Thursday, September 20, 2012


I have been thinking about a lot of things, because the types of issues that come across my desk are various, and in my ideal world I want to do something for every one of those kids.

Kids who need special attention, in my opinion:
  • Very advanced children, who are 1 or 2 grades above grade level simply because of where they come from. Some of these kids are not especially academically independent, and they really need a lot of nurturing in order to continue developing in their current level of knowledge. They should be treated differently from gifted children, because these kids cannot often guide themselves through unfamiliar tasks. They should also be treated differently than regular students, because they should not have to sit through classes that merely repeat what they have already learned previously.
  • Exceptionally gifted children who are very young still (ie. in grade school). These kids lack the independence as well to navigate through very complex tasks, and they are also emotionally drained/socially impacted by the fact that they are different from other kids. Sometimes these kids have very high conceptual understanding, but their skills levels still lag behind their intellect and bar them from learning higher-complexity content. We should aim to provide some significant enrichment for them without taking them out of the normal classroom, because at such a young age they still need all the socialization.
  • Very, very weak students who have little to no conceptual understanding of basic arithmetic and its meaning, mixed in with a group of much higher cognitively operating kids. What do we do with these kids at middle- to upper- grade levels, if those gaps still exist? What is the right action to take, if they cannot even comprehend simple mathematics? Do we then pre-determine what is realistic achievement for them and teach them "basic / survival mathematics", or do we still try to offer them algebra to keep their future options open? Should we assess these kids differently?
  • Children whose skills are weak simply as a result of constantly transferring between incompatible curricula (as a result of being children of diplomatic families). If the kid is only in the host country for one to two years, what is the correct way to handle their mathematical education? Should we try to offer them a menu of topics that is close to what they would have been studying back home, or is that an impossible quest that is difficult to scale to the number of international students that we receive?
  • Students who are in career-bound programs. Should these kids still be learning the same abstract algebra concepts that they have tried to learn for years, or should we offer them a more realistic finance- and money management-driven curriculum? And if we decide to go with the latter, what topics should we cover?
  • Kids who have special learning needs. Are they being supported adequately in the classroom? If they need a lot of hand-holding, is that provided through extra manpower? To what extent is it fair to expect a teacher to simply differentiate for kids with special needs, if they are grouped with many other students also with great need? What systems can we put in place to support these kids and to track their progress?
  • If a kid joins a higher-track class based on their own ambitions, against the assessment-based recommendations of their teachers, what system should be in place to check in with those kids and to track their progress over time?
This is just a slice of the things I think about, separate from the logistics of more urgent issues...

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