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WELCOME TO THE I CAN READ INDONESIA BLOG!

Each month we will be adding new articles on the broad subject areas of Education and Teaching. Some articles will have a teacher focus, some will have a parent focus and some will be of equal interest to both. Whichever you choose to read, we hope that you find them thought provoking and informative.


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A DAY IN THE LIFE OF AN I CAN READ (ICR) TEACHER

As teachers, we know that no two days are exactly the same and that when teaching young learners we must always be willing and ready to adapt our approach to meet the ever changing needs of our students. However, in order to adapt we must first have an original idea, or plan, or schedule, or routine… For today’s article, I thought it might be interesting to take you through a typical working day in the life of an I Can Read Teacher, and in doing so shine a light on what happens behind the scenes (or the closed doors of an ICR classroom).

I always really enjoy the first 30 minutes of arriving at my ICR Centre. During this time, I catch-up with my work colleagues – we’ve worked together for a few years now and have built strong personal friendships, so the first few minutes of each day are always spent checking-in with each other to share news and make sure that everyone is happy. I usually follow this with a quick talk with my Centre Manager to find out if there are any messages from parents for me, or if I have any assessments scheduled for the day.


Once I collect my daily class folders, I head to the Teachers’ room to start preparing for the day’s lessons. My preparing starts with choosing/identifying which ICR lesson I will be teaching in each of my classes. I then make myself aware of the learning goals for each lesson, the activities that my students will be doing and of the teaching materials that I will need to collect or prepare. Most importantly, I must also make sure that I can confidently teach each lesson in a way that my students can understand and learn from. I also use this pre-teaching time to look at my student’s progress sheets and remind myself if any are ready to be assessed for promotion or, if I need to put aside some 1:1 time with any of them.


Early each week we all get together for a team meeting. For teachers, these meetings are important as they give us all the opportunity to listen, seek/offer help and support, and to learn from one another. During my time as a teacher, I’ve probably learnt more from my fellow teachers than from anywhere or anyone else! Our team meetings are also a good time to share ideas, problem-solve, give feedback and of course also have fun – getting together like this helps build a great team spirit in our ICR Centre.


Most of my classes start at 1pm. Before each lesson, I ensure that everything is ready then greet the students at the front of the center and escort them to the classroom. I give the students a set routine to follow for beginning their class. During the lesson, I always follow the ICR lesson structure and my lesson plan so that I have the best chance of helping my students meet the learning objectives.


However, teaching is not always straight-forward and easy, and I must be prepared to adapt to any situation that may arise – as all parents and teachers know, with ‘children being children’, sometimes things just don’t go according to plan! To help minimize this from happening too often, I employ different methods to manage my students’ behavior to ensure that everyone in the classroom (including myself) can teach and learn without unnecessary disruption.


I spend most of the afternoon teaching different ICR classes – on any day I might have a few pre-reading classes with our youngest students, a reading class and an English 1-6 class with older students. I like the variety of teaching different ICR courses and different age groups during my day.


In between lessons, I might be asked to do an assessment on a new student to assess their literacy skills so that we can place them in the correct ICR class. I enjoy doing assessments, as they give me the chance to also speak with parents about what enrolling in I Can Read can offer their child – both academically and socially.


Following each lesson, I always try and speak with a few of my students’ parents. I keep parents informed about their child’s progress, classroom updates and give them suggestions on how to help their child complete their homework. These short, informal meetings require little preparation, and I’ve learnt over the years that if parents are able to regularly speak with their child’s teacher, even if just for a few minutes, it helps create a strong, clear sense of working together.

 

Before leaving for the day, I complete my administrative tasks, which include; checking the attendance sheets have been filled in, updating the students’ progress sheets and completing the lesson summaries, before passing the class folders back to the Centre Manager.

 

I often end my day exactly as I started it by catching-up with my colleagues and seeing how their day went, before saying goodnight to everyone and heading home.


Riagus Izzan

June 2021

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WHAT MAKES A TEACHER STAND OUT?

Through-out our lives we have many teachers, BUT, how many of them are truly memorable? And for those that you can remember, have you ever taken a moment to think of why you are able remember them so vividly?

As the world’s fourth-most populous country, the education system in Indonesia is also reported to be the fourth largest in the world, with more than 50 million students, 300 thousand schools, and – the oil that keeps it running, I believe – 3 million teachers1. In I Can Read alone, we currently employ more than 200 teachers. I wonder how many of these 200 ICR teachers, will be remembered in the years ahead by their students of today?

I, for one, can say that of those teachers that I remember, I didn’t know or even really care about their qualifications or years of teaching experience. I can even barely remember how they looked! Yet for some reason these teachers have continued to be influential sources of inspiration in my life as an educator.

