Chapter 1: Setting the Scene
Chapter 2: Where to Start?
Chapter 3: OECD PISA Reports
Chapter 4: UNICEF Report
Chapter 5: Decline of USA
Chapter 6: The UK Experience
Chapter 7: My UK Experience
Chapter 8: People at the coalface
Chapter 9: Stressed out Children
Chapter 10: Finland
Chapter 11: The Interview
Chapter 12: Pointers for the Future
Chapter 13: Music – The Crucial Ingredient
Chapter 14: Conclusion
Due to a mixture of childhood trauma and an education that seriously damaged my wellbeing (even now in some ways still in recovery mode) I failed everything at school, dropping out at sixteen. It took me eight years to recover to the point where I could function in society. Eventually, I made it to university (University of Sussex in the 60s was the swinging place to be – problem was I am not a swinger!) but then I became a teacher.
My first class was 44 eight-year-olds in the dock area of the East End of London and I nearly went under. But I survived and learned a great deal about how children learn; later I became Head of Department of Economics/Social Studies in a comprehensive in the industrial north of England (Bradford).
From there I became a university lecturer in teacher training, published in learned journals and became a respected figure in my field of Philosophy of Education – quite a change for someone who had been a dropout and failed everything at school!
But I digress. The main reason for writing is to share my experience so that the reader realises that, at present, New Zealand according to international standards and league tables, possesses an excellent education system.
Why the present government would want to destroy that takes some working out but for the sake of future generations, we need to take a long, hard look at what they are doing and protest, protest and protest.
Yes, there is a long tail of low achievement level on the normal distribution curve but it would make much more sense to address these complex, ethnic and socio-economic reasons than to destroy the present excellent system. But the government has no heart for that. It would rather label certain groups of children and teachers failures, than put in the resources which would make a real difference to under achievement.
It is ideology with no thought or compassion for the ones that will suffer, namely children, because of this needless and gross interference by politicians.
My own experience from my early years of teaching taught me a great deal of how and why children learn, or more importantly, do not learn; “failures” according to the present government dictates.
I have already described in some detail the catastrophic consequences of the colossal interference by politicians in the UK and USA. Those countries will never recover from that interference. My whole purpose in writing this book is to prevent a similar disaster, even if it is in a modified format, occurring in New Zealand.
The tragedy is that New Zealand has, at present, an excellent education system if compared with practically every other country in the world with the exception of Finland and now we are going to throw that away – very sad stuff!
My First Year of Teaching
I was totally exhausted after my first year of teaching. The plan had been to take teaching jobs in London so that we could enjoy the capital. At the end of each term, I was so exhausted that I never had the energy for all the time we spent in London to enjoy it. So I have personal experience at teaching those children categorised as belonging to “the long tail of low achievement level on the normal distribution curve.”
After my first year of teaching, I became a certified, qualified teacher. If for any reason politicians had wanted me to administer tests created by some administrator (I would put my life on it that such people possess no practical experience of the sort of teaching that I and many colleagues were faced with, day in and day out) I would have walked. Of course, that is what many excellent teachers have been doing for many years in the UK and USA – enough said.
Sadly, I know of experienced and excellent New Zealand teachers who just want to get on with the job of teaching but are ever-increasingly burdened with paperwork and some, without doubt, will walk.
But, thank goodness, back in the mid-60s I was left alone and could concentrate on doing the best for the children in my care. It wasn’t difficult to get promotion in the East End of London. All one had to do was to stay in the job. The turnover was very high. For example, out of the other twenty-five graduates who commenced teaching when I did, only three of us remained by the end of the Christmas term!
So at the end of the year, I was offered another post, albeit in another school, that included promotion to the next grade. It was teaching what were regarded as the low achievers. There were twenty-five of them but as nearly always there were four or five absentees, the class was usually around twenty.
These were the kids that did not learn, who left school as soon as possible. It indicates their lack of performance that they had been labelled as low achievers (I am being kind, many of the labels attached to these children were far worse and some certainly offensive).
