by David Holzmann
“After all, each student wants to learn something, and as a rule it can be assumed that the orientation towards the teacher is given. The student wants something from the teacher. And, therefore, it would be so easy to help the student succeed. The student needs guidance, not only a written instruction, this is not enough. The student needs the teacher as a reference person, contact person or helper.”
On a Monday in autumn, Sandrine comes home from school and during dinner she reports proudly and with sparkling eyes: “We’re building a hot-air balloon at school.” The two younger siblings are just as amazed as their sister, who is in 5th grade. Everyone joins in enthusiasm, father and mother report from their school days, when they also built hot air balloons.
They are working at it every day during school hours, Sandrine reports. Lightweight tissue paper must be cut and carefully stuck together. A scaffold out of thin wire has to be bent into shape. Already on the second day Sandrine no longer reports how the balloon develops, which she is to build together with a schoolmate. On Thursday, the mother asks if the work is ready and when there will be the big moment when the balloon will be lifted into the air. With hanging corners of her mouth Sandrine reports that she is not sure if her balloon will fly. The teacher had rebuked the girls, that they should not take so much glue, they needed not be surprised if the balloon would not fly. Father, mother and the siblings nearly must worm information out of Sandrine until Sandrine comes out with what has happened at school.
Finally, the process becomes clear: The teacher distributed a page to all, where the instructions for the construction of a hot-air balloon are described in 8 lines. In addition to the very concise text containing some terms Swiss children are not familiar with, the construction manual contains three schematic drawings. The instruction should be sufficient, said the teacher and let the children work on their own. They should independently and two by two construct each a hot-air balloon. The order with the written instructions was distributed without comment, the students went to their place and tried to get to work. With what and how to start? After a short while already, the students became restless, a mix of desperation and nervousness spread. The teacher took action and demanded quiet work, obviously annoyed at the students.
It’s Friday the same week. The mother looks out the window in the morning, the sky is grey, the weather report speaks of upcoming rain in the late afternoon: “Do you really want to launch your balloons in this wind today? And where do you want to do that?” “The teacher will take us by tram and bus to a large meadow where we will have the balloons started.”
Friday evening; Sandrine comes home with her head hanging, throws the school materials in a corner. Two of the 10 balloons have been tattered in the bus by the crowd of passengers. The remaining 8 arrived reasonably well on the big meadow. Three more balloons caught fire, because some fuel came on the tissue paper. When lit by the children, these balloons were victims of the flames, leaving behind only the wireframe. The wind made it impossible for the other balloons to take off. Only one flew a few meters, it was the balloon of the teacher, who was apparently happy about it.
But Sandrine did not want to give up. Her parents’ descriptions of their experience with hot-air balloons they built at school played on her mind. The 5th grader asks the mother if she could not buy tissue paper. At dinner, a fire of enthusiasm ignites again, as the father takes up Sandrine’s wish, and the family decides to make hot-air balloons themselves. On Saturday morning, the breakfast table not yet being cleared, one already plans, discusses and compiles material. First one selects the paper: what colour should have the balloon? Then the daughter bends over the paper, makes precise measurements and carefully marks the cutting lines. The father looks closely, corrects here and there, helps to hold the paper so that the daughter can cut exactly along the cutting lines with the big scissors. Then the glue. “Apply only little”, says the father, “and immediately spread thinly so that the white glue does not dissolve the paper. Then you have to glue two parts together carefully working in groups of two or even better of three. Sandrine lets the father guide her, tries it out for herself, asks her father again if it is good. A constant to and fro between daughter and father.
Then the wire frame, which has to be fixed in the corners of the paper with a little adhesive tape. Imperceptibly, the whole family is making the most beautiful and perfect balloon possible. Everything around is forgotten. The enthusiasm about the emerging balloon is written in Sandrine’s face. It goes smoothly, the work is finished after one hour. Sandrine is proud, and together with her siblings she wants to run out into the open air to let the balloon rise. But the father declines. “Look at the wind, can you see the leaves of the tree trembling in the wind? This is not flying weather for balloons.”
The next day, it is Sunday, everyone looks outside at breakfast. It is still winding. In the afternoon the sun is shining and it is quite cool. The mother calls the father’s attention to the weather, it is almost windless. Now everyone is completely unleashed: Now it should be, the hot-air balloon should start now. The cotton wool is fixed around the wire frame at the bottom of the balloon. Outside, it is sprinkled with fuel, the tension increases, the pulse increases for everyone. Now the cotton wool is set alight together. Father and Sandrine hold the balloon, which is filling with warm air, at two corners each of them and... slowly they can let it go, and slowly it climbs higher and higher. Everybody cheers, laughs and Sandrine dances with her siblings. “It flies, look, it flies, and how. Incredible! Look at that!” Now it is higher than the roof of the house, a fine breeze carries it over the garden to the apple tree at the neighbour’s house, where it slowly comes down and gets stuck. Sandrine’s brother cleverly climbs up the tree and carefully pulls down the precious aircraft. It remained intact. The family goes into the house with sunshine in their hearts. Sandrine wants to build another balloon, the brothers and sisters want to build one too and so three more balloons are created, one more beautiful than the other.
What went wrong at school and what worked better at home? What is the difference between the balloon workshop at school and the one at home? It is the relationship; man learns in relationship. The teacher gave a leaflet with the instructions, without explanation, without answering or accepting questions or suggestions from the students. The quality of the relationship between teacher and student determines crucially whether the learning process will be successful.
The conditions that the teacher finds at school would be ideal. After all, each student wants to learn something, and as a rule it can be assumed that the orientation towards the teacher is given. The student wants something from the teacher. And, therefore, it would be so easy to help the student succeed. The student needs guidance, not only a written instruction, this is not enough. The student needs the teacher as a reference person, contact person or helper. The student’s gratitude is the elixir for the teaching profession, there cannot be anything more beautiful. The student is so grateful to the teacher for every success he can carry home, whether this is a nice essay, a solved math task or a hot-air balloon.
Every teacher who is aware of his importance as a reference person and orientation point for the student can see joyful faces every day. Through his work as a teacher, he can see after each week and month that his group of students has again learned something new. The teacher can thus set the course in a person’s life. So, what could be nicer than the teaching profession? Do not allow that the teaching profession is spoiled by new, untested reforms. Our children deserve the teacher to develop a friendly and guiding interaction with them. •
(Translation Current Concerns)
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