I’ve always shared beliefs with fair-dinkum schoolies, whose concern for the rights of the likes of Treehorn is serious. Treehorn is Everychild.
1. …..that there is good in every child no matter how slow, damaged, ill-favoured or despised by others;
2. …. that children will work to the limit of their abilities no matter how high or low that might be;
3. ….. that all children matter;
4. ….. that happy relationships between school administrators, parents, teachers and pupils are all important;
5. ….. that the life of the child is enriched by the development of its creative powers
6. ….. that love and encouragement and having fun at school are far more productive than fear and punishment;
7. …..that children need care-based pupilling rather than fear-based hard instruction;
8. ….. that teachers need as much support as pupils, and thrive on recognition.
Since the 1990s, such beliefs have not been not widely shared. It would appear that the yen for testing has claimed the attitudes of the majority and that schooling is now akin to the ‘processing of oranges’ [Lorraine Wilson].
So, some years ago, I adopted Treehorn Everychild to express my own feelings and some wonderful, wonderful true-blue educators have joined me by sharing that sort of spreading of the good word on behalf of the ignored. Treehorn, the product of the imagination of writer, Florence Heidi Parry, was a little boy with a big problem. Nobody he knew, took any notice. He showed us how little we adults care about kids at school. Out of sight, out of mind. He is in every classroom and we ignore his discomfort.
At times it now seems like a forlorn crusade, having to fight for so long for justice for kids. Justice for kids is not on anyone’s agenda. “We ‘Care For Kids’” is expressed more often with tongue in cheek. Expressions about children’s learning has been replaced by plenty of talk about about test results; and it hurts as you wonder if the kind of former great people who once ran our schools, have been replaced by others, who, wonderful people though they are, seem to have lost the plot and now work hard for a sad purpose. It hurts because one believes in the enormous dignity and importance of primary schooling and there are now too many operatives who don’t seem to care.
[One major principals’ organisation actually dropped the word ‘primary’ from its title and has never sought to reinstate it. The reasons were pedestrian and, by doing so, did nothing to enhance the nobility of its existence.]
We all were once so proud of primary schooling’s uniqueness [http://primaryschooling.net/] because we knew what it stood for….
- Primary schools introduce a country’s populations to its culture; to its rituals, conventions and rules. They provide the real foundations for a country’s future. Neglect primary pupils and you neglect your country’s future. Teach them how to learn and you will enrich your country beyond any normal expectations.
- Each primary-teacher undertakes a parent-surrogate role with a large number of children for a full school day for at least a full school year, with few if any breaks.
- Parents trust primary teachers more than they do most other people. They start to let go of their children’s hand at the primary school gate at an early age.
- Primary teaching, because of its enormous range of curriculum requirements, is more intellectually demanding than any other kind of teaching and extremely demanding of personal creativity.
- It calls for a mega-counselling ability that is more diverse than other carer provides. Statistics indicate that over one-third of an average class has suffered a serious trauma of some kind in their young life. 1 in 3 –domestic violence; 1-4 sexual violence; 1-10 is poor ; and the teacher is the only adult with whom one-third of the class has spoken during the previous 24 hours. Most pupils itch for some kind of loving consideration during the course of each day. Most need it. Which ones?
- Each teacher must cope with seven major areas of required curriculum learnings and other imposed kinds as well, while catching up for the enforced delays imposed on time tables during the first few months every second year..
- Each teacher, because of the variety of curriculum demands, must adjust teaching styles from their repertoire to cater for the intricacies of the subject in hand, the setting, the resources available, and, in particular, the idiosyncratic learning styles of each learner. It is an extraordinarily complex task.
It is seldom recognised that
[a] the routines of each school day in such active learning centres are physically, emotionally and intellectually demanding. By comparison, lecturing to a group of fifty adults is so easy, but through extraordinary social circumstances, a university professor receives a higher salary than a Year 3 teacher for lecturing fees;
[b] each primary teacher has a closer, friendlier and more productive linkage with its clientele than most business institutions and yet corporate managers and leaders receive much higher remuneration;
[c] primary teachers serve children in the most remote places imaginable….far from home, friends, interests, favoured pursuits, recreational interests and geographical comfort. No other professional occupation serves the public in places so remote. Children and parents live there by choice. A primary teacher performs a public service that few others bother to appreciate.
If we do not teach our pupils how to learn, the kind of material that we stuff into them in the lead-up to NAPLAN Testing will be useless.
The public needs to talk to generate some serious discussion about the value of these sorts of things; and query why ignorant, arrogant, suspicious politicians imposed such extraordinarily immature and nasty classroom requirements on a profession that serves its country better than any other group does. Despite the fact that some new curriculum material is of social benefit [e.g.. Appreciation of Domestic Violence] does anybody ever ask ‘What does it replace?” What did NAPLAN test-prep replace?
That this unique profession of primary teaching in Australia succumbed meekly to heavy-handed, time-wasting, anti-child processes in 2008 was a real shocker. I had always believed that its care-for-kids ethics were stronger than that. All that any representative group of fair dinkum, professional primary teachers needed to have said, at the time, was : ”Lie down you nasty pollie. You cannot expect us to abuse our kids like that. You are trying to destroy our professional ethics by expecting us to be subversive in the way we treat parents, with whom we are normally open and honest; and to create fear and distress for their young children who just want to learn as much as they can according to their abilities.”
This 2008 “Big Brother” command that NAPLAN must be used to repair the fictitious decline in standards, was the first public indication of a misguided, embedded, authoritarian Australian culture for the new millennium. School teachers’ professional ideals are so easily captured. They were the first targets. They comply easily. Others are following.
Orwellian as this social condition is, I’m often tempted to join the timid and compliant….and just quit. It’s an easy way out of social justice responsibilities. But, it’s too hard. I can’t. Our children and our future are too important. I’m a primary teacher. Aussie kids deserve only the best, not this second-hand New York crap.
Primary teacher, Bill Brown, has suggested to me that my value-ridden outbursts of the liberal/democratic kind, are very lonely. Democratic values are in short supply. The norm that guides the teaching/learning ethic has been lowered and it requires serious discussion about such basic democratic norms if redress is to be achieved. Bill Brown repeats that much more than mere ‘talk’ is needed. The issue requires very serious discussion. Totalitarian control mechanisms of the Gillard-Pyne kind have had their time. But! There will be no such redress until the need is expressed at the ballot box.
The first move has been made in the Labor ranks that now provides a chance for reasonable people to discuss the school-world of children and their parents….
the first democratic expression of public goodwill towards kids and their parents in seven years.
If Mr. Abbott had proposed this sort of liberalising, democratic thing …. telling the full truth to parents, it would be a ten-flag event.
Maybe he can autocratically trump Labor and banish all stress-based tests forthwith?
But there are super-confused levels of pupilism [how children learn] caused by school- inexperience at his adviser and decision-making levels. Data-miners with minimal classroom hands-on experience run the show and only know how to test. They believe in number magic…that failure in test performance motivates children to do better. This suits the purpose of the greedy as there is big money in data-mining.
In 2008 there was a large toxic Monarch butterfly that flapped its wings in New York and produced a cyclonic maelstrom in the South Pacific! Data mining, big time, started.
We now need a larger, more attractive, energising butterfly to create adequate sensitivity to the need for a large-scale political awakening. Although they hold a superior position, the spin put out by ACARA and by ‘experts’ like the Hatties of this world needs to be debunked. Bill Brown suggests that we need to heed the advice of folk like Buckminster Fuller when he advised that we should not struggle to change a problematic model, but create a new one that makes the old one obsolete. What do you think?
Care to try?