Why though? Why are there teachers that we remember, while others quickly fade from our memories? What makes a teacher stand out? To answer this, I conducted a brief interview with a variety of people with direct relationships to teachers to give me different perspectives. Significantly, although they had many differing thoughts and ideas, there was one characteristic that they all seemed to agree upon and that is, Heart.

No matter where, when, what subject, or what age group of students we teach, no matter how we dress, what qualifications, and teaching experience we have, no matter whether we are teaching in I Can Read or not, the number one factor that makes teachers stand out, that makes them distinct from the rest run-of-the-mill teachers, is when they teach from the heart. Teaching for them is a passion, not merely a means to make ends meet. They love the act of teaching, the subject, and the students they teach. They regard each of their students as an individual to be nurtured and developed, not a project to be finished

Those that teach from the heart, live and teach according to these qualities:

  • Preparedness - We will always come to class well prepared. We familiarise ourselves with the lesson content, we think of how we want to deliver our lesson, we prepare the materials needed, etc. We don’t just wing it and hoping that our class will run smoothly.
  • Resilience - We do not abandon our students just because they are hard to teach. We do not ‘relocate’ our students to other teachers just because our students misbehave and give us headaches. We need to genuinely care and try to understand them. Do the extra miles, not just as an act of professionalism. The key thing is: Do not give up on our students however tempting it may seem.
  • Resourcefulness - There is no one size fits all when it comes to teaching. Each student comes with different educational background, individual needs, and abilities. We need to be a gear shifter and be creative. When one way doesn’t work, we always look for other ways.
  • Spirited Enthusiasm - Because we enjoy teaching and delivering the lesson, we are always emanating energy and enthusiasm. In turn, that dynamic makes students feel energetic and enthusiastic to study.
  • Communicative - Raising a child takes a whole village, and so does teaching students. We won’t be able to do it all alone, and the good news is, we never have to! Ask our colleagues for their advice on various things like how to deal with students throwing tantrums, or how to improve engagement in the class... And, communicate with the parents of our students too. Let’s not forget that parents know their children better than we do. Ask them for some suggestions, but also inform them about their children’s progress. Our mutual respect and understanding with the parents stem from the mutual love we share towards the children/students.
  • Driven to Improve - There will never be a time when we have reached our most potential and at the top of our game. We can always improve ourselves and should always look for ways to do it. Either we deepen our understanding of the subject we teach (in ICR case, English), or learn the different ways we can deliver our materials to suit different students’ needs, or even learn how we can communicate better with our colleagues. It can be anything as long as it improves us as a teacher. And there are a lot of ways to do this: read a self-study book, join a webinar or a workshop, enrol in an online course, or even, watch YouTube videos. Remember that the goal of this is not just to earn a certificate and make our CV look impressive, but rather to improve ourselves so that we can be more positively impactful on those that we teach.



The scary thing about teaching from the heart, is that most often it is your students and their parents who can best tell when someone is not. One of the parents I spoke with commented, ‘as a parent, I can somehow ‘sense’ whether a teacher teaches my children from their heart or just to fulfil a job description’. As teachers therefore, we must consistently be asking ourselves, ‘what is my purpose?’ and if you find you have strayed away from the heart, then you owe it to both yourself and to your students to find your way back.

To return to the teachers that I remember so positively, their teaching me from their hearts inspired me to want to do the same for the next generation of young learners, and as I teach today, I am hopeful that sitting amongst those that I teach are the next wave of ‘heart led’ teachers patiently awaiting their turn to do the same…


Agus Haris Munandar

June 2021
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PAPER VS SCREEN



Here in May 2021, those amongst us choosing to take a ‘glass half-full’ approach to life, find ourselves still trying to make ‘sense’ of this new world in which we now live by continuously searching for the ‘up’s’ or the positives that have come from our experiences of the past 12-16 months.

As literacy educators, one huge positive that we’re extremely happy to share, is a dramatic increase in the reading rates of our children during these ‘study from home’ times. In a recent study conducted by the UK’s National Literacy Trust, over a quarter of the sixty-thousand, 8-18 year-old respondents, reported that during lockdown, they both read more and got more enjoyment from what they were reading.

Another particularly interesting result of this study was the discovery that in general, during these digital heavy times, many children were choosing to ‘go back’ to reading paper books rather than electronic books, aka e-books. Perhaps purely for nostalgic reasons and a return to the familiar or perhaps due to digital fatigue, either way, when it comes to our children reading for pleasure, Paper vs Screen? Is one better than the other?

Although traditional paper books still dominate the reading experience of most young readers, in the past 5 or so years, children have had increasing experience with books in an electronic format. This is not surprising, given how prevalent digital devices are in homes (and increasingly in schools) these days.

Fans of e-books present some strong arguments in favour of using digitalisation as a tool for encouraging reading in children, and research has in fact shown that for boys in particular, the use of gadgetry has encouraged an increase of reading in previously reluctant readers.

