Friday, 19 April 2013

TImes tables angst

I can't help thinking that our year 3 children are being pressed a little too hard when it comes to learning their times tables.

I know it will be a difficult week next week as far as homework is concerned. I predict tears, frustration, shouting, a desire to tear up the homework sheet. (And that's just from me, let alone our 8-year-old daughter!).

Having had just one week on the six times table, we're now onto the 3 minute test with a combo of x2, x3, x4 and x6. It is not clear to me how much they are meant to be learning by rote, and how much they are just practising by whatever means until they are really quick.

I wish they were just taking a bit longer over it. I feel as though a week longer at each stage would do a lot of good. Aforementioned daughter is doing additions and subtractions to get to where she should be in the table (so, 60 take away 6 for 9x6 for example). This is probably why 7 times anything is very slow to achieve. It's not a bad way of doing it, it's just painfully slow at times as a fog descends around the otherwise clear-thinking brain and she gets in a tizz.

The pressure of feeling she needs to learn all this by the time she is in year 4 doesn't exactly help either. Are all schools like this? All kids? Or is it peculiar to our girl who hates to get things wrong (but often resists advice on how to get it right)?

Fortunately she likes school and is doing alright. It's hard enough for us, but what is it like for parents whose kids really don't even want to try? It must take a skilled teacher indeed to handle the differences in abilities without making such young children feel as though they are starting to fail already when they struggle with this.

I hope we're not going to have a whole term of this, but by my calculations (no. of times tables left x estimated number of weeks per table = 15, see how I can put it into practice) we've a long way to go yet. Or if they really do hope to get it by year 4, it is going to be such a rush job they'll need to repeat it all anyway.  Which goes back to my original point really, apart from the very few to whom it comes naturally, they are being pressed a little too hard.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Cancer Research Campaign dividing opinion

The 2013 Cancer Research UK campaign 'Cancer, we're coming to get you' seems to be dividing opinion - not quite as strongly as love-it-hate-it marmite perhaps, but certainly some people think it's great, while others cringe.

It is probably no great surprise that I am not a fan (of the advert that is, I am of course extremely pro cancer research and without research into cancer treatments I probably wouldn't be here blogging today).

If you haven't seen it, you can watch on youtube as I did earlier after a twitter conversation with a couple of friends who also don't like this ad. Basically it is sticking two fingers up at cancer and saying all these people are going to be fighting cancer.

I get unusually irritated by some of the language surrounding cancer. This advert is part of that really. As if cancer is some kind of sentient being to do battle with. 'Are you scared? You should be'. Yeah, right. Cancer is where normal cells in the body have gone wrong and divide and grow in an uncontrolled manner. It isn't like a bacteria that could be killed off with strong antibiotics or bleach, or even an opposing football team you're playing mind games with.

It is great that Cancer Research UK and others are making significant progress with drugs, treatment and understanding of this disease, but I suspect we are still a long way off preventing the loss of life to cancer. Does it help people to think that they are doing battle with the disease? Why is it a battle?

I think I am now cancer-free (I think therefore I am?). This is not because I have somehow fought the disease well. This is because I was pretty healthy in all other ways, and although it was not caught particularly early the cancer was caught early enough. The course of radiotherapy followed by surgery then chemo were effective treatments. I was lucky.

If you feel empowered by swearing at cancer and saying that you're going to beat it, then great. Whatever works for you - just don't expect me to join in. And I am very glad that people are out raising funds by walking, running, abseiling, and other admirable activities.

Enough of my moaning - I don't even watch ads on TV!

So, whatever has motivated you to do it, thank you for raising funds for cancer research and good luck to all you runners in the Race for Life.