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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Helping Children Triumph

I watched one of our pupils with some interest yesterday afternoon. He was struggling with an assignment where he was trying to write about a task of great endeavour. The work had been planned carefully and he knew what he wanted to say - but he was trying to take that great leap forward to where your essay actually follows your plan.

This brought to mind two friends of mine who now live in Australia. Rob and Olga have devoted their lives to helping children and adults effect change.

Rob loved Hemmingway. He could remember passages from `The Old Man and the Sea’. We all recall the story of the old man who caught an enormous Marlin and, after an epic struggle, tried to bring the fish to land. The fish left a trail of blood - and sharks attacked - leaving only the carcass of the fish.

Rob, as a teacher and educator, would have tried to enthuse the child with the love of the task, the grandeur of the occasion and the need to be poetical and even lyrical. Olga would have concentrated on the actual task that the child was involved in. She would have developed a step by step approach so that the child actually knew what he had to do.

We tend to think of `The Old Man and the Sea’ as a triumph of indefatigable spirit over exhaustible material resources. When we watch some children strive to reach the standards demanded by the 11+ examination we can understand the words `indefatigable spirit’ when we see the amount of effort some children have to put into their work.

All we can hope is that our children will meet teachers who love their work, who can stimulate minds and also deal with the minutiae of the task.

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