In support of electronic books:
  1. They allow access to a near limitless selection of books with a simple click of a button, at anytime from anywhere.
  2. You can create your own personal library of ‘books’ without needing a huge space in which to accommodate them all.
  3. They can come with animations, music, games and means to be made interactive, thereby, encouraging the ‘reader’ to really get involved in the story.
  4. They can come with access to electronic audio pronunciation applications, allowing a reader to check pronunciation of unfamiliar words.
  5. They come with built in access to dictionaries/thesaurus, allowing for immediate clarification of a new word meaning.
  6. They are adaptable, e.g. the print size can be increased.
  7. They are environmentally friendly – reducing the need for the 10’s of millions of trees that are cut down each year to make traditional paper-books.

Detractors of e-books, likewise have solid reasoning as to why the book in its paper form consistently out performs it’s electronic ‘cousin’ as the reading medium of choice.

In opposition of electronic books:
  1. If they’re only exposed to e-readers, young readers lose the tactile experience of handling a traditional book, turning its pages, creating a physical book collection, or sharing their favourites with their friends.
  2. They can effectively limit the variety of books that a child may read. When visiting a library or bookstore, a child has the opportunity to view (and touch) a huge variety of books before making their reading decisions, whereas for e-books these decisions are generally selected from a narrow range of titles that pop up on the screen.
  3. The music, animation, and games that are loaded onto children’s e-books can end up being more distracting than useful. Potentially these interactive features can lead to a decrease in comprehension and ultimately learning.
  4. By being inundated with interactive features, children are being required less and less to use their imaginations, their analytical and predictive skills and their ability to think creatively. 
  5. The adult-child (parent/teacher-child) interaction that is so positively compelling with traditional book reading, changes dramatically when collaboratively reading using e-books,
  6. In fact, research has found that parents/teachers often become more controlling, concentrating more on what their child is doing with the device instead of talking about the story. The technology is so exciting that the conversation focuses on what button to push instead of the content.
  7. A paper book doesn’t need to be plugged in!

From personal experience, I was a bookseller during the extraordinary Harry Potter years, when the release of the latest edition had children lining the streets, dressed as their favourite characters, talking about plots, predicting outcomes, analysing character traits… as they waited for the book shop doors to open so they could rush in and get their hands on the next Harry Potter adventure. 

This literary phenomenon was experienced at a community level right through-out the world, and was driven I believe (obviously by the story-telling mastery of JK Rowling) but also equally by the power of the physical book in hand and the shared experience of millions of readers as they turned each page. Had Harry Potter only been released as an e-book, I very much doubt that there would have been the same outpouring of love and excitement each time a new edition was released – clicking a button to download, has nowhere near the same impact as gathering collectively as a united group, counting down to the exact launch time, rushing through the bookshop doors, holding the book in your hands and then opening to the first page…

I have to admit to being a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to books and for me the presence of books transform a house into a home, BUT, I will admit to also having an e-book device these days. I find them easier to carry when travelling, or for being able to buy a book 24/7, or for being able to access free/cheap books when the budget is a bit tight. 

Ultimately I think that in 2021 this is the way to go, and that there is no need for an ‘either or’, but rather an acceptance that both are legitimate modes of reading and that they can work extremely well in combination.

So rather than Paper vs Screen, an alternative view could be Paper and Screen. The bottom line being that we just want our children to start reading and then keep reading!

Inge Wilhelm
May 2021
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KNOWING WHICH I CAN READ COURSE IS RIGHT FOR YOUR CHILD?



All children are the same
All children progress academically at the same rate
All children adapt quickly to new situations and environments
All children are equally confident and emotionally resilient
All children have the same access to resources, their parents’ time, learning opportunities…
When it comes to parenting and educating children, the above 5 statements could not be further from the truth!

Each child is an individual with their own unique characteristics. Some children leapfrog from baby to toddler to school with apparent ease, while others take a slower more methodical approach. Some children exude confidence, others experience anxiety. Some children take to reading or maths or science, others to art, or sports, or music. Some children are talkative, opinionated, questioning of everything, while others are quiet, reflective, introspective…

At I Can Read we know that no two children are exactly the same, which is why all children enrolling in an ICR course must first attend an assessment. The assessment is a series of stress-free literacy activities designed to highlight each child’s current English Literacy skill level, together with the child’s emotional readiness to attend an ICR lesson without the constant comforting presence of Mum or Dad.

We’re often asked by parents about how they can ‘prepare’ their child for the assessment. To best answer this, it’s important to realise that this assessment is NOT a test in which a child either passes or fails. There is no failing this assessment!

By all means prepare your child for a new experience in a new environment, by telling them where they are going and who they are going to meet, but there is no benefit at all to be gained by subjecting your child to a rush course in phonological awareness or spoken English or English grammar… before the assessment – ultimately this may even do more harm than good!

