Live from the Homefront – keep teaching and carry on

by Susannah Grant

posted on May 14, 2020

By now most of us have become quite adept at motivating our home-schooled children but there are plenty of parents who are still concerned that their children are missing out academically. My advice would be to consider the story of a former war refugee, Ira Martin, who was caught up, aged 12, in the Bosnian war when term was cut short in March 1992. Ira spent the following year swimming in the Adriatic ocean, watching American soap operas, completely disengaged from any academic curriculum.

Children in war-torn Bosnia at play

Eighteen months later she started 7th grade in the US and won a regional physics prize that same year. Meanwhile, Ira´s schoolfriends back in Bosnia spent the following four years in dark basement bomb shelters with a few paltry books and a candle for company. Despite their adverse circumstances they went on to become lawyers, doctors and professors. I hope there are similar stories going on throughout Syria as we speak.

The school of life

Now is the time to focus inwards and prioritise the knowledge and values that are most important for our children and loved ones right now. By that I mean, fostering an atmosphere at home and in our communities of kindness, empathy, love, support, confidence and courage. Embracing these qualities will be stand us in great stead for the challenges ahead of prolonged distancing and as for the rest….there´s always You Tube to help you catch up when the time comes.

Remote learning is not a new concept. Children in remote regions of Australia have been tuning in successfully to lessons via radio since 1951. 

I do sympathise with teachers as funnily enough, I have been one. Fresh out of university I decided that my linguistic skills would be useful in the fashion industry so off I went to Florence….unfortunately by the time I realised that there was not much happening in terms of textiles in Tuscany I had already fallen in love with my language school´s best-friend. So, after a fast-track teaching course and a few haphazard experiences in language schools I landed my first proper job as a Lecturer at the Fashion Faculty at Florence University. 

Florence´s trendsetters

Unfortunately the nearest I got to the fashion industry was telling off my bohemian students for swapping fabric samples under their desks every time my back was turned to write something on the board.  My students displayed great creative flair for flamboyant designs but were less gifted when it came to phrasal verbs. I remember the only spark of linguistic interest was triggered when, on emergency occasions, I surreptitiously deviated from the Cambridge curriculum and asked them to narrate an imaginary script to Mr Bean´s extraordinary encounters.

Mr Bean´s universal appeal

Some parents, like me, may be pleasantly surprised to see that their children are actually learning more via self-study than they ever did in their crowded classrooms. In a country where students are often treated like geese in foie gras production, whereby knowledge is forced down their throats and then regurgitated verbatim in endless exams, some teachers have found that this methodology has even less success via a computer screen.

A biology lesson they´ll never forget

Instead they have experimented with play or humour in order to inspire their pupils to learn as opposed to force feeding knowledge to an apathetic audience. For the first time, the students are the protagonists and given a freer creative rein in which to be heard. Let´s hope these techniques are here to stay once classroom-based learning resumes.

Manual dexterity is just as good as philosophy