So there I was; faced with 20+ children already labelled for life as low achievers, slow learners, difficult to handle! They were bored and we hadn’t even started. I could feel and see their lack of confidence, their low self-esteem, their propensity to want to do anything but learn.
Why should they feel anything different? The system had already labelled them as failures, slow learners, low achievers. Why should they involve themselves in something that would only increase their lack of confidence and low self-esteem?
I felt for them. I had failed everything at school and knew only too well those feelings of dreading even going to school, never mind participating in lessons.
I had hated school. Yes, hate wasn’t too strong a word. I hated going; I hated nearly every teacher, I hated learning subjects that I knew I could not cope with. I hated life. And here was I, faced with children who possessed, to whatever extent, the same feeling I had when I was their age.
I remember well the number of times that I had felt humiliation; the never ending scrutiny of teachers that continually requested from me answers that I could not give. The very profound feelings of failure that have lasted to this day.
Well, I knew one thing. I was not going to be the cause of similar trauma in these children. Before term started, I had already met with the deputy head. The headteacher apparently was rarely seen. She had spent nearly all her life in the East End, had risen through the ranks to become head and for whatever reason left most of the coalface work to, Chris, the deputy head.
I got on fine with Chris. Fine fellow that he was, he had already boosted my confidence by telling me how the district wanted to hold on to me and so on. I had raised the issue as to what extent I had freedom in the classroom? His answer was unequivocal. I had complete freedom. As long as the kids were not wandering around the school and there wasn’t a riot, I could do whatever I felt was best for them.
So I had free reign and as I soon found out I needed it. The class consisted of about an equal number of girls and boys of around ten to eleven years of age. I went down the names in the register and as I called out their name, they answered the appropriate “yes.”
One boy was already asserting himself and talking loudly. As I said his name, John slewed his yes into a “yeah, yeah.” I completed the register. Except for John, the rest of the class was very quiet. That is what usually occurs when a new teacher arrives. They are not sure what is going to happen so until they wait and see!
I walked up to John and told him to be quiet. Under his breath I heard a very quiet, “f— off.” Perhaps it is at times like these that a higher power or whatever gives us inspiration. I asked him to repeat it. He didn’t know what to do. I said to him, “I heard what you said but the class didn’t. Please repeat it.” He didn’t know what to do so I asked him again. He muttered it quietly. I told him that the class could not hear what he had to say. They had heard everything else because he had talked so loudly but not what he said this time.
He was now going red in the face but I persisted. He was now embarrassed but blurted out the fateful words. I responded by saying, “no John, it is ‘f— off sir, please repeat.” John looked bewildered, red in the face, he stammered it out. The whole class was quiet. I returned to the front of the class for I knew I must make the most of this. I told them there would be rules and that included no swearing and if anyone did swear, they would have to come out in front of the class and repeat it. There was silence.
As an aside I would mention that John and I became the best of friends. I treated him kindly but firmly and he responded well. Knowing the background of many of the children, I knew I could never replace some of the unsupportive things that were occurring in their home life but I could try to get them to see that I cared about their wellbeing. And that to my mind is where any good teacher starts.
Of course, if you are fortunate to teach children who come from supportive homes, your task is made much, much easier. However, if you are teaching children who do not have that support, your job, whether you like it or not is not only that of the teacher but of a social worker as well.
In that perspective the one thing you do not want is someone coming from outside with no insight, vision, empathy or understanding of your predicament. Yet, that is what has occurred in the UK and USA continually for over thirty years.
The price that society has had to pay for that arrogance is very great. It is probably the main reason why those countries are the worst countries in the developed world in which to raise children. The human cost is enormous as we, or to be more accurate the politicians and administrators involved, destroy the confidence and self-esteem of a considerable number of children.
As far as my own teaching was concerned, I realised that nearly all the children had been psychologically damaged in one way or another. Certainly they lacked self-confidence. Depending on personality type or temperament, some withdrew into themselves; others were assertive or even aggressive; and all this I knew was the key to their learning.
