The primary Math educator is the one who has the duty to explain a new Math concept for the first time to a student. They start from the beginning, and need to present the abstract concept in such a way that the student can visualize it concretely and therefore learn to apply it in complex problems. This educator is usually the appointed school teacher who needs to journey with the students through the prescribed syllabus.
The secondary Math educator is the one who re-explains the already introduced topic, or who brings together the different sections of explanation into a single concept. This educator might be a typical ‘extra class tutor’ or the primary educator who teaches additionally.
The two types of Math teaching – primary and secondary – are worlds apart! They are specialities in their own characteristics and skills. Primary educators have the ‘dirty job’ in one sense and the ‘golden opportunity’ in another sense. They must have the students’ faith to trust them enough to absorb the loose parts of information that will eventually unfold into a sensible and single understanding. They are required to possess the profound skills and foundational knowledge on the particular topic in order to present it technically correct. And they also need to know creative ways in which the students can stay focused – while still enjoying the class. Should the primary educator succeed in this demanding job, then they found a ‘golden opportunity’ whereby they can build on the successful start, and often students perform well in the remaining parts of the lesson.
But there is a great obstacle in the modern upper-class education system, which might prevent the primary educator to enjoy the ‘golden opportunity’ they wish for: the potentially intrusive role of the secondary educator. The secondary educator steps into the thriving market as an ‘extra tutor’ and often interferes with the primary educator’s path of strategy. The student would often express these sentiments during such an interference:
- My extra class tutor explains better.
- My extra class tutor has much simpler solutions.
- Who is your extra class tutor? Mine is… (apparently the latest, best one).
- I won’t listen in class because my extra class tutor will explain in any way to me this afternoon.
The primary educator fights consciously, or subconsciously, against this intrusion. They often change their own, detailed, explanations into watered-down “feel-good-versions” in order to match with the modern simplified explanations. They could also cut themselves emotionally distant from the student. This all forms part of a cycle in which the student even looses more interest in the classroom, relies more on the extra tutor, enlarging the need of the private tuition market more and put the parent under more financial pressure.
The secondary educator has another battle field. This educator is out of control at the specific place of progress of the student, and greater class. This educator doesn’t know when the next topic will be introduced, and what that topic is, let alone when and how the involved student will be tested on this topic. The uncertainty results in an attempt to compensate; that might add to additional skills of explanation and orientation toward the student, which at the end of the day could result in better scores. However, at the same time, this secondary educator is performing under enormous amounts of stress and competition within the self-creating market. All of these inconsistencies also add up to the negative cycle of the battle between primary and secondary education in Math.
See one of our Senior Teachers’ comment:
Ek is dankbaar vir die ekstraklas juffrou wanneer ek onder druk is om die onderwerp klaar te maak en ek voor my siel weet almal is nie heeltemal by nie. My namiddae word opgebruik vir Alpha Wiskunde, vraestel 3 en die graad 12’s. Laasgenoemde se behoeftes is egter so uiteenlopend date k beslis nie 60 matrieks ekstra hulp kan gee nie. Ja, daar is beslis plek vir die ekstra klasse – om ‘ groot aantal redes.
In ons omgewing is daar mense wat al jare ‘n pad saam met ons stap, bel om seker te maak van sekere aspekte van die sillabus en vir wie ons ons vraestelle gee. Ons kry immers ook die voordeel as die leerders goed presteer. Julle betrokkenheid by ons skool word baie waardeer en besonder positief beleef.
Ek raak geïriteerd met die ekstraklas juffrou as sy in die middae die leerders se huiswerk vir hulle doen of selfs vooruit werk. Dit ontneem die leerder die geleentheid om self sy probleemoplossingsvaardighede te ontwikkel. Dit skep by hulle dan ‘n vals gevoel dat hy/sy die werk verstaan. Wanneer hulle dan in ‘n toets alleen die probleem moet hanteer, sukkel hulle. Die grootste frustrasie is die leerders wat ooglopend verveeld is met di twat in die klas gebeur, met hul selfone of enige iets anders besig is – want dit word in elke geval vir hulle individueel verduidelik.
Na my mening hoef die onnie in die oggend nie bedreig te voel deur die onnie in die middag nie. Ons het dieselfde doel en wanneer elkeen sy rol verstaan en mekaar respekteer kan dit ‘n wonderlike wenresep word – soos ons samewerking met julle reeds is.
Marie Louw – Senior Educator in Gr 12 Mathematics
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