The Beauty of Dalton in the Classroom – Teaching and Learning Dalton with Mrs Dubb

There is a fortunate group of students who attended Ascham over a period of 26 years, from 1988 to 2013, who had the pleasure of learning Maths and mastering the skills of Dalton under the calm and caring teaching of Mrs Ilana Dubb. Her classroom was always a haven of productive work, with Mrs Dubb often seen sitting in Studies with students gathered around her desk—Mrs Dubb alternating between them, helping them with Maths.

Throughout her teaching career, Mrs Dubb followed the maxim that ‘a good teacher cares about their students, and the students feel this and respond by wanting to give their best.’ The countless students who thrived under her care have proved this maxim to be true. While a teacher’s care for their students, in any context, will help them to succeed, Mrs Dubb believes that the Study at Ascham makes this aspect of teaching so much easier.

‘Dalton and especially the Studies were wonderful for students and teachers alike. It was an opportunity to form relationships… I didn’t view the Study as a time only for the girls to get on with their Assignments—although of course that was an essential aspect. My aim in every Study was to have a few minutes with each girl, either helping her with her corrections or discussing problems in the Assignment she was working on or just looking over what she was doing in the Study period. Very often I would call upon a girl to come up to the table to talk to me and she would reply, “I’m ok, I don’t have any problems with my Assignment, I just want to get on with it.” This didn’t convince me and the girl had to come up and show me what she was working on, and most times I would find something in her Assignment to talk about.’

Teaching via Dalton works across every subject area and for Mrs Dubb it worked particularly well with Maths. She says she had to be conscientious preparing her Lessons and she felt strongly about marking her students’ Assignments quickly so they could get onto their corrections. She loved the fact that Studies enabled her to directly help them, and that was the area of teaching which gave her the greatest joy and satisfaction.

Mrs Dubb says, ‘For weaker students the Studies were wonderful as they were able to get one-on-one help, either explanations of something they hadn’t understood in the Lesson or help with problems they were having in the Assignment. I always prided myself on being able to motivate students and to encourage them when they were convinced that they “were hopeless at Maths”. A few good test results and it was amazing how the girls’ confidence grew and their attitude to the subject changed. Of course, the Studies were also wonderful for all students—not just the weaker ones—all of whom benefitted from my personal attention. It was the place where close relationships were formed.’

As the teacher in charge of implementing Dalton across the Senior School, Mrs Dubb’s day did not finish when the final bell rang. At this point, students who had not finished the week’s work and were on ‘detention’ (later called a ‘Dalton Extra’) would filter in to S3, and later K3. Mrs Dubb’s consistently firm but kind approach ensured that these students slowly but surely began to take responsibility for their learning.

‘The same girls would sit in my classroom day after day, week after week. I worked hard to help these girls to become more organised and to discipline themselves to get started early in the week on their Assignments,’ says Mrs Dubb. She was instrumental in helping many of these students develop the Dalton skills of responsibility and independence.
Mrs Dubb’s influence at Ascham spanned a number of decades and even now she continues to be recognised for this work. She says, ‘To this day I am still receiving emails from past pupils thanking me and they all say that it was not only Maths that they learnt from me. I think that is the case with most Dalton teachers. The constant conversations and time spent one-on-one or in small groups with students in Studies enabled one to teach more that one’s subject alone.’

Old Girl Diana Reid, when speaking at Mrs Dubb’s Ascham farewell in 2013, summarised this dedication to her students and the Dalton Plan beautifully: ‘Mrs Dubb unfailingly learns the strengths and weaknesses of each student and commits herself to helping them achieve their best… So we run to class when the bell rings, and we work quietly in studies, and we revise over the weekends, not because she told us to, but because we want to. We want to work however hard we have to, in order to prove that Mrs Dubb was right to believe in us.’

Skye Barry (Edwards 1994), Community Relations Manager 

8 Feb 2022

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