The Way, and the Only Way, to Fix Primary Schools

STEP 1 Arrange the students’ desks in rows, facing the teacher and the blackboard at the front.

STEP 2 The teacher now has the students’ attention. That is what is needed. The rest is easy.


10 Replies to “The Way, and the Only Way, to Fix Primary Schools”

  1. Careful now! That sounds a bit too much like common sense.

    Where is the innovation? Where is the worship at the altar of the almighty technology?

    1. Indeed, AMDC. I can’t see too many Principal’s showing parents around their school and proudly saying:

      “We arrange the students’ desks in rows, facing the teacher and the blackboard at the front.”

      And I can’t see it ticking too many boxes with the DET.

      Shiny new gimmicks that can be marketed and sold to a gullible public – that’s what ticks boxes, gets attention and wins praise.

      1. Which is why we’re all doomed. Everyone with power is either too dumbed to recognise the obvious, or too gutless to act upon it.

        1. And people wonder why Aussies don’t have the mental capacity/endurance of people hailing from other education-respected places?
          Doesn’t take m(b)illions of dollars thrown at a random inquiry/report to know that simple education as you’ve described so succinctly in your two steps is all that’s needed.

          And some fucking respect for teachers. And a genuine desire to learn from students.

          I read a comment recently (don’t mind the source) that so succinctly said:

          Really, if central services, politicians, and the education department could just fuck right off, teaching would be the best. edit: and registration bodies. They could fuck right off too.

          —furiouscowbell, reddit

          1. No argument from me, OaN. Particularly the registration bodies (these nugatory Vampires are the biggest scam ever) and politicians (who only care about climbing the greasy pole). Indeed, they can both fuck right off.

            Some form of an Education Department is needed – but give the ‘shareholders’ the power to hold it accountable. Put classroom teachers back in control of teaching.

            Without classroom teachers all these bullshit artists have nothing. If only the AEU had a spine.

  2. I have often wondered about whether or not the teacher should allocate seating to the students.

    Educational research suggests yes, but the idea is rarely used in practice.

    What do you more experienced teachers think?

    PS I overheard the manager in a restaurant the other day asking a customer:

    “Do you have a seating preference?” The customer does not really understand the question. The manager then asks “Where would you like to sit?”. Next customer went through the same sequence. The next time I was in there, customers were asked “Where would you like to sit?” Much simpler.

    1. Fifth order issue. You’re asking whether the customer/student should get a choice of table. What matters, all that matters, is the arrangement of the tables.

  3. My experience in US universities was that they had desks in rows. (Fixed in larger lecture halls.) I believe this is still the case (see pics). So, if it works for university students, why not with lower grades?

    I can’t really remember K-1 well. Dim memory of sitting on the floor in K. Not sure about 1. But we were in desk rows for 2-4, 6-12.

    We did have lab tables for potions, I mean chemistry, but there were regular desks in front (in rows) for lecture. I was a bad boy (then) and would sit at the lab table even though the teach wanted us in little desk rows in front of here. Felt like I had more space to spread out. And that “back row” freedom.

    In 5, I seem to remember our desks being in a U around three sides of the class. The open end was the blackboard. When the teacher was lecturing more verbally (often in English/history), she would move into the center of our U.

    I do remember one amazing class in uni (true seminar, with a guy who wrote a book). We would have to write a two page paper before class summarizing different takes on US foreign policy (the realist, revisionist, Wilsonian, etc.) During class, we would deba…I mean discuss them. This was ~10 people around an oval table. Worked well.

    I do remember at my “trade school” college that the back corners were optimal seats because of the support for sleeping. Attendance was required. Some of the teachers would just make you stand, though, when they caught you.

  4. I’m an Early Childhood teacher. I taught in public schools for years but now I’m back in the world of very small humans. I’ve made a discovery that I’m too afraid to say out loud in the fluffy, lefty EC world I work in – the problems schools are having with kids are caused, I think, by the EC environment. Kids get to choose EVERYTHING – where and how to sit, if and when they want to play or eat or rest, how long they want to stay at an activity, whether to try the activities at all! They are encouraged to have a Voice, and it MUST be heard so they talk over everyone, including Educators. Then, you send these little egomaniacs off to school where they are asked to sit and pay attention and learn, and we’re so surprised when they can’t. (The complete contrast between play-based learning and explicit teaching is a whole other can of worms.) And to mention these concerns is akin to blasphemy in my workplace.
    Can I tell you how refreshing it is to hear someone speak up for a change! I appreciate your courage X

    1. Thanks very much, Annie, and sorry to be slow to respond. I just noticed your comment was stuck in the spam folder.

      To say the least, I am no expert on early childhood education, or *any* childhood education. But, obviously, at some early stage, kids have to learn to sit still and pay attention. Precisely when and how that is to occur, with the properly calibrated doses of kindness and firmness, I cannot say. But it must occur. And it’s impossible for it to occur. The education authorities are clueless and the parents, almost to a man, are also clueless.

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