I Can Read Courses are ability-based, meaning that a child is placed in a course according to their individual literacy skills (and emotional readiness). During the assessment, the child is led through a series of activities that enables the assessor to gain an understanding of whether the child has the English vocabulary to identify a selection of objects, or is able to understand that different letters make different sounds and that when blended together correctly, these sounds make words, and that when we put these words together they make up sentences…

The information acquired during the assessment then allows the teacher to recommend the ICR Course that is best suited to the child’s current skill level. By doing this we are placing a child in a course that is neither too easy, nor too difficult for ‘them’ and therefore giving them the best possible chance to succeed in their ICR studies.

To get the best out of your child’s assessment we recommend:
1. Prepare your child for a new experience, but do not ‘coach’ them academically prior to the assessment – perhaps arrive at the ICR Centre a few minutes early to allow your child a chance to settle down before the assessment begins.
2. Attend the assessment with your child – seeing how your child performs, will help you better understand why the assessor recommends a particular course.
3. Allow the assessor and your child to complete the assessment without interruption – it’s hard to sit quietly while your child searches for an answer, we know! But, it’s very important that we find out what your child knows, rather than what you know!
4. Listen as the assessor explains which ICR course that they are recommending, they will explain:
- Why they are recommending a specific course
- The learning objectives of the course 
- The literacy skills that your child will learn
- How we are going to teach your child 
- The skills your child will need to gain and become confident in before being promoted
- The next ICR course they can be promoted to
- What you as a parent can do to help your child succeed
5. Ask questions to clarify what the assessor is saying, but avoid asking how long your child will need to stay in the course that is being recommended – as mentioned, each child is different, so each child will progress at a different rate. Once your child starts their lessons, their teacher will be able to give you regular updates as to how they are progressing.

I Can Read Assessments are free of charge, and come with no obligation to enrol your child. If you are interested in your child attending an assessment, please click on the location button on this website for the ICR Centre nearest to you.

Inge Wilhelm
May 2021
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PARENTING WITH RULES AND ROUTINES



Raising a happy, confident and well-behaved child can be equally rewarding and challenging. As parents, our children’s behaviour is often seen as a reflection of our parenting skills. In our minds, a consistently well-behaved child indicates clear evidence that we are successful in our role as parents, while a regularly misbehaving child perhaps indicates the opposite?

So, what does it take to raise a happy, confident, and well-behaved child? Of all the mums and dads I’ve spoken with, there is one common thread from our conversations, and that is the establishment and following of rules and routines. They all believe that the setting of practical family rules and the following simple agreed routines have helped them as they raise their children.

When talking about family rules and routines, what we are really meaning is the known ‘guidelines’ that we as a family, have in place to ensure that we all know and understand what is, and equally, what is not, acceptable behaviour in our family e.g. never wander away in a public place, or always hold mum’s hand when crossing the road, or always do your homework before watching TV, or listen when an adult is talking or come inside before it gets dark…

If we want family safety and harmony therefore, let’s just throw a few rules and routines at our children and then we can all get on with living ‘happily ever after’.

Sounds easy, but in reality, parents know (or learn very quickly!) that establishing rules and routines is often far easier said than done, and can in fact be massively challenging for the simple reasons that:

  • For most children, curiosity outweighs rule-following e.g., in the mind of a child, ‘I know I am not supposed to wander-off in the Mall, but over there, is a TOY SHOP!’
  • Children are attention seekers e.g., in the mind of a child, ‘I know I’m supposed to be quiet when mum talks to my teacher, but I want them both to know that I AM HERE!’
  • Children are gifted ‘testers’ of their parents’ limits e.g., in the mind of a child, ‘I know I’m supposed to brush my teeth every morning, but I wonder how long I can get away with not brushing them?’

But while challenging, the establishing of these family rules and routines are worthy of your time and effort.

Why?

  • They provide children with a sense of comfort and certainty – yes, they will undoubtedly question them and you at times, but even so, they secretly like the security of having them.
  • They provide children with reassurance that their parents are there for them.
  • They clearly show children what is expected of them.
  • They help teach children e.g., when children are given rules on screen-time limits, you are helping them develop skills such as how to manage time, or make considered decisions…
  • They help prepare children for a future of constant and ever-changing rules. The world in which they live is filled with rules and regulations, so in living with and understanding your family rules you are better preparing them for their rule-heavy lives ahead.

Just like rules, routines are used by parents to help family-life run smoothly. Routines are simply sequences of behaviour that we regularly follow in our daily lives. In establishing routines for our children, parents are effectively taking away the need for countless ‘little rules’ and replacing them instead with specific and stated (as with family rules, your children must be clear of what the routines are, and why it is important to follow them!) actions, that ultimately become nearly automatic.