Children depend on us to give the security, love and attention they need and deserve. I thanked God that I had been left alone to teach the children. I knew I would need to find the strengths and weaknesses of each child. I would slowly and gently need to build confidence in that child.
I believe, and nothing in all my experience in this life has pointed to anything differently, that each child, if given the security, love and attention that each one of us as a child needs in order to develop a healthy mindset, will show wonder and curiosity regarding the world around them.
For the most part this should be the basis for their learning. There may be occasions when learning is boring but it needn’t be. I have even taught, successfully fractions and multiplication tables through stories, dramas and art and craft activities.
A child’s mindset is a wonderful mindset. It is not the mindset of an adult and we should not treat it so. But we, as adults, need to learn from children just as they learn from us. And I have to say it, the majority of politicians and administrators I have come into contact with do not possess the insight, vision or humility to appreciate that.
Fortunately, I was left to make the decisions regarding how to structure content and methodology. Without that freedom, I haven’t any doubt I would have left as so many able teachers are doing in the UK and USA at the present time. I knew also that unless I spent a considerable time with some of the children and found out what were the obstacles to them learning, I would never reach them.
It is obvious that the imposition of administering tests would have been totally unproductive. It would have been a total waste of my time but more importantly, their time, to prepare and sit such tests. I probably could give examples ad infinitum why this is so but I’ll restrain myself to two. One concerns one of the children in my class, Tony (the twin of John); the other concerns Bradford, an education local authority which employed me later in my teaching career.
Tony was a continual, irritable nuisance. He always had a smile on his face and spent a great deal of time laughing and giggling. He had the greatest difficulty in applying himself to any task. After a very short time, he would give up, his next objective to gain the attention he so desperately needed. He was quite an expert at this. He had a considerable number of strategies to achieve this objective. I have no idea whether he knew of them consciously but I believe he used them instinctively rather than as measured strategy.
Whatever the process, he was clear in his ultimate objective which was to escape whatever work had been set and enjoy whatever interaction he managed to create. From the perspective of the class, he was, of course, an enormous distraction. On many occasions his interruptions would be sufficient excuse for others to down tools as well. It was not easy to settle the class to begin with and once the general atmosphere had taken such a blow, it was then doubly difficult to re-engage the class in whatever work had been set.
I decided that I should spend some time with Tony to see if I could find out if there was any cause of his lack of concentration or more to the point why he had this continual need for attention. After school one day I asked Tony to stay behind on the pretence that I needed to go over some work with him. I did this often with other students so there was nothing strange about my request. Tony and John went everywhere together, as stated they were twins, so I didn’t see any difficulty in including John as well.
I guess Tony would be classified today as suffering from ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) but in the 1960s that diagnosis had not arrived. But in any case I do believe that nearly every child if secure and stable will want to learn. So if, for whatever reason, they are not learning, it is the job of the teacher to find out why. Thankfully, I had a free hand to attempt to see if there were reasons for his lack of concentration.
I started going over some of his work. His books were dreadful, a few lines written or printed here and there; sums left unfinished and so on. I tried to talk in a positive way about his work and introduced gently why sometimes he had difficulty in concentrating. I was asking Tony what subject that interested him most and that perhaps he could see if he could complete just one exercise. I added that I did wonder why he didn’t complete an exercise if he liked what he was doing.
Before Tony could say anything John, who was sitting just a few feet away, interrupted us, “I know why sir.” I responded, “Why is that, John?” “He was dropped on his ‘ead sir, when he was a baby and it affected him like,” John responded. I replied, “I am sorry to hear that but why should it affect him now, he looks ok to me.”
John was in his element, as his pearls of wisdom spewed forth, “He may look alright but he ain’t sir, and that’s the truth of it. He can’t turn his mind to anything for long. Just look how he does in class. Mum is always telling him, ‘you know you won’t be able to do that’ and she’s always telling the neighbours how he’ll have his handicap all his life, poor kid.”
