Defending teachers

 

On Tuesday this week the ABC’s ‘The Drum’ had a great segment on education. One of my heroes, and a wonderful advocate for public education, Jane Caro spoke out against the expectations society puts on teachers, and the fact that we are human and subsequently, are partial to human flaws. She highlights that simply parroting about ‘quality teachers’ doesn’t do anything to actually improve learning outcomes.

You can view the whole episode here. I recommend watching from the 25:44 to see Jane on fire.

I’m back!

I’ve had quite a long hiatus from posting… I finished up my teaching year in Taiwan in June 2015 & spent 4 months travelling. I was lucky enough to experience Japan, South Korea, China, United States of America, Cuba and Mexico. It was amazing and exactly the break I needed from what had been a difficult year of teaching.

I’m now back at my school in Australia – I was fortunate to have been given 18 months leave to travel and teach overseas – and I’m so happy to be back. This year I am teaching years 7 and 9 English and I am also a Year 8 Student Management Leader and our school’s Additional Educational Needs coordinator. It’s a pretty huge workload which is why I am only now, at the the end of the first semester, finding myself even able to think about writing about it all. I’m enjoying the opportunities to really sink myself into different aspects of education, and I feel like I’m able to play a role in promoting and encouraging best practice.

I’m also really fortunate to be participating in an educational leadership program with NESLI (National Excellence in School Leadership Initiative). If you’re passionate about education, improving your own practice and building leadership capacity, I highly recommend it. This course has given me so much to think about and consider, which I am only now really beginning to unpack in my own mind, but hopefully I can set out much of what I’ve learnt here.

Inspiration…

Consider every detail

Professor Stephen Heppell – “digital education leader and learning futurist” – compares teachers to elite sports coaches. He presents the idea that for innovation to occur, we need to examine every tiny detail, like a sports coach would and implement incremental changes as well as large-scale ones. Often what seems like a small change can have a huge impact.

I found this clip really inspiring and it’s gotten me thinking about what small changes I could make in my school.

Inspiration…

Everyday Leadership

In this TED Talk by Drew Dudley, he reminds us about the impact we can have on the lives of others, and examines this as a form of leadership. I love the way he re-defines the idea of leadership to consider it as an act of helping others in some way. As teachers, we’re all leaders and I think it’s important to remind ourselves of that.

The discussion around funding for schools continues

Should parent education levels and NAPLAN tests determine school funding?

edu funding

The latest contribution to the discussion around funding for schools comes from Glenn Savage from University of Melbourne, writing for The Conversation, who discusses a new proposal from the Victorian Government to link funding to parent education levels, and NAPLAN results.

An endlessly complicated issue, it’s interesting to consider the ways in which the Victorian government is starting to develop their education policies through, and post, the Gonski years.

Personally I would be concerned about school funding being linked to NAPLAN results as these tests are in themselves controversial. As for parent education levels, as the article states there is plenty of research that has found links between parental education levels and student achievement, but how would this be measured?

Some interesting moves by the Victorian Government, and it will be interesting to see if anything comes of it.

In the discussion following the article it’s also interesting to see some of the opinions and perspectives in response.

I’m sure this discussion will continue – and perhaps is something that never ends?

4 day school week?…

“What a difference a day makes: the argument for a four-day school week”

week

In this article from The Guardian Lucy Rycroft-Smith introduces the idea of a shorter school week, and references a recent study in Colorado where shorter school weeks, with longer days, were introduced.

I can’t see this happening any time soon, certainly not in Australia, but it could be an interesting discussion to have. Obviously there would be problems around care for children whose parents work a full 5-day week – as Rycroft-Smith mentions – but in terms of both teacher and student workload, and student engagement, perhaps there is some merit in discussing how the traditional school framework could be adjusted so the time is used more effectively.

The article seems to be mainly considering the possibility for primary aged students, however I think the discussion could be had for all ages. In many secondary schools, senior students often have an afternoon off one day a week, and although this is usually introduced for the purpose of study time, often students use the time to work, or spend time with friends, and therefore it’s not really very effective in terms of the intended purpose. However, perhaps senior students could be considered old enough to decide for themselves how they spend their time? Certainly less students in certain blocks of the week provides time for teachers to plan, collaborate, grade, and complete other tasks that often happen outside school hours.

I would certainly be open to consider how we could structure time in schools more effectively, although I think it would be a messy discussion when you consider how many different stakeholders would be involved; education departments, parents, students, teachers, unions etc.

Single-sex schooling

single-sex

This article by Anna Dabrowski was published on The Conversation on July 15 and questions whether there is a place for single-sex schools in the modern educational landscape. It’s fairly brief, but refers to a number of studies that have found no difference in educational outcomes for students when they are separated by gender, and highlights some of the possibly damaging effects of segregation according to gender, particularly as our understanding of gender has developed, recognising it is not necessarily a male/female binary.

Personally, I have never been a supporter of single-sex schooling, it seems inherently counter-intuitive to me. I attended a co-education school and feel that my experiences of interacting with male students, and having to hold my own against them, has definitely prepared me for interactions with males as an adult. The reality is, females are often given less respect and precedence in work places, we often are expected to ‘prove ourselves’ in ways male colleagues don’t have to, and i think this is exacerbated by failing to expose students to these gendered interactions from an early age. Anecdotally, (and I know a lot of people will argue strongly against this – there are a whole range of experiences) I think a lot of females who went to all-girl schools tend to be surprised by how hard they have to fight to be heard when in gender-blended, and often male-dominated work environments, and males from boys schools often assume it to be their right and privilege to be heard first, having been given that opportunity for so many years.

In life we don’t interact in solely male/female spaces, and when considering school as preparation for life, I think that all students interacting and working together makes sense.