Aussie Friends of Treehorn
Please stop what you are doing and give a few minutes to this.
Please read this. It’s very important. If your eyes get watery, just keep reading what Gabriel Stroud has to say. Too many Gabriels are exiting the system because of the impact of NAPLAN.
It’s very, very sad. Ray Armstrong, former primary school principal from Tweed Heads, well known writer and commentator, sent this. He said….
“Teacher resigns….too much bureaucracy. Too much Naplan. Kids forgotten! Why did I resign 8 years early? One day I had a look at every school in the Tweed. The number of heart attacks, deaths broken marriages of P’s just in the Tweed was enough to make me jump. Then I looked at the survival rates of teachers who left early and those who continued…er that DID it!”
Why this teacher quit teaching
THE newsagents are crammed with book packs. Lunch boxes are on special in the supermarket. The holidays are over and the school bell beckons. For many little Australians, this will be the year they begin “big school”.
They’ll arrive in oversized uniforms with school bags bigger than they are. Some will race in with bravado but most will be nervously clinging to their parent’s hand.
What are parents hoping for on that special first day of big school? I wonder if any of them are hoping that their child’s teacher has done the paperwork to be approved as a Highly Accomplished Teacher (HAT) according to the Australian Professional Teaching Standards. I wonder if they want to read through the teacher’s overcrowded program or examine the standardised tests that will be administered to their child during the first few days of school.
And what about the child who is making the great leap into “big school”, what are they hoping for during that first exhausting day?
Are they hoping for a Lead Teacher? A comprehensive delivery of the National Curriculum? Efficient administration of mandatory assessments?
For many years fulfilling the hopes of that precious first day was my responsibility so I know that parents and students are hoping for something much simpler. They want a good teacher. They are hoping for a teacher who will get to know their child, who will take the time to listen, for one who has the energy to care. They want to know that their child’s needs will be met, their interests considered and their well-being maintained. And beyond the first day, they want to know that their child will become a lifelong learner, will make friends, participate, co-operate, grow.
For many years I felt privileged to be a teacher in primary schools. I knew I was a good teacher and my classroom was a place where students felt happy, confident, challenged and valued. As a professional I kept records of their achievements, I worked with my students to set goals and I reflected on my own practice. I even studied my Masters, not because I wanted to be paid more or climb the ladder of hierarchy or improve my “standard” but because I loved to learn and I was committed to being a good teacher.
But after 15 years of primary education in Australia I’ve had to admit defeat. I’ve resigned. Primary education no longer values good teachers and focus has shifted away from the learner.
During my last year I was constantly filling out spreadsheets and checklists, setting goals and performance indicators, assessing and data collecting as though I worked in a bank.
I felt a constant sense of frustration. I should have been preparing lessons that would challenge and engage my class. I should have been chatting with parents. I should have been listening to my students. But there were boxes to tick and hoops to jump through.
During their first week of “big school” I was pushing each child through a mandatory one-hour standardised assessment. “Welcome to big school,” I felt like saying. “Now do this exam.” The ethical conflict between what I was expected to do and what I knew parents and students were wanting — needing — became too much.
I can hear the political rhetoric and I know that it sounds reasonable — teachers should have professional standards, student performance ought to be tracked, a National Curriculum is long overdue — but like any political sell it’s been dressed up to sound like it’s “the solution” even though there may have never been a problem.
The truth is that a “standard” education based on teaching standards, assessment standards and a standard curriculum does not guarantee student engagement, success or good teaching. Sadly, it doesn’t look like things are going to change.
Professional standards, formal assessment, data collection and rigorous record keeping are mandated fixtures of today’s Australian Primary Education.
Like corporate businesses, schools are driven by plans, performance and paperwork. But they are not businesses. In becoming “standard” and running to a business model, Australian Education neglects the child. For a long time I was embarrassed to admit that I had failed as a teacher, but now I see things differently. It isn’t me who failed and I’m not the one who should feel embarrassed. Primary education in Australia has lost its way. Thoughtful and informed change is needed and until then those children arriving in the school gates have every right to feel very nervous.
God bless you, Gabriel. I do hope that someone will listen to you.