Some examples of common child friendly routines being:

  • Wake-up and get out of bed (at a given time), get dressed, have breakfast, brush teeth and hair, pack schoolbag…
  • Putting schoolbag in the designated area when arriving home from school, having a snack, doing homework, enjoying free-time, dinner…
  • After playing with toys, pick-up after yourself and tidy away.
  • Turn off the TV after watching or when not watching.
  • Putting important notes or letters on the notice board (or on the fridge door) so mum and dad can easily spot them. 

As with everything when it comes to encouraging our children, the acceptance of family rules and routines will be more successful if they are delivered with ample encouragement and positive reinforcement - it is vital that parents show their appreciation of their children’s efforts and improvements, no matter how small they are – here are a few ways to acknowledge their efforts:

  • Give praise.
  • Thank them.
  • Discuss your family’s rules/routines and allow them to offer suggestions for changes.
  • Star charts or achievement charts, later to be exchanged for a bigger reward.
  • Arrange a special, fun family activity.
  • Have their friends for sleepovers or playdates. 
  • Favourite food treats 

For children, specific and known rules and routines bring certainty at a time when their lives are constantly changing. As parents we can help our children accept the introduction of these into their lives by clearly explaining why each is important, by being consistent in expecting them to be followed, and by following through with consequences if they are not. 

Georgia Marias
April 2021
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WHY, OH WHY?



Will it be Mama? Or, will it be Dada? A child’s first spoken words are often much anticipated and celebrated.

But… barely before the excitement has died down, a new reality quickly emerges and with it the realisation that from here on in, your life as a parent is once again about to change.

On average, in the first 5 years of life, a child will learn around 5000 new words, increasing to 10,000 – 12,000 words by the age of 10 years.

Nouns (lots of nouns!), Verbs, Adjectives, Adverbs… Whether implicitly or explicitly taught, these new words allow the child to expand their view and understanding of the world and their place in it.

Within these thousands of newly acquired words will be ‘the many’ that are used in typical daily conversations (hello, swim, dog, school, green, no…), some that signify themes (train, car, airplane, bus, bike…) and some that highlight cultural niceties (please, thank-you, excuse me, sorry, you’re welcome…).

Most words once accessed, become part of the child’s ever evolving vocabulary base, to be used as or when needed. But occasionally an especially powerful word will arrive and with its arrival comes a degree (often many degrees) of challenge, not just for the child, but also for everyone around them, especially parents and teachers!

Arguably one of the most testing of these words is the humble, ‘why’. On the face of it, a simple one syllable, 2 phoneme, 3 letter word, but delve a letter deeper and the importance (and challenge) of this powerful little word soon becomes clearer.

The arrival of the ‘why’ into a child’s everyday vocabulary, appears with lightning-like speed almost as soon as their spoken language first emerges – one day it’s Mama, and the next it’s why, why, why, why, why…

  • Parent: ‘It’s time to brush your teeth’. Child: ‘Why?’
  • Parent: ‘That’s enough story-time for tonight’. Child: ‘Why?’
  • Parent: ‘It’s raining’. Child: ‘Why?’
  • Parent: ‘Let me peel the orange first’. Child: ‘Why?’
  • Parent: ‘Be gentle with the puppy’. Child: ‘Why?’

But, why all the ‘why’s?’

At its most simple, children, like adults, ask questions, because they want to know the answers (both facts and explanations). If you can recall a time when you have visited a new country or perhaps learnt a new skill, you may also recall that in the beginning you had a lot of questions as you tried to make sense of it all. This is the exact same for our children - they are constantly visiting new places, learning new skills, having new experiences, being introduced to new ideas… so it’s no surprise that the questions just keep on a-coming!

Just how many questions? You may well ask. On average, a child will ask around 40,000 questions between the ages of 2 and 5 years*. (Spare a thought therefore for parents of more than one child, e.g. three children = 120,000 questions!). 

Being on the receiving end of this ever increasing and seemingly never ceasing barrage of ‘whys’ can frazzle even the most patient of parents and teachers, but… be patient we must! Because in allowing our children to ask the ‘whys’ we are setting the foundations for a life of curiosity, knowledge seeking and critical thinking. 

In those moments when you may be inclined to ignore the incessant ‘whys’ (in addition of course, to the when’s, what’s, where’s, who’s, and how’s), remember that the more questions your child asks, the more they are learning – and this is a GOOD thing, as highlighted in this quote by Warren Berger.

‘Knowing the answers to questions will help you in school, knowing how to ask great questions will help you in life’                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
So, what about us as parents and teachers? What is our role in the encouraging of the ‘whys’?

