Monday, July 22, 2013

Rachel at Heguru

Today, I want to pen an update on how I think Rachel is doing at Heguru.

Babydoll started in January this year at the Eunos outlet with Teacher Paige in the Infant and Toddlers programme. Since April/May, Teacher Rhian has taken over the reins from Teacher Paige, and Teacher Paige has moved on to teach the Preschool I programme.

At this time, I do not feel that Rachel is clicking with the programme.

I also feel that this is normal. Does that sound right? Haha, let me explain.

Rachel is, by far, the most inquisitive and alert student in the class. She may not be paying attention to the teacher, but that does not mean she's zoning out or stoning in one corner. She is always moving about, always investigating and always trying to find out more about what's around her.

Rachel has climbed onto the tables at the side of the classroom, wrestled with the window blinds, pressed the electric switches (which are childproofed), and messed up her classmates' belongings (which are stashed at the back of the classroom). She has pulled a container of flashcards off the trolley (that container was full of flashcards and was twice her size!) She has also pulled down the giant plastic wallchart which hangs at the side of the classroom. Everytime she wanders near the TV near the white board, I have a real worry that she will pull the TV down. Flashcards don't hold her interest at all. Everytime she hears it's time for "Super Flash" - she's off like a bullet to explore the far corners of the classroom. It's almost as if they called to her, "Ready, Get set, Go!"

Rachel is the only student who has dared to crawl up to the teacher and sit right in front of the teacher. She will sit beside the teacher, sometimes even behind the teacher. She is the only student who is curious enough to go up to the assistant teacher sitting at the side, to check out what's happening over there. She has gone right up to the giant abacus in the front of the classroom to see how it works. She makes it all the way past the teacher to the white board at least three times every class, to check out the pointer, the white board marker, whatever. She always messes up the name cards. She has tried to re-park the air purifier in a different place. She will plank herself on the carpet in the middle of the classroom en route to somewhere and when I fetch her back to our seat, she will gently pat the lap of the parent next to her (not me) and stroke the hand/leg of the student next to her. She eats the crayons. She eats the blocks. She eats the cards. She eats the stickers. Actually, she eats everything.

Let me point out that all this happens during class, when classroom activities are going on.

Thankfully, she does not disrupt the class. She does not cry, she does not fuss, she does not scream and she does not shout. She does not bully the other students and she is nice to other people. When things are not going her way, she just goes off and finds something else. The only time she lets out a hint of displeasure is when I restrain her from messing up the link memory cards on the floor. We usually wrestle a while and then I'll carry her in my arms until the cards are kept.

As long as she's not disrupting the class, I let her be. If truth be told, I love that she has such a curious nature. I love that she has such a love for learning. She's not learning what I brought her to class to learn, but she is definitely learning what she feels she needs to learn. If she wants to learn what crayon tastes like, instead of how to use a microscope, that's absolutely fine by me. Besides, if I force her to sit down with me, she is not going to like it and she is not going to learn the lesson being taught by the teacher anyway.

Last week, babydoll actually paid attention to the lesson for a while. She watched as Teacher Rhian went through the time, the weather, the date, the weekly proverb, etc. She was content to sit with me and watch, although I had to hold her in a bit of a hug. Until it came to image visualisation. Teacher Rhian showed the class a large board with an image on it and Rachel couldn't resist. She crawled up to the board, expecting to be able to touch it and feel it. But she wasn't allowed to, because the lesson was going on.

There were other similar instances of "see no touch". The most frustrating for Rachel was the link memory. Forty cards laid out on the floor right in front of her and none of them could be touched. For peg memory, there were ten cards laid out on the floor and she could only have one even though she wanted a good look at the rest. By the time we got to intuitive calculation, she had lost all interest and she had climbed up on the table at the side. 

To be honest, that lesson last weekend was the best ever for Rachel in terms of how much attention she gave to the activities. She was actually attentive for more than half the class, which is a record. She was interested to see what each new activity was about and she tried to access the materials for each. Although she was denied some, there were also some hands-on activities which pacified her a bit.

That lesson, babydoll was also the most interested she had ever been in engaging with the teacher. She approached Teacher Rhian a few times during the class - and I was very happy to see her so confident, sociable and so interested. Of course, Teacher Rhian had to continue with the lesson instead of engaging one-on-one with her so eventually Rachel moved on to something else. Actually, I feel that the way the class is set up encourages the children to get close to the teacher. Everyone sits on the floor and there is nothing between the children and the teacher - a perfect scenario for the children to approach the teacher, to bond with the teacher, to touch the materials. Yet, because the lessons are delivered in a "performance" format, the children are supposed to just sit down and watch. So it's a little confusing, at least to me.

Anyway, the point is that Rachel doesn't do "sit down and watch". She doesn't like to watch TV, she doesn't like to use the iPad/smartphone. She doesn't even give us 26 seconds to point out the 26 letters of the alphabet in one sitting. When the teacher waves a wand with a picture attached to its end on a string, she wants to grab it and have a better look. She wants to participate, she wants to touch, she wants to feel, she wants to engage, she wants to share, she wants to explore. For her, there's so much to see, so much to do. She is quick, she is decisive and she won't give you a second chance.