So the secret was out. Tony had been dropped as a baby and the catastrophic results would be forever with him. I gave a huge inward sigh of despair and brought the meeting to a close. I won’t bore you with the rest of the story but I’ll share with you the conclusion.
I didn’t accept for one moment that Tony was as he was because of his fall but I knew I had to work out a strategy for dealing in the best way I could with the situation. My goal was clear: gradually and gently but firmly I had to persuade Tony to take responsibility for his actions. Every time a situation came up I told him the only issue was the one we were dealing with at the time. I didn’t want any excuse from the past; I only wanted him to answer on the basis of the present situation.
I rearranged the desks so there were three empty desks immediately in front of me. Anybody who misbehaved would have to sit in one of those desks (kept at some distance apart) until I decided they were ready to return to their normal seat. It worked. Tony, initially, was a frequent visitor but the odds were stacked against him. He couldn’t cause disruption as there was non-one near him when he was in one of the “hot-seats.”
Of course, his main aim was to return as soon as possible to his normal seat and to achieve that he would have to do the set work. Eventually, he found that it was better to do the work and avoid the hot -seat; he wasn’t the only one in the class to reach that conclusion!
So the psychology worked. He applied himself and as it turned out he was one of the brightest children in the class. The psychology worked similarly on others. Of course, there were ups and downs but gradually the class became a cohesive unit.
I also kept the same strategy that I had introduced at the beginning. Many of these children had had little fun or enjoyment in their lives. So I structured the day so that usually we worked hard in the morning and providing overall I was satisfied with the overall progress, we did fun things in the afternoon.
We went to parks, played rounders, did a lot of art and craft and threw in some drama for good measure. We even paid a couple of visits to “town.” Town was central London, a whole twenty minutes away by the underground. Yet these children rarely went “uptown” and certainly not to the many wonderful museums that London offered.
We had a good year. I did my best to sort out their emotional problems but I clearly realised that I was not a profession psychologist nor could I, nor should I, ever try to replace the security and love that every parent should give to their child. But as far as adult relationships are concerned, next in line after family are probably the teachers.
Teachers do care about the children in their care; they would never have entered the teaching profession if they didn’t care. And yes, there is a quiet satisfaction in knowing that you have helped a child not only to learn but to become a healthier and better human being.
In this context where does the testing that many politicians and administrators are introducing in many parts of the world, fit. The honest answer is, it doesn’t. I do not think what I did was in any way exceptional or even unusual. The circumstances may be different, perhaps even vastly different, in other situations but the principle is clear and should not be tampered with and nearly all teachers will implement methodologies to help the children in their care.
The message could not be clearer. If you want to optimise childrens’ learning and wellbeing, give teachers the freedom to implement what they believe is necessary and needed in their classroom. There may be a case for testing towards the end of high school; there certainly isn’t regarding pre-high school education. No crystal ball needed to know when politicians and administrators curb and control their power base and give teachers that kind of freedom, what the results will be.
The evidence is there a’plenty. Take a long hard look at the results of Finnish students. You do not have to examine their system in detail; there is no need for conjecture. They have done it; they have succeeded like no other country on this planet. Why don’t we learn from that?
Politicians and administrators made the right decisions (have a good read or browse of the chapters on Finnish education if needed) and that included giving teachers the very freedoms negated in other countries such as UK and USA; and look where they are!
My second example is about Bradford, a city in Yorkshire. Bradford was, over a century ago, the world centre of the woollen industry. Nowadays Bradford struggles as other countries are able to produce wool products far cheaper than their UK counterparts. I lived in Bradford for twelve very enjoyable years.
At that time, in the 1970s, Bradford attracted many immigrants from Asia particularly from Pakistan but from other countries including Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan). The immigrants were attracted by cheap housing, job vacancies (although low paid) in the mills, and of course free health and education.
The vast majority of Pakistanis possessed very little English or could not speak it all. It was an enormous problem for the education authority. One easy answer would have been to ignore the problem. Probably a consequence of this course of action would be that children would not have enrolled in school at all or spent long periods not attending or spent little effort in learning English.
