Copulative verbs.

The Treehorn Express
Treehorn is the hero of a children’s book called The Shrinking of Treehorn by Florence Parry Heidi. It’s about a small boy with enormous problems, who remained totally ignored by all adults, including his parents, teachers and principal during an important period in his life. Like all young school pupils, he came to learn that adults don’t take much notice of school kids, no matter how dire the circumstances. Children are left on their own to survive, despite the stress that  some very cruel adults impose on them – like the nasty operators and users of NAPLAN the Wombat tests. The Shrinking of Treehorn is a powerful story with a morally-stunning conclusion.
Copulative  Verbs and other stories
When I taught Years 6,7,8, I used to get my pupils [they weren’t at ‘student’ stage so they needed a teacher- they were pupils] during the afternoon grammar lessons  to chant , “The verb ‘to be’ and other copulative verbs take the same case after them as before them.”    I was trying to impart what, I was told, would be of inestimable value when they were older.  I flogged the rules and we had no fun with grammar.  I was a didactic teaching freak, by the way.
I wonder how present day pupils would illustrate that grammatical statement by the way.
The kids learned the rule but regularly misused the application in their writings and conversation.  I was a testucating freak at the time.  NAPLAN-like, I figured…..they knew the rule. That’s enough. That’s success.  Anyhow, the sports commentators that they listened to frequently,  persisted with comments like “Australia are winning by 75 runs.” “Manly were defeated by the Cowboys in extra time.”  These  experts needed more standardised testing when they went to school, according to present-day NAPLAN pundits.
Testing English literature for mistakes like this is a copulatively stupid thing. Agree?  Enjoying it exposes talents that some children are surprised to learn they have. I recall a splendid teacher racing to my office in a school I once ‘headed’, and calling, “Yippee! Vicki is starting to write in prose!.”  She’d allowed Vicki to express herself in poetry for most of the year.
Of what importance is what we teach and test?  Any sort of testing must be personal and sensible.  I was inspecting a large Year 8 class in a Convent School in Mt. Isa.  { Catholic Education Hierarchies wanted their schools to be inspected by state school inspectors in those days, to make sure that they were up with the best and seen to be as good or better, in the eyes of a departmental official. Sort of. Get the idea?] The room walls, the pupils’ books and school bags were covered with material about the landing on the moon. It was 1969 and the greatest achievement of man, ever, had been witnessed by these children about a month before.
So, just in passing, I asked the class what was the greatest thing that had happened in 1969.  One young tyke called,”Mt. Isa won the Foley Shield!” [The Foley Shield was an intense inter-city Rugby League competition contest held between  every large town north of the Tropic of Capricorn. Remote Mt. Isa won during their its first year in the competition.]The lad was right. When I asked the rest of the class, they were unequivocal. Unanimous.  It was clearly the greatest event of 1969.
Get it?  What do you think, by the way, of Finland’s teaching through topics, rather than by subjects?
We all think that what we teach and what we test are of great importance to the learner. We seldom bother to check out first.  Do we know what each pupil’s real interests are? Another personal vignette……
I once met a Year 1 child, about 6 years of age,  at Craigslea State School in Brisbane, who was able to tell me the names of almost all the capital cities of the world, even of little known countries. It was absolutely amazing. His parents had indulged his interest and his teacher helped him.  What was most amazing, was that he was lying back with his head on the lap of his teacher who was sitting on the floor as he responded to my questions. I think that I had to squat. No stern invigilator or strict supervisor with a Naplanic atmosphere of fear anywhere near. It was an exhibition of LOVE – love of teacher, love of learning, demonstration of achievement,  love of being at school.  He was comfortable, unthreatened, doing what he wanted to do, learning what he wanted to learn..
Get the message, you didactic clots and naplan huggers? The emtions of loving….loving your teacher, loving to learn, loving school, loving special things …..are all banned from the NAPLAN package. Right? Love has no place. NAPLAN is just heartless data collection; nothing else.
Don’t forget to have the kids sing the theme song “Care for Kids’ if any political candidate is around your school or one of Ray Kelley’s parodies; and ask him or her what he or she thinks of NAPLAN.
NAPLAN has nothing to do with learning. It has nothing to do with teaching. It has nothing to do with real schooling. It has to do with finding fault and making money. It’s an ineffective, unreliable and invalid device that makes the most of young children’s vulnerability and it deliberately threatens their cognitive development and emotional stability.
Why do we tolerate it?
Let’s protect our kids from cowardly politicians, greedy corporations and misguided school-measurers, who just don’t know what damage they are doing.

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