February 2016 -Things Looked Good for a While

FEBRUARY 2016 saw the continuation of heavy NAPLAN-test-prep in those schools that have to rely on test results for their reputation. Holistic learning requirements , shared evaluation and real teaching were discussed and operated behind closed doors during this period, while regional officers in some states heavied [aka ‘mentored’] their teachers to be more naplanish and deliberately encouraged didactic modes of instruction among the unsure. Some even tried to ‘sell’ the ubiquitous direct de/instruction packages.These data-collectors can claim success. They have the naplan-based system firmly in their clutches.

The NAPLAN testing’s paranoia for the collection of scores was being properly defined : “ A NAPLAN score represents an inadequate judgement by a biased and variable testucator of the content to which an undefined level of mastery of unknown proportions of an inadequate amount of peculiar material has been completed on time. It is a device controlled by the New Mafia in the upper reaches of the banking and big corporate businesses, more engrossed in the accumulation of dollars and cents than in any concern. for child welfare or learning processes. It has the Frankenstein Effects of monstering as many learning abilities as it can, of abusing children’s mental health; and its control over decent curriculum and Australia’s intellectual future is extremely dangerous. As a mode of accountability and encouragement and system improvement, NAPLAN is pure crap.”

The importation of NAPLAN’s form of fear-based kleinism was, and remains an insult to the Aussie ‘way of life’. Instead of focusing on the basics of teaching, the importers’ fascist-inspired modes of teaching and learning turned our democratic options to a new low. The usual Aussie fair-play attitude to life actually contains the seeds of unrivaled achievement through a fair-play credo. We have neglected this attitude as it applies to school children for eight long years. It will have to be re-installed if we want to secure our future and a positive Aussie ‘way of life.’

The impact on political parties was varied at this time of 2016. An election year was coming up. Although the interest in schooling was minimal, each party hastily made up some quick policies. The Greens wanted the tests run at the beginning of the year. The LNP wanted better results within 12 weeks…forced, if necessary…May, of course! The ALP, it lay low. It, as usual, ignored the plight of kids under NAPLAN conditions and allowed their neo-con colleagues to have their way. The education policies of all parties and independent candidates demonstrated a clear disinterest in the guts of schooling. Independents and minor parties didn’t give two hoots. No political party or group indicated any interest in re-installing the high achieving, have-a-go, fair-dinkum, Aussie fair-crack-of-the-whip kind of education system we can have…if we want it. We seem to have lost the plot on the natural connection between fair-dinkum aussieness and productivity of school achievements. Our fixation with testing and data-collection, of New York origin, obscures the vision of Australia.s ability to becomeamongst the world’s most progressive countries. …depending on how well it treats its children.

OUR CANE-TOAD MENTALITY
Political parties’ attitude seemed to be based on a ‘cane toad’ mentality. THAT IS: Release an untested foreign ‘solution’ , without too much thought, to solve an invented problem and our school system will improve.{You will recall that the non-thinking scientists at the time of the cane-toad, overlooked the fact that toads could only leap so high and cane beetles flew higher.] .

Also… The New Mess, as the proposed use of computers for persuasive writing tests was called, hit the fan. The cane toad mentality was in full leap.

The concierge factions of each political party [the lobbyists, facilitators and door-openers] were busy , especially in the LNP, making sure that the candidates for the forthcoming elections were of the ‘right’ frame of mind. As it turned out, the electorate was starting to get sick of our pollies being controlled by the Gordon Gekkos of this world and turned to Pauline. She was chuffed and the longer neo-con un-seen operators control our politicians and systems, the happier she’ll be; the longer she’ll remain. The big Lib-Lab boys, probably paying for their sins of ignoring children, only have a slender lead over each other., now….and the more their indolence neglects the mental health of school children, the more slender any lead should become for the both parties.

During February, 2016

Concern was expressed by elite media commentators as to why states did not reclaim their control over schooling and treat children as human beings. Nothing happened.

The ALP started a peculiar petition for more resources in schools!!! It went flat.

THEN THINGS STARTED TO LOOK GOOD…..