1. A Listener
Actively show that you value their questions and curiosity by listening and responding.
2. An Encourager 
Create environments in which children feel safe asking questions and praise the asking of good questions with equal positivity as you do for the correct answering of questions.
3. An Answerer 
Become a walking, talking, breathing ‘search-engine’ for the 100’s of smaller, simple, fact type questions that come at you on a daily basis.
4. A Researcher 
Show your children that at times finding answers, especially for the higher-order thinking questions, takes hard work and research. Encourage them to consider a variety of possible answers, rather than believe the first one they hear or see.
5. A Co – Learner
Turn it around and also ask your children questions. In doing so you are demonstrating that gathering new knowledge and understanding is life-long, and that you as their parent or teacher value their thoughts and opinions.

As parents and teachers, we along with all of our other responsibilities are the primary enablers and nurturers of our children’s need to expand their knowledge and therefore view of the world. This knowledge is built question by question by question by…

Sending our children into the world as questioners, equips them to follow their own paths, make their own decisions, evaluate, re-evaluate, discover, agree, disagree, theorise and so much more. 

Let’s therefore actively encourage our children to become super questioners, starting right from their very first ‘why?’

Inge Wilhelm
April 2021
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FACT OR FAKE?



With the vast amount of knowledge and data it holds, the internet is playing an increasingly vital role in many of our lives. It provides endless learning opportunities and in recent years, growing numbers of us are now using it as our most common source of information. Essentially, the internet allows anyone to get any answers to any questions. Wherever. Whenever. From Whomever. 

Children are no exception. From having social media accounts, to watching videos online, to texting in group chats, to using search engines… with a simple click of a button, a child can also find anything on the internet – from answers to a homework assignment, to a recorded video of last year’s concert, or a picture of a favourite celebrity or even a moment-by-moment account of a tragedy as it unfolds on the other side of the world…

By default, and especially during this last year of ‘learning from home’, for many parents and students the internet has become a ‘go-to’ teacher or tutor replacement, as they have tried to maintain some semblance of learning. On the surface, this would seem to be a good thing. But if we dig a little deeper, should we really be placing so much faith in what the internet is potentially ‘feeding’ our children?  

As mentioned, the internet is abundant with information, BUT do we really know where this information is coming from or if it is even the truth? Even as adults, it can often be difficult to sift through what is being said or written before deciding if it is to be trusted, so imagine what it must be like for our children! 

Chances are, if a child is told something by an adult, they tend to believe it to be the truth. So it follows that if they hear it or read it on the internet, they will also believe it to be true!

And it’s this easy acceptance that spells D.A.N.G.E.R (for parents and teachers and especially for children!) 

Much of the information found on the internet is based purely on opinion - but as we all know, opinions aren’t necessarily the truth. In fact, opinions are often no better than pointless, useless information.

Useless information, often also referred to as fake news or false information, is not a new phenomenon – there have always been people keen to spread rumour, gossip, and speculation, but undeniably, the internet has definitely made it easier through its world-wide reach, easy access and sophisticated ability to present ‘fake’ news as real. 

Major search engine companies like Google and Yahoo have tried to tighten their reins on this. They work hard to make sure that the information they provide is accurate and credible, but fake news appears to always be one step ahead of us all, becoming a nearly unstoppable feature of the internet.

So, what is the potential impact of this fake news on our younger generation?

A. Spreading false information can cause children to feel embarrassed, shocked, and upset.

There have been many occasions where a child finds a great story on the internet, share it with their friends, who then share it with their friends… (Because who doesn’t love to share a good story?), only to find out that the story is fake. Once they find out the truth, they feel embarrassed for being so gullible for sharing something that was false.

B. Some fake stories can have a damaging impact on the health and wellbeing of our children. 

As an example, false news stories around the COVID-19 pandemic have been circulating for some time. For example, some sources say that this pandemic is only a conspiracy, with no masks or health protocols needed. Others tell us to consume a lot of protein to keep the virus away, while others still, offer unsafe recipes for homemade hand sanitizers or anti-COVID medications. Believing this kind of ‘fake’ news can really endanger our children’s safety.

C. Being constantly exposed to fake information can hurt a child’s willingness to trust. 

If a child finds it hard to believe anything - who to trust? Is this real? Or, even, what is the truth? It opens them up to a constant doubt and fear that nothing they are being told is real, even if it is in fact the truth. 

What, therefore, should we as parents and teachers be doing to reduce the easy acceptance and impact of fake news?

1. Most importantly, let’s start by being aware of what our children are viewing on the internet – a young child doesn’t require full and open access, so monitor it: view the internet together, discuss what you are seeing and hearing, question their understanding, stay informed and become a part of their internet world!

2. 
Let’s actively teach our children analytical thinking skills. Children who question what they are hearing or give more thought to what they are being told, are far more likely to be able to discern true from false.

