Carluke meets Tracy Island

5th January 2001 at 00:00
I SHOULD have been better prepared. The instant my six-year-old son Andrew showed the slightest interest in the reruns of Thunderbirds, I ought to have gone out and stocked up on the merchandise. Instead, I waited until everyone and his dog wanted a talking Tracy Island International Rescue Base. As a result, I spent many fruitless hours on the Internet trying to track one down and made an unsuccessful trip to a nearby shopping complex as well.

Here the conversation became slightly bizarre in one store. Me: "Do you have a Tracy Island?"

Assistant: "Sorry, no."

Me: "Do you know if you're likely to get any?"

Assistant: "I'm afraid I don't know. We're not a shop, we're a retail outlet."

Things looked bad. We started explaining to our son that Santa might have difficulty in getting Tracy Islands for everyone who wanted one. My son, bless him, took this to heart and could be heard telling Santa that he wanted a bike. The trouble was that, by that time, my genius sister had managed to track down a Tracy Island, so we had to convince Andrew that he still wanted one. Perhaps the art of making people happy lies in talking them into believing that what they get is what they want.

Cut to a school I taught in many years ago. The depatment where I'd just arrived had produced excellent handout physics notes, with a few blanks to be filled in by students. Were they happy with them? Wouldn't they prefer notes from the board? No, that would waste time copying stuff. You never learnt by copying.

I was then transferred to another school where such notes were not used. Instead, students copied summaries from the board. Wouldn't they prefer handout notes? No, because you were more familiar with the contents of notes you had written yourself.

The same department then moved to photocopied handouts (partially ripped off from the first-mentioned establishment) and the pupils were still content.

What does this prove? That teachers, like parents of small children who want Tracy Islands, are con artists? I'd prefer to see it as a confidence trick of a different kind. Pupils' responses to teaching styles are governed not only by their own preferred learning styles but by their teachers' confidence in the style they choose or are obliged to adopt.

And there you have it. The first piece of blindingly obvious educational wisdom of the year 2001 from Carluke's very own Brains.

Gregor Steele's sister also procured model Thunderbird 1s and 3s. Give the woman a medal.

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