A letter from Gabriel Stroud received resounding applause from real professionals and from the local media for a little while...” For many years I was privileged to be a teacher in primary schools. I knew I was a good teacher and my classroom was a place where pupils felt happy, confident, challenged and valued……But after 15 years of primary education in Australia I’ve had to admit defeat.” What a loss to the teaching profession. Nothing happened….except one other significant letter to the Courier Mail hit the fan.

Kathy Margolis wrote a letter that went viral. Kathy, who was a dedicated teacher for over 30 years was forced to seek another job. “Never have I experienced a time in my professional life where teachers are this stressed and in real fear for the mental health not only themselves, but the children that they teach…..I have never seen so many children suffering from stress and anxiety. It saddens me greatly. Teaching at the moment is data driven……I write this in the hope that we can spark a public discussion. We need the support of parents, who I know, agree with us. I love children and can’t bear to see what we are doing to them.”

A street march was held in Brisbane, and an interview with the state minister….then…zero activity.

The letters from Gabriel and Kathy …and Lucy Clark’s wonderful book….gave great heart to thousands of frustrated teachers wanting to teach their pupils to learn. For the first time since the measurement vandals started trespassing in classrooms of learning in 2008, someone was speaking out from where the action is! Enthusiasm was quickly quelled. Silence returned.

Treehorn wrote to Minister Birmingham suggesting that he initiate a study by a group of teachers such as Gabriel Stroud and Kathy Margolis of the effects of NAPLAN testing on the classroom atmosphere in Australian schools. He replied in April and referred to the fact that the new version of the Australian Curriculum “should assist teachers, thereby, improving morale.” !!! ‘Scuse me…..

He repeated what his dutiful officers had already told me as if I was a rookie or an impatient parent who needed reminding, that “….the purpose of NAPLAN tests is to help determine whether the students have the literacy and numeracy skills that provide the critical foundation for their learning.’

(“Ties and slurs It all sounds like…” ) Later in the year, the tests proved to the world that NAPLAN was not working…in fact, things were getting worse. The only conclusion to be reached was that the tests themselves were destroying the yen to do better. Kids how how they are being treated. It might have been a good idea to talk to the likes of Gabriel and Kathy, after all, to find out why this was so, instead of his making a unilateral decision to intimidate the states with threats of funding ‘arrangements’. if they didn’t exert more pressure on kids with more of the same. That’s what the poor fellow did! Too busy to think about schooling! He could even have checked how the original model was going in the USA [It has since collapsed] as any prudent assessor would do. He won’t believe that the fault is in the tests themselves. He doesn’t seem to like the Treehorn suggestion that children should be treated with dignity and care and develop a personal belief that they can achieve at the highest of levels, if they are taught to like Maths. Science, Literacy. He much prefers the state-threatened, fear-based, parent-deceited, press-silenced, teacher-timidified original Klein model. So, things remain the same. States were conned and still do as they are told. Teachers tolerate it. Kids suffer. Since our system’s aim is to pursue the mediocre through the continued use of fault-ridden tests, we will certainly continue as a flat-lined system on the way to nowhere.

It was in February that I had an accidental crew cut by the local hairdresser. She is still there, if you would like a crew cut. Just say: “NAPLAN.”

I was having a haircut and happened to mention ‘NAPLAN’ to the lady with the clippers.

The clipping speed increased rapidly. “That bloody thing! When my lad was in Grade 3, he didn’t sleep for weeks. He hated school and did not want to go. On the day, he threw up and I had to make him go.”

The clippers went into another gear, and hair flew off in my many shades of gray. “In Grade 5, same bloody thing.happened. He hated it and was really worried.”

Now, clip, clip. clip at breakneck speed. “He’s in Grade 7 now and I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s on again now. Everyone is getting ready.”

Appeals to political candidates through The Treehorn Express to scrap NAPLAN based on UNESCO’s Rights of the Child, or on its inherent nastiness, and further pleas for them to think about their personal attitude to the purposes of schooling, and on the uselessness of the results, continued through February. The simple question was :”Why do we send children to school?” The unfortunate neo-con political robots were deaf or dyslexic. The month concluded with a clear expose from political science that countries get what they deserve from their attitude to the treatment of all human beings by their pollies. The neo-con attitude to getting what they want is to demand it. That’s the prevailing Australian attitude. The leaders of the Lib-Lab parties in particular, prefer to use coercion and reward power to get their way. I’m angry. Of course, I’m angry. I’m angry that no [political party in Australia cares enough about children to think about what they should be doing. I hate to see kids treated in the manner that our parliamentarians endorse.

