Monday, January 30, 2006

A temporary madness brought on by INSET

Here is a 'parable' that was used in an INSET I attended recently. [This version Googled from The Mind's Retreat but there are many floating around.]

One time the animals had a school. The curriculum consisted of running, climbing, flying and swimming, and all the animals took all the subjects.

The duck was good in swimming, better than his instructor, and he made passing grades in flying, but he was practically hopeless in running. He was made to stay after school and drop his swimming class in order to practice running. He kept this up until he was only average in swimming. But, average is acceptable, so nobody worried about that but the duck.

The eagle was considered a problem pupil and was disciplined severely. He beat all the others to the top of the tree in the climbing class, but he had used his own way of getting there.

The rabbit started out at the top of his class in running, but had a nervous breakdown and had to drop out of school on account of so much makeup work in swimming.

The squirrel led the climbing class, but his flying teacher made him start his flying lessons from the ground instead of the top of the tree, and he developed charley horses from overexertion at the takeoff and began getting C's in climbing and D's in running.

At the end of the year, an eel that could swim well, run, climb, and fly a little was made valedictorian.

As I listened to this, I grew irritated, annoyed and finally angry but could not put into words why. Eventually, I did put it into words. Lots of words.

Once upon a time there were four children, Dean, Elly, Rona and Sam.

Dean was very good at running, but found reading and writing difficult. His teachers, inspired by parables they had read on the Internet, told him not to bother learning to read. He should put all his effort into being a runner. Dean became a world famous athlete, but was stripped of his medals when he failed a drug test because he never learned enough to read the labels on the pills his coach was giving him.

Elly was a problem pupil. She was brilliant at science and maths, but tended to ignore her teacher’s requests to behave, and liked to shout out the answers all the time. Her teachers, keen not to punish her uniqueness after one too many INSETs, let her learn in her own way. Elly did brilliantly, but unfortunately, most of the rest of the students in her class failed because she was so disruptive they were not able to learn. Elly went on to a series of jobs in which she was sacked because she liked to do things her own way.

Rona was brilliant at sewing. Her school wanted her to study a broad and balanced curriculum, but she found all other subjects difficult. Her teachers, concerned that she was unhappy, started to worry about her. They became convinced that she was better off studying the only subject she found easy, so they let her drop all the subjects she found hard. Obviously, if she was not really cut out for the academic life, she should not force herself. Rona became a seamstress and never earned more than minimum wage.

Sam was a great child actor of amazing talent, and his teachers were so impressed with him, they were too intimidated to teach him. They were so worried that despite their knowledge of teaching and learning, their professionalism and reflective practice, they might somehow harm his potential, they decided that he might be better off just doing what came naturally. Sam was a brilliant child star who won many lead roles before dropping off the map as he reached adulthood, unable to cope with criticism or the demands of adult roles.

Luckily for Dean, an adult educator convinced him that there were skills worth mastering even if you aren’t brilliant at them, and he learned to read at night school.

Luckily for Rona, in later life she was inspired to do an Open University Course in Classical Civilisation and after much perseverance, gained a degree.

Luckily for Sam, he went to RADA as an adult, and after some painful encounters, began to realise that even great talent can benefit from studying.

Elly’s class all got on well enough, as their teachers bailed them out and gave them extra help in their lunch-hours.

And Elly became a politician, a PPS and then the Minister for Education, where she did everything her own way and with her own unique talents and skills until she was forced out of power by a disastrous teacher’s strike where thousands of guilt-wracked professionals rose up and demanded they not be subjected to any more cute, ill-thought out analogies.

PS It was quite a good INSET apart from the parable.

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