However, Bradford was a good responsible authority and decided the best course of action was to get the children into schools as soon as possible so that they could learn English. At the very height of such immigration, Margaret Thatcher, as Minister of Education, brought in league tables so that we could all tell from the tables which were successful local education authorities and which were not.
No need to guess which local authority was bottom. Yes, it was Bradford. Of course, what wasn’t taken into account that the majority of children taking the tests couldn’t even read English nor had they little understanding of the language.
The result, well, I think farcical is a reasonable description. There was an excellent education authority being viewed as the worst or most unsuccessful local education authority in England.
I do wonder about the mindsets of politicians and administrators who believe that they are providing essential and valuable information to the public, when the opposite is actually the case. I have many more examples I could describe but the lesson to be learned can, quite clearly, be learned from the two examples described.
I can only emphasise once more that New Zealand politicians and administrators can implement policies that will keep New Zealand in its present high position in the international league tables (perhaps even implement policies where we may close the gap with that very high flyer, Finland!), or do the opposite and slide down the league tables like the UK has done.
History usually judges past mistakes objectively and in perspective. It is understandable that politicians and administrators usually do not possess, use might be a more accurate description, the vision and insight to implement long-term policies; the main determinant of present policy usually being short-term expediency.
Yet today, when we consider the amount of verifiable information available from respected and reputable forces, there really is no excuse for anyone implementing policies to get it wrong.
Yet, politicians and administrators in the UK and USA refused to acknowledge what is glaringly, unequivocally obvious to anyone who cares to spend just a little time reading the international reports mainly from OECD but also from United Nations agencies including UNICEF. Theirs is the main responsibility as many other nations overtake them in those league tables.
One would hope that New Zealand will learn from the policies of the UK and USA and not follow, even in a modified format, the road they have disastrously travelled. One can only hope that the present Minister will take heed, deliberate slowly and carefully, swallow political pride and do the right thing for New Zealand children.
If interested, Mollet Learning Academy (MLA) and WideHorizon Education Resources (WER) produces Teaching Packs that are designed to appeal to the heart, head and hands. Original material is the Mollet Learning Academy (MLA) Teaching Packs (written initially for New Zealand teachers). On request from USA teachers, monitoring and assessment procedures were added and renamed WER Teaching Packs to distinguish them from MLA Teaching Packs. All lessons are designed to appeal to the heart, head and hands.
Business Plan at http://molletlearningacademy.com/corporate/MLABusinessPlan.pdf
For overall content of Ancient Civilisations please click
Program Overview Ancient Civilisations
For overall content of Ancient Kush please click Program Overview Kush
For overall content of History of California please click
Overview Teachers Handbook CA
For overall content re improving reading and language skills through history please click Overview Reading History
For overall content re MLA approach to teaching
mathematics please click Overview Teaching Math
For overall content re MLA approach to teaching
fractions please click Fractions Teacher Handbook
For overall content re MLA approach to teaching multiplication tables please click Multiplication Tables Teachers Handbook
Previous PowerPoint presentations converted to pdfs for wordpress
Ancient China P_China
Ancient Egypt P_Egypt
Ancient Greece P_Greece
Ancient India P_India
Ancient Israelites P_Israelites
Ancient Kush P_Kush
Early Humankind/Prehistory P_Prehistory
Ancient Rome P_Rome
The following free sample lessons (sorry limit one at present) are available in this order: Ancient Civilisations (Ancient China, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient India, Ancient Kush, Ancient Israelites, Ancient Rome, Mesopotamia, Prehistory/Early Humankind), Fractions, Multiplication Tables, History of California, See below titles for descriptions.
Ancient China (Lessons 4/5 of Module 2)
Mathematics, Counting Rods and Chinese Abacus
Ancient Egypt (Lesson 3 of Module 3)
Papyrus – how it is made, activities etc
Ancient Greece (Lesson 1 of Module 2)
Story “Parrhasius and Helena”, Guided Reading,
The Court of Law, Simulate an Athenian Court of Law.