Ideologies based on the yen for big money begets the use of reward and/or coercive powers to try to get people to do what they want. Such anxiety-driven, fear-based operations generally result in lower-level responses from the operatives at the work-face or chalk-face, ranging from rejection of the operation to enthusiasm for the enterprise. Australian schools are close to the rejection end, but not close enough. The problem is that the caring professions are more sensitive than others, trying to ride out the oppression but failing to stand up for the ideals and ethics of their work [which are shelved] because coercive activities are built into their chain of command…..as they are these days in Australian schooling. Fear and intimidation prevail.

NAPLAN testing can never rely on any enthusiasm from any dignified teaching service, for the task of blanket testing. It is bound to fail. Serious caring teachers can only take so much. The arrogant toxicity of the testing industry, in which love and care are denied to the humanity of the task, ignores the colleagueship between a teacher and a learner. Both teacher and learner know that NAPLAN is a very dangerous operation that should be dropped as soon as possible. Before the testing factories swing into action in February 2017, some wise politicians might anticipate parental and teacher revolt before reality hits and they might have to do something about it. People don’t like the suggestion that their schools are operated by fascist-oriented people, but it’s the truth. Schools can do without FEAR, ANXIETY, DECEIT and GREED. All four factors are too firmly embedded in the Australian system of schooling at present. ….and…..they can so easily be replaced by zest, enthusiasm, accomplishment and achievement. Just get rid of the menace that is holding Australia back.

That’s how we left February, 2016…..confused, battered, hopeful for a while thanks to Kathy and Gabriel, busily preparing for the May tests, imposing extra homework, enrolling at after-school NAPLAN-focused back-yard shops, not giving a tinkers about the mental health of our kids, knowing full-well that the emphasis on getting good test scores actually inhibits learning, hiding parental rights, infringing the Code of Moral Conduct https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_conduct , with our tongue in our cheek; and learning to say dutifully, with louder ‘test-speak’ that “we don’t like NAPLAN, but…..what can we do?”……

Why do some people and caring institutions, bother to write definitive Moral Codes, Rights of the Child, Freedom to Learn kind of documents?

As Aussie pollies and administrators we cannot be too proud of our timidity . Why can’t we do the job properly? Why don’t we CARE FOR KIDS ?


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Disbobedient Teaching

Disbobedient Teaching

Surviving and creating change in education

Welby Ings

This book is about disobedience. Positive disobedience. Disobedience as a kind of professional behaviour. It shows how teachers can survive and even influence an education system that does staggering damage to potential. More importantly it is an arm around the shoulder of disobedient teachers who transform people’s lives, not by climbing promotion ladders but by operating at the grassroots. Disobedient Teaching tells stories from the chalk face. Some are funny and some are heartbreaking, but they all happen in New Zealand schools. This book says you can reform things in a system that has become obsessed with assessment and tick-box reporting. It shows how the essence of what makes a great teacher is the ability to change educational practices that have been shaped by anxiety, ritual and convention. Disobedient Teaching argues the transformative power of teachers who think and act.

Author Welby Ings is a professor in design at Auckland University of Technology. He is an elected Fellow of the British Royal Society of Arts and a consultant to many international organisations on issues of creativity and learning. He is also an award-winning academic, designer, filmmaker and playwright. But until the age of 15 Welby could neither read nor write. He was considered ‘slow’ at school and he was eventually expelled. Later he was suspended from teachers’ college. Welby has taught at all levels of the New Zealand education system and remains an outspoken critic of the education system’s ‘obsession’ with assessing performance. In 2001 he was awarded the Prime Minister’s inaugural Supreme Award for Tertiary Teaching Excellence.

Otago University Press

Paperback
ISBN 978-1-927322-66-6
RRP $35.00

Education Readings April 7th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

The Joy Of Opting Out Of Standardized Testing

‘Testing season is a gray period in my classroom. But it’s a joy in my house.

