old-school approaches are often assumed wrong, not by research but by opinion.

These are exciting times in education, and there is a lot of room for new tools and strategies. Technology has made much that was impossible possible. Project-based learning, flat classroom projects that connect students around the world, and emphasis on 21st century stills like collaboration and inquiry are welcome progress. I love reading about how educators around the world are using these new approaches, and love bringing much of what is new to our school.

I’m also compelled to be a voice that says there is value in some of what schools used to do. The evidence is in the students, and the fact that a restricted array of approaches will never be sufficient for all. Schools must include all that has recently shown promise, plus remember all that used to have value, and then apply them all according to the needs of each student. So, in addition to all the current practices at our school, what old-school ones have we found also meet student needs?   We teach reading in many ways, but one way is through what’s called Direct Instruction, which is teacher-directed, and is the highly specific teaching of phonics, decoding and comprehension. We teach printing and cursive using a resource that is also specific to the skill, and we use it for six years in a row so that writing has a chance to develop alongside keyboarding skills. We teach math facts until students are fully fluent, allow minimal use of a calculator, and teach math concepts with clear step-by-step instruction. We have exams starting in grade 6, and put a significant effort in teaching students how to prepare for this significant challenge.

Teaching all students well requires open-mindedness to an unbounded array of tools and practices. It requires deep knowledge of each student, reflective practice, knowledge of quality research and the evidence of experience. That needs to be read more often. Whether old-school or new-school, if it helps students, it belongs.

Andrea Fanjoy,
Assistant Head, Academics
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @afanjoy.

Do What Is Right

“Happiness varies more with the quality of
human relationships than with income.”
– World Happiness Report, presented at the United Nations Conference on Happiness

Call us old-fashioned. For all the impassioned talk about ‘21st century skills’ and life-changing advances in technology, manners remain at the core of what makes the world go around.

Our grade fives went on a field trip the other day. At KCS we directly teach, practice, review and remind students of behavior that is right. Before leaving to get on the TTC, the grade five teachers did so.

Here is Mr. Sawyer’s account of what followed: “…the thing that stands out most in my mind was the excellent manners that the students displayed on the subway…I felt so proud watching students in our class get up and offer their seats to elderly passengers or to women with small children.  I also saw two occasions where a boy from our class offered their seat to a lady.  All of this was done without me saying a word…I had many people comment to be about the excellent manners of our students.  I agree!!!!!!!”

Positive relationships with others, nourished through the use of manners, have always mattered. Encouragingly, in a world that has sometimes forgotten the importance of this, it is starting to get the public attention it deserves.

Offering your seat, holding the door open for others, welcoming visitors to the school, and greeting others each day are but a few of the ways in which ‘doing what is right’ is practised at KCS. Practice makes perfect.

Grade fives, that was perfect.

Andrea Fanjoy,
Assistant Head, Academics
Kingsway College School