Ancient India (Lesson 3 of Module 2)
“Asoka and the Mauryan Empire,” “India’s National Emblem,”
Assessment Rubric for India’s National Emblem,
Ancient Kush (Lesson 2 of Module 2)
Story “Expedition to Jebel Barkal,” “Jebel Barkal: A Poem,”
Guided Reading, Review Exercises
Ancient Israelites (Lesson 2 of Module 1)
Story “Abraham,” Father of a Nation, Guided Reading
Ancient Rome (Lesson 3 of Module 2)
“The people of Rome speak out,” Story “Julius Caesar,”
Crossing the Rubicon, Guided Reading
Mesopotamia (Lesson 4 of Module 3)
Story “Gilgamesh,” “The Death of Enkidu.”
Prehistory/Early Humankind (Lesson 2 of Module 2)
The Crô-Magnons including story “The Lascaux Caves”,
Guided Reading and “The Cave Paintings at Altmira.”
Fractions SubUnit 3.4 Drama: A Tale of Fractions
A free lesson/drama involving students in a drama about the Pied Piper of Hamelin
Multiplication Tables SubUnit 3.7 Ten Times Table: Mr. Pickles
A free lesson, activities, story, game/, patterns,
cooperative learning activities about the ten times table
History of California Lesson 5.6 The Gold Rush: Part 1
A free lesson describing the background of the gold rush and life in the gold fields
For video clips please see
McLaren Rd talk
Be the ONE who listens
Since advent of social media all material is now in pdf format (no postage or processing fee). Physical copies (postage/processing fees apply) can be provided at additional cost – please contact MLA.
Each SubUnit (not Unit) costs USA $19.95 NZ $24.95
(This price includes permission to photocopy)
1. The MLA approach to education believes in developing the creative and imaginative side of the student in harmony with the intellectual and cognitive. To achieve this, MLA Teaching Packs make stories and drama an integral part of the lessons and involve students through storytelling, art, simulations, drama, craft, discussion and creation of a personal record.
3. In a MLA Teaching Pack you will find teacher guidelines, stories providing an in-depth experience, information sheets presented in an interesting and stimulating format, activity sheets, suggestions for further research, maps with related activities, questions for discussion and assessment, dramas for class/school performance, guidance for the student’s personal record or portfolio, a variety of review exercises and contents designed and structured for authentic assessment
4. For an explanation of the philosophy behind the writing of these packs click here
(David Mollet’s HomePage)
5. If you are interested in how your students can work with top quality papyrus (imported from Egypt) click here.
6. We have also customized our material for USA public schools. This material includes monitoring and assessment procedures for students some of which are not based on the MLA approach.
7. Information on workshops/presentations for introducing the MLA approach into public schools available at: here (WideHorizon) and here (Waldorf))
8. Click here to read what teachers think about our lessons/newsletters.
“These resource packs contain unbound, ready-to-use reproducible masters, that are varied, simple, and appealing to students. The interactive strategies suggested are suitable for independent, small-group, and whole-class assignments.”
(Grade 6 Course Models – California State Department of Education)
9. Click here to go to author’s experiences in the Waldorf world.
10. Click here for details of on-line courses accredited by San Diego State University.
Dr. David Mollet firstname.lastname@example.org
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1) The material was initially written for New Zealand teachers but on request from USA teachers, monitoring and assessment procedures were added. To view this material please visit https://molletacademy.com/
WideHorizon Education Resources (WER) https://molletacademy.com/widehorizon-2/ Waldorf Education Resources (WER) https://molletacademy.com/waldorf/
2) MLA is also involved in researching on an international basis, what works and what doesn’t work. Most of the research results can be seen at https://molletacademy.com/research-reports/ while a draft of a book The Task for New Zealand Education is at https://molletacademy.com/the-task-for-nz-education/
3) Blogs at http://www.molletlearningacademy.blogspot.co.nz/
4) Business Plan at http://molletlearningacademy.com/corporate/MLABusinessPlan.pdf
5) Papyrus https://molletacademy.com/papyrus/