As a classroom teacher with a daughter in the public school system, I’m always struck by the difference. In school I have to proctor the federally mandated standardized tests. But I’ve opted my own daughter out. She doesn’t take them. So at home, I get to see all the imaginative projects she’s created in her class while the other kids had to trudge away at the exam.’

http://huff.to/2nFzqMA

Opt Out 2017: Refusing Education as a Police Power

This article is by Mark J Garrison, whose book A measure of failure: The political origins of standardized testing is well worth reading.

‘All of this harms the quality of education and does nothing to solve the real problems that concern parents, educators, students and their communities. A summation of existing research suggests that test-based accountability systems do not serve to improve the quality of education; annual testing has not been demonstrated to help educators do a better job. Yet, state and federal authorities continue to pursue a direction that the vast majority of students, parents and educators have clearly opposed.’ 

http://bit.ly/2ncI3CE

The First Two Years at School (1950)

Here’s a movie from 1950, examining the teaching practice in junior school classrooms. it’s not often that one looks at something 66 years old and sees that things have definitely gone downhill since then.

An exposition of modern methods of teaching the very young, showing the purpose behind the methods now being used, and contrasting them with past procedure.’

http://bit.ly/2oENPNF

Here’s one secret to successful schools that costs nothing

‘Most factors that help make schools successful cost lots of money — think teachers, technology and textbooks. But a new study suggests one factor that doesn’t need any cash to implement can play an important role in helping students succeed at even the most disadvantaged schools. That factor is what scientists call social capital.’

http://bit.ly/2oDzpxB

How Not To Teach Writing

Nobody teaches writing that way.

No, the entire history of human expression, human literature, human song– it’s about finding new and interesting and surprising ways to say what we have to say. It’s about finding ways to express a thought that are perfectly suited to that particular person and time and place and circumstances. We are moved, touched, excited, and enlightened by those who can string words together in completely different and yet completely appropriate ways.

http://bit.ly/2o4WWWs

What is it like living in Libya these days?

If you think your teaching job has its problems:

‘Libyan activist, Maimuna Aghliw, who has been living in Misrata since 2009, reflects on life there during wartime. Aghliw, 26, spent some time working at an NGO, focusing on psychosocial support, visiting different elementary and secondary schools. She also spent time teaching and tutoring children of various ages.

Here, she talks about her experience as a teacher in war-torn Libya.’

http://bit.ly/2nFToXf

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Schools hit a wall with open-plan classrooms

When will they ever learn?

‘They knocked down walls to revolutionise learning and now they are putting them up again.  Open-plan classrooms have caused nothing but trouble for many schools, which are putting up partitions and walls to counter the deafening noise created in the barn-like spaces.’

http://bit.ly/2oYPuKd

MLEs (Marae Learning Environments) – Lessons from the Marae for Modern Learning Environments

‘Cultural responsiveness is a crucial part of all learning environments and leads to enhanced practices and learning outcomes. The Modern Learning Environment (MLE) is no exception. Modern learning practices move beyond the learning space and seek to challenge the traditional frames of learning. These practices are for the enhancement of learning experiences but need to be infused with robust cultural competencies. For Maori, open plan, communal learning spaces are not new.’

http://bit.ly/2oGUILp

A Continuum on Personalized Learning: First Draft

‘When I went into classrooms to see what “personalized learning” meant in action, I observed much variation in the lessons and units that bore the label. None of this should be surprising since “technology integration” and other reform-minded policies draw from the hyped-up world of new technologies where vendors, promoters, critics, and skeptics compete openly  for the minds (and wallets) of those who make decisions about what gets into classrooms.’

http://bit.ly/2nZlYEX

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Seven myths about teaching – common sense to me!