3. 
Let’s focus on helping our children gain the literacy skills required for them to be able to independently read and fully comprehend what they are reading.

Further, teach and support your children to do the following to both spot and reduce their access to (and sharing of) fake news*:

a. Check the source of the news.
Where the news comes from is as important as the news itself. Fake news stories use technology and social media to look like proper news sites. This can make a fake story seem real. Make sure the website’s name is credible.

b. Don’t just rely on the headline.
More often than not, fake news doesn’t have a matching headline. Make sure that the headline agrees with the content of the article and read it whole before you share a story. As a rule of thumb, read and fully understand all stories before sharing them with others!

c. Be aware of photoshopped videos and pictures.
Do they look right? Do they look photoshopped? Do they have sources? In this day and age, photoshopping pictures and videos has become so easy that almost everybody can do it.

d. Check with an adult.
If they have doubts about information being read or heard online, recommend that they discuss what they have read or heard with a parent or teacher.

The internet as a source of information is here, and it’s here to stay. As parents and teachers, we simply cannot (and should not) stop our children from using the internet. BUT, in order for our children to get the best from their online encounters, we must take an interest in and be a part of their internet/social media lives. At the very least, it is up to us to warn them that not everything that they see and hear online is real and to actively give them the skills needed to separate fact from fake news.

*Taken from https://www.vodafone.co.uk/mobile/digital-parenting/rollup-fakenews with some adaptations.

Agus Haris
March 2021
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CREATIVITY BEGINS AT HOME



As the parents of three young girls, my wife and I, like millions of parents around the world, are always looking for ways to help our children live their best possible lives.

As both parents and educators (yes, my wife is also a teacher!), we are very aware that we have an important role to play in constantly providing our children with opportunities and experiences to spark their creativity, alongside their higher-order thinking skills, empathy, social and cognitive development…

For this article, I will be using the experiences of my family (especially from the past 12 months when we have been doing so much of their educating from home) to give you some ideas of how we’ve used everyday family activities to encourage our daughters to explore and develop their creativity.

But before I do this, let’s first take a step back and examine what we mean by ‘creativity’.

If we talk with other parents and teachers, or do some simple online research, it quickly becomes clear that ‘creativity’ means different things to different people. Some people think that creativity is something that you are born with, so you either have it or you don’t. Others view creativity as having the ability to paint, or play a musical instrument, or write a beautiful poem or… While others still, see creativity in a more abstract way, seeing it as an ability to think differently, or the willingness to be inspired, to be innovative, to be curious, to be expressive or to be original…

But however differently we view it, the one thing that there does appear to be agreement on, is the connection between creativity and literacy – to put it simply, Creativity + Literacy = Better Learning.

Below are 8 ways (or ideas) to encourage creativity that my wife and I use in our home.

1. We start by providing our daughters with an environment in which their innate creativity is able to be safely expressed and explored. Our home is filled with books and games and toys. Our home is also filled with talking and laughing and questions and the encouragement to try new and different things.

2. We try not to be too ‘bossy’ by telling them what we think they ‘should’ be doing, instead we allow our girls’ to share in the decision making for activities that they can try individually, or that we can do together as a family. They have a small whiteboard in their bedroom on which they write their suggestions and we then decide as a family which of these activities to do together in the weekend. One of our most favourite family activities is cooking together. Cooking is amazingly creative, it allows us to practice maths, science, reading and following directions… and of course it allows us to eat some delicious food at the end of it!

3. We allow our daughters’ time and the space to be messy and noisy, and while it does sometimes become quite chaotic in our home, we know that creativity comes more often from within chaos than from neatly and quietly ‘drawing between the lines! (however, yes! we do expect them to help clean up )

4. We give our daughters as much of our time as we can manage – though as all parents know, regardless of the amount of time we give our children, they always want more! When we do devote time to being with our girls, we push them to use their imaginations and to share their thoughts and ideas with us all.

5. We know that it is important not to limit our daughters creativity to just the ‘arts’, so we also give them opportunities to get outside to explore their local community. Our three daughters (10, 6, and 4 years old) all have bikes and whenever possible our whole family love to go on bike rides. As we bike along the streets near our home, it’s a great time to share thoughts with each other about our lives, our country, our family, our history and our traditions. We could teach them these sorts of things from a book, but it’s much more fun to learn while being out and about and engaged with the ‘real’ world.

6. We actively encourage our daughters to play and have fun as they are learning. Our daughters especially enjoy role-playing, and watching us teach online as we have been doing for much of the last year has given them plenty of ideas for their own teacher/student role-plays. Having our daughters see us taking a creative approach to our lives and work also helps reinforce to them that creativity is lifelong.

7. We celebrate curiosity and perseverance. Not all creative thinking or actions are successful, and we’ve told our daughters that that’s ok. Not every drawing is going to be a masterpiece, not every idea is going to be agreed, not every new activity is going to be enjoyed – but, when this does happen, we encourage our daughters to make any necessary changes, or to re-think their options and try again.