I should add that it's not a matter of building powers of concentration and focus. At home, I've seen her going through various learning experiences, with full concentration. Focusing is not a problem for her - when the activity interests her. What she wants is to do her own thinking, to direct her own learning and to learn through her hands.

So the problem, rather, is that the methodology of the Heguru class gives rise to frequent situations where babydoll will be approaching the teachers or attempting to grab something she's not supposed to touch. The teachers usually say very nicely, "Go back and sit with mummy". Or I will grab her myself. But I fear that the message that she receives may be, "Go away, this lesson is not for you", which turns her away completely and directs her attention to anything else but the lesson. So, the "hands-off" part is a big factor, as well as the fact that it is difficult for the teachers to interact with each of the students during the class. Also, she doesn't seem interested in some of the activities - but this changes over time so I'll leave that for now.

Maybe you're thinking I'm making excuses. Maybe you're thinking, what about the rest of the students - they're all paying attention, they're all fine, there's nothing wrong! But if so, then you'd be misunderstanding me because I'm not criticising the programme or the teachers. What I am saying is that Rachel is not (yet?) a fit for the programme or vice versa.

If I can compare it to buying a pair of shorts, well, then you can say that Rachel is a size too big/small for the shorts. The question is, do I wait for her to change, to lose/put on some weight, to mould herself into the pair of shorts? Or do I go shopping for a new pair which will fit her now?

When we started the programme, I knew that there would be a period of settling in. I knew that we would have to wait for her to explore everything until the only "exciting" thing left in the classroom was the lesson. So now that she has started turning her attention to the lesson, I will be able to properly assess whether this type of learning experience is right for her. 

So, we'll give it a while more and see. I'll also have a chat with the teachers and see whether there is anything I can do to make her experience better for her. 


MieVee @ said...

Haha... sounds like my younger boy at Shichida class. He's also the most active in class and often climbs onto the table, crawls over it to grab sinsei's stuff. Always on the move! Guess these are the kinesthetic learners. :)

Unknown said...

Hi Leona,

Thank you for sharing how Rachel is faring at heguru in this post. It really helps me in making the decision of whether to stay with shichida or to switch to heguru for my 16th mth old boy.


Sue said...

So cute! I love how Rachel is so curious and inquisitive. That's the best way to learn because they're learning on their own versus depending on receiving 'input' all the time! :)

Keep it up Rachel!

Auntie Sue :)

Pinkie Pirate said...

MieVee - they are our little Energizer bunnies, huh!

Pinkie Pirate said...

Sandra - for children this age, there is always going to be a period of settling in, so remember to assess over a period, and not just one or two classes. Hope you find the right fit.

Pinkie Pirate said...

Sue - yes, when watching her do her stunts, part of me is thinking, please sit down and pay attention, but the bigger part of me is feeling really proud and happy at the fact that she has a mind of her own. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Leona,
Thanks for sharing lil Rachel's updates.
Lovely reading up on all her antics and her pics are so cute hehe.
I can relate to your post since my daughter (now 16 months old) also attends Heguru @ Eunos* and she has teacher Rhian.
I know what you mean by performance format, it had me a bit worried too but R seems to enjoy the class very much. But then her personality is such, she likes "doing stuff" that too in a structured format, so will bounce up and down till the assistant teacher handing out materials reaches her, then she will grab the material with both hands and attack it right away. She is like that at home too, she just wants her hands to be busy, give her a lock and key and she will turn the key in a matter of minutes. I kind of envision her roaming around in overalls with a screwdriver sticking out of her pocket in a few months times ha!
I actually want that she should get up and explore more, my question would be - do we gently nudge our kids to balance out a bit or would that the same as impinging our expectation on the child?


Anonymous said...

I also wanted to ask you if Rachel is still attending Shichida class and how different is it from Heguru in terms of format/pace.
Do they give the children some time to settle in/ handle the materials to or is it as furious paced as Heguru?


Pinkie Pirate said...

Hi Manorama! It's great that your bub enjoys the class, Teacher Rhian is great too. I believe children learn best when they can use all their senses, and the sense of touch is a very important channel for children of this age.
Children naturally want to explore. They do need an environment that encourages exploration and investigation. At home, try to create environment that promotes that. It is also important to let your child take the lead. Offer her things to investigate, set them out in an accessible space and she will go for it. You won't be "impinging your expectation" if you follow her lead.
Yes, Rachel is still at Shichida. It is a little slower than Heguru.

Quando si desiderio su una stella said...

OMG!!! Thank u for describing what happens in class. My girl is EXACTLY the same during teacher Rhians class. In fact, she has taken the lead and now the rest of class are following her crawling up to teacher. She still stands as the only one who dares crawl to the big box of Flashcards. I'm relieved to hear Rachel eventually had a turning point, because I'm almost thinking of pulling her out of class. Though I must say, the changing of teachers are frustrating. Children needs consistency, no? It seems teach Rhian will be moving to another class soon too. I cannot imagine another teacher who would be as accommodating as her to my baby's antics. Fingers crossed.

Pinkie Pirate said...

Hi, I don't know how old your girl is but hang on for a bit longer and see! Good luck!

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