‘Seven myths about learning  from an American source – common sense to insightful New Zealand teachers?Many people — educators included — still cling to some of these misconceptions about learning because they base what they think on their own experiences in school, ignoring what 21st century science and experience are revealing. Here are seven of the biggest myths about learning that, unfortunately, guide the way that many schools are organized in this era of standardized test-based public school reform.’

http://bit.ly/2oYLBox

Back to the future

Tapping into the wisdom of the past

‘Twenty five years after retiring Bill Guild has been invited back to his old school to share his ideas about quality teaching and learning. It is a half a century since Bill took up his appointment at the school.As well, it turns out, Bill taught the aunt of the current principal who wants to learn about, from Bill, the ideas that first gained the school it’s creative reputation. Tapping into the wisdom of the past is a powerful idea – and it turns out Bill’s wisdom is very current.’

http://bit.ly/1KzIEUx

Transforming schools through Project Based Learning (PBL)

‘American educationalist Thom Markham is an enthusiast for Project Based Learning (PBL) and believes that the most important innovation schools can implement is high quality project based learning. He provides seven important design principles for teachers to ensure project based learning is of the highest quality.’

http://bit.ly/18lBlLJ

In which Piglet looks for a 21st Century Education Part 1

By Kelvin Smythe

(Originally published in Networkonnet)

One day, when Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet were all talking together, Christopher Robin finished the mouthful he was eating and said carelessly: ‘I saw a 21st Century Education to-day, Piglet.’

‘What was it doing?’ asked Piglet.

‘Just lumping along,’ said Christopher Robin. ‘I don’t think it saw me.’

‘I saw one once,’ said Piglet. ‘At least I think I did,’ he said. ‘Only perhaps it wasn’t.’

‘So did I,’ said Pooh wondering what a 21st Century Education was like.

‘You don’t often see them,’ said Christopher Robin matter-of-factly.

‘Not now,’ said Piglet.

‘Not at this time of year,’ said Pooh.

Just as they came to the Six Pine Trees, Pooh looked around to see that nobody else was listening, and said in a very solemn voice: ‘Piglet, I have decided something.’

‘What have you decided Pooh?’

‘I have decided to catch a 21st Century Education.’

Piglet asked, ‘But what does a 21st Century Education look like? Then continued thoughtfully: ‘Before looking for something, it is wise to ask someone what you are looking for before you begin looking for it.’

What follows is something I look at as a kind of written doodle thus subject to continual revision (contributed to by what you have to say). In such a matter it is difficult to be comprehensive or fair; if I tried strenuously to be so, I would probably never get going.

We are, it seems, getting ourselves tied in knots about something called 21st century education – before looking for it, as Piglet suggests, it might be wise to find out what we are looking for.

This could be done in respect to how it might differ from what went before, how it might be the same as what went before, how it might be worse than went before, who is supposed to benefit from it, who is calling for it, does it exist, should it exist, what are its aims and, being education, how much is career- or self-serving bollocks.

I intend this posting to be a search for something called a 21st century education.

As part of that I declare my prior understandings about the concept – a concept because there has never been any discussion about something called 20th century education, it was never conceptualised in that way, so why for 21st century education? The formation and high usage of the concept label suggests powerful forces at work – forces, I suggest, taking control of the present to control the future. Those active in promoting the concept of 21stcentury education are mostly from political, technology, and business groupings, also some academics: the immediate future they envisage as an extension and intensification of their perception of society and education as they see it now. And in the immediate future, as well as the longer term one, they see computers at the heart of 21st century education, which is fair enough as long as the role of computers is kept in proportion as befits a tool, a gargantuanly important one, but still a tool.

Neoliberalism is dominant in current economic, political, and education thought so to understand what 21st century advocacy is about, there is a need to recognise the nature of that philosophy. But because it is neoliberalism we are dealing with a complex of abstract and polysyllabic words that need to be uncovered to reveal their true reality, a control, market-oriented, and anti-democratic one. But it is a Russian doll. Those words do more than cover anti-democratic, control ends; they also express a colossal ignorance of our best education understandings about how children learn, which, however, is not irrational, because that ignorance is partly a self-serving slipped-into ignorance.  And the reference to our ‘best education understandings’ is a highly qualified one, because neoliberalism has been hard at work under Tomorrow’s Schools undermining our best understandings and replacing them with their own, meaning the number of people ‘our’ refers to is a dwindling one.