8. We don’t place some creative activities above others, so we praise our daughters equally for all of their creative endeavours, whether it be an interesting idea, a clever question, a great sentence in a story that they have written, a delicious cake they have helped bake, a dance that they have made up or…

As parents, my wife and I can’t ‘force’ our children into ‘being creative’ (and nor do we want to). Pure creativity doesn’t work like this! But what we can do, is use our home as a ‘container or incubator’ in which our young daughters’ can freely play, create, imagine, experiment and share. In encouraging them to do this as young learners, we hope that they become creative life-long learners and get to experience all of the educational joys that this approach offers.

Riagus Izzan
March 2021
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IS IT TIME TO CONSIDER MAKING A CHANGE?



You might be interested to know that that when it comes to the I CAN READ teaching community, ICR Indonesia stands out as having the highest percentage of teachers who choose to stay and teach with us for the longest period of time.

Teachers stay in a teaching job for numerous reasons. Many of these are positive - they like their school, their colleagues, their students, their employer, or they love the subjects they teach and are passionate about educating the next generation…

Long-term (or in fact any) teachers who are in the teaching profession for reasons such as these, bring with them,

Knowledge, Experience, Confidence, Engagement, Commitment, Stability, Enthusiasm, Animation…

And why are these so important? Because, as American Educationalist Robert John Meehan rightly says;

‘Teachers who love teaching, teach students to love learning’

But what about teachers who stay in a teaching job for the wrong reasons? - maybe they just really need a job and any job will do, or they are so familiar with the job, they can just roll up and do it, or perhaps they lack the motivation to try something new, or they simply feel that staying is easier than leaving…

Long-term (or in fact any) teachers who remain in a teaching job for reasons such as these, may bring with them,

Dissatisfaction, Complacency, Boredom, Indifference, Frustration, Disappointment, Unhappiness…

And why can these be so damaging? It’s very simple – because our students deserve more!

So… do you know which of these camps you fit into? Do you know the real reasons you choose to stay in your teaching job? And, would you know when it might be time to consider a change?

While the first two questions are for you and you alone to reflect upon and honestly answer, the third question is perhaps more universal?

Schools, including I CAN READ Centres, rely on their teachers. We work hard to recruit the right teachers and when we find the good ones (or better still, the great ones) of course we want to hold- on to them. But what about from the teachers’ perspective, when or why should a teacher consider making a change?

Let’s look at five broad examples that are commonly cited by teachers as a ‘wake-up’ call that maybe not all is right in their current teaching situation.

1. When teaching your students no longer gives you a sense of enjoyment or satisfaction: Let’s face it, watching your students grow and succeed as they learn is the biggest perk of being a teacher, so when that disappears, maybe it’s time for a re-think?

2. When it’s time to expand your experience:
The same school with the same curriculum, the same colleagues, and the same students is only ever going to give you the same teaching experience. Stepping outside of the same-old, same-old, could be just the thing needed to re-inspire you to think and teach differently.

3. When you are no longer growing and developing as a teacher:
If you are still teaching your lessons in exactly the same way today as you were two years ago, or even one year ago – maybe it’s time to seek out new ideas, new thoughts, new teaching methods, new inspiration.

4. When you are in a lull and have reached the point that you are just going through the motions:
Perhaps you’ve lost your teaching mojo, but simply going through the motions benefits neither yourself nor your students. Life is far too short to be tied to a job that brings you no personal fulfilment.

5. When you need to re-fall in love with teaching:
Ask any group of teachers why they chose a career in education, and the majority will say it is because they love being able to help shape the minds of our young and prepare them for the future. If an honest conversation with yourself reveals that this love has waned, then maybe it’s time to think about finding a new love, whether it’s teaching somewhere new, or trying something completely different.

If any of the above have resonated with you, relax, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should chuck it all in and go become a wildlife animal ranger (though wouldn’t that be a great job!).

It merely gives you a sign that changes need to be made – be they big or small. As Tony Robbins says, ‘nothing changes, nothing changes’ which I take to mean that if you want to see change, you have to actively make the changes you want to see!

If you do come to realise that it’s time to leave a teaching job and seek out new opportunities, then that’s what you should do. Yes it takes courage, but equally, it potentially comes with great reward. If however you realise that it’s time to reassess your current teaching situation and determine what needs to be changed within to help you reignite your teaching passion, or improve your skills, or seek out new experiences… then decide an action plan and make it happen.

Ultimately for most teachers, a sustained commitment and passion for teaching will come if they experience teaching as being both socially and personally meaningful. 

If this is not YOUR current experience, maybe it’s time to consider making some changes?

Inge Wilhelm
February 2021
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