Author wants to inspire teachers to change

Thirty-five years in the classroom taught Pamela Proctor as much as she taught her students.

The long-time B.C. educator is so passionate about what she learned, she has written a book in hopes of passing along her knowledge to other teachers - for the sake of their pupils.

Honouring the Child, Changing Ways of Teaching, is an autobiographical account of how Proctor came to change her way of teaching and the successes and frustrations that followed over her teaching career.

Proctor is traveling the province to promote her book. She spoke to teachers and parents at the Kamloops Library last week.

"I wrote the book to inspire teachers to change their style, but the book has also been of great interest to parents. It's been kind of surprising in a way, but a good surprise to discover there is a broader interest than just teachers," she said during an interview with The Daily News.

Proctor, a primary teacher, accepted that a classroom should be a silent place where students followed routines. Everything was rigid, she said.

"I became quite good at that. I was asked to have visitors to my class to observe how classrooms should be run.

"Then I went on an exchange."

That exchange with a teacher from Leicestershire, England revealed to Proctor a whole new method of teaching that involved learning through play.

There were no chalkboards and very little paper. Instead, there were water and sand stations, puzzles and blocks.

"Until then, I thought I had to tell the children what to do," she said.

The English "infant school" taught children on an individual basis through the hands-on method.

"I really learned that everyone was different and everyone had to be treated differently."

Proctor brought this new way of teaching back to Vancouver and used it as much as possible throughout her career. Her firm belief that testing is not the way to get children to learn was another reason she wrote her book.

"This standardized testing (Foundations Skills Assessments) is not healthy," she said.

Teachers spend the majority of classroom time focusing on reading, writing and arithmetic because they feel pressure for their students to do well on the tests.

Creative activities that are far more beneficial for a student's educational experience take a backseat, Proctor said.

Her book has had enthusiastic feedback from university professors, psychologists, as well as teachers. The forewords were written by Lillian G. Katz and Sylvia C. Chard, co-authors of Engaging Children's Minds: The Project Approach.

A young teacher in Williams Lake told Proctor: "I want your book. I didn't have a good time in school and I want my students to have a good experience."

For Proctor, that's what it is all about, teaching teachers to honour the child.

Honouring the Child is available at the TRU bookstore, Bookies, for $28.50.

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