Children have no choice as to what century they reside in, 21 carries no more significance to how one should approach the education of children than 20. I believe that people in education, or around education, should stop looking over the top of children to look at those before them: the best way to prepare children for the future, no matter the century, is to meet their needs now. Those needs would be along the lines of empathy [of which reading should be seen as a key contributor], fairness, independence, collaboration, creativity and imagination, problem-solving, commitment to democratic principles, critical thinking, ways of thinking [for instance, for science, arts, drama, history, mathematics], key knowledge [everything in education or life is by definition value-laden but that doesn’t mean children should be denied access to culturally important and cohesive knowledge – computer advocates are for skills and spasmodic knowledge based on children’s often passing superficial interest which is paraded as some kind of 21stcentury transcendental insight].

School education is being pressured to inappropriate purposes by groups who claim a hold on the future and from that hold generate techno-panic to gain advantage in the present.

Another prior understanding is that the inappropriate use of computers for learning has contributed to the decline in primary school education (though well behind the contribution of national standards and the terrible education autocracy of the education review office). For all the talk of personalising learning, of building learning around the child, of individualising learning, the mandating question for 21st century education seems to be: how can we build the digital into learning instead of how can we best do the learning? And even further: how can we build schools for digital learning instead of what is best for children’s learning environment? Large open spaces are not the best environment for children’s learning, meaning that in combination with the heavy use of computers to make large open spaces ‘work’, a distinct problem is developing. Computers and large open spaces are being promoted by 21st century advocates as the two key ideas to carry us forward to the education for the 21st century.

In respect to computers, learning about them and using them is both necessary and inevitable, how could it be otherwise, but from that necessity and inevitability comes the responsibility to protect schools from their disassociating effects. The neoliberal advocates of a computer-laden future are putting at risk the potential of human thought, behaviour, and imagination. Their judgement, based on what computers can do, remains undisturbed, it seems, by any understanding of what the best of learning can be. Computers are going to be everywhere, beyond the imaginations of most of us; all the more important to appreciate the decisive contribution of learning beyond and apart from the computer and the need to challenge the social control that pervasive computer use brings to bear on school and beyond.

The use of computers should not become the defining characteristic of what is called 21stcentury education but it has, and an education and social tragedy is unfolding.  The defining characteristics of 21st century education should be the same as the defining characteristics of 20th century education (expressed above) before the neoliberal philosophy took hold.

In the following paragraphs I will refer to trends deriving from the greatly increased use of computers, also the effects of the neoliberal changes to the education system such as national standards, the narrowing of the curriculum, the fear-laden functioning of the education review office, and the government control of education knowledge.

The particular form of learning most associated with computers is inquiry learning. For all the talk of discovery, creativity, and thinking claimed for that approach precious little seems to be forthcoming. Inquiry learning is the main curriculum practice developed to suit computers and neoliberal education. No matter what a teacher does, if it is called inquiry learning, the teacher is safe; the use of any other name puts the teacher at risk – the system likes conformity, even more obedience, and throughout a teacher’s practice and records the authorities are looking for those little signs of deference that communicate the teacher has got in behind.

Despite a lot of cute tricks and manoeuvres, inquiry learning is simply swept up old-style projects using google and computers. It is considerably an empty shell – yes, children are often interested, but what is missing is the development of the vital ways of thinking particular to a curriculum area. An empty learning shell is a prime characteristic of 21stcentury education.

Another 21st century prime education characteristic is the priority of skills over knowledge – meaning for ends any knowledge will do.  As stated above ‘everything in education or life is by definition value-laden but that doesn’t mean children should be denied access to culturally important and cohesive knowledge – computer advocates are for skills and spasmodic knowledge based on children’s often passing superficial interest which is paraded as some kind of 21st century transcendental insight.’

Because the neoliberal education system puts a low value on the arts, drama, and dance there has been a diminution in their quality and quantity, also contributing to that diminution is the cramping effect of national standards which, admittedly, is just another expression of that lack of valuing. In open space schools, which in some respects one would think ideal for the arts, drama, and dance a further diminution derives from the pressure to avoid the noise and activity that typically comes from children’s participation in those activities. The shush factor of the newer open space schools is not as noticeable and inhibiting as in the older ones, but it is still there.  And I miss the independent advisers throughout the curriculum but in the arts their absence is particularly painful. It was a team of art advisers dropping in at odd times that was the crucial stimulus to Elwyn Richardson – oh that they could come knocking again.

Open space schools lack the spontaneity available in conventional classrooms, for instance, allowing the varying of the timetable and being able to carry on with a programme, say for most of a day – a cherished part of the primary school tradition.

A heavy use of paper templates is common in schools today, with iPads providing digital ones, and exerting a decidedly deadening effect on learning. Another deadening effect is derived from an idea imported from America for use in open space classrooms in association with computers, but is also being used in some conventional classrooms as well. It is called ‘the wall’. Its purpose is to have children work independently on activities from a range of curriculum areas but especially the basics. Activities are displayed on ‘the wall’ and a place for the children to sign off when completed. In New Zealand, a direct duplication of the practice has largely been avoided but many classrooms especially open space ones, employ something like it. The crucial pedagogical point is that to avoid organisational confusion and a lot of demands on teachers, the activities provided are routine and a little below the level of challenge for children. If the activities are ability grouped, the activities for the top group are closer to being OK than the lower groups. The practice is unstimulating and limiting in all curriculum areas but especially in mathematics.

Twenty-first century education has also become associated with two harmful language practices – in reading, a trend to more phonics and words in isolation – oh champion; and in writing, on the basis, it seems, that primary children should be prepared for university from early juniors, the emphasis in writing has shifted to the expository and argument and away from children writing imaginatively and expressively. This combined with the use of templates and the asTTle emphasis on using adjectives and adverbs willy-nilly, is resulting in writing in New Zealand schools being smashed.

Another prime characteristic is the way the role of the teacher is defined. The role of the teacher as carried out in the past is first belittled, pouring water into bottles apparently while standing at the front holding forth (which seems quite a trick). And having established that, the 21st century teacher is then defined as being a facilitator (my hunch is that if that facilitator worked out from what to where and how, the facilitator would, in fact, be a teacher).

One of the substantial problems with computer use and learning is the way it encourages or allows teacher to forgo their responsibilities (as I see it) to deepen and extend children’s learning before they go out on their own (so to speak). Learning experiences need an introduction (with all sorts of open questions and activities), gaining of knowledge (interestingly and pertinently), use of that knowledge (with investigation or activities), and a conclusion (presentation and discussion). But the 21st century way is to quickly hand it over to computers and inquiry learning, with the teacher congratulating him or herself on the independence being encouraged.

The reason why the Treaty of Waitangi is hardly touched is because teachers are unwilling or unable to take children into such a topic, to build up the knowledge, to develop a feeling for what happened, and to identify the issues for the children to investigate from there. And a reason why teachers are so fixed on inquiry learning (leaving aside hierarchical insistence) is a lack of knowledge of alternatives. It is important for teachers to know, even if they don’t feel able to change, there are.

Where is the social studies thinking? that is, the comparative thinking based on the interaction of knowledge with the affective.

Twenty-first century social studies is children choosing their own topics or being asked to investigate large, abstract impersonal topics like communication. There is very rarely a true social studies challenge in a topic like that, or a source of empathetic development.

The social studies thinking will be absent.

Where is the science thinking? that is, thinking based on science investigation.

The question: The question that guides the investigation.

 

What I know now: The child records all he or she knows about the question. If the child already knows the answer, then there is no point in investigating it further. The teacher can also at this stage make a judgement as to whether it is possible for the child to investigate it in the time available. Many topics like volcanoes and dinosaurs lend themselves to study-skills rather than investigation processes.

What I did: This is the vital stage and what differentiates science from point-of-view? It is a step-by-step record of what actually happened; it can be in diary or note-taking form. It records the observing, testing, and trying out of the question. The failures as well as the successes are recorded. Others can read what went on and may suggest ways to revisit the investigation by another route. It may help show others not to go along that path. The child also includes references about those who helped and testing methods used.

And so on.

The science thinking will be revealed.

Where is the language way of thinking? that is, sincerity expressed in writing.

Imagine: the discussion, encouraging but not obtrusive to the child’s thinking; the child knowing how previous writing had been used and that imagination was valued; the art that had occurred or might follow; the urging to intensive observation and accurate expression that preceded the writing by the nine-year-old girl who decided to view the world through the grass not toward the grass:

Small balls of rain fall down and spit up in tiny streaks of white.

Leaves knotted by strings of weeds.

Leaves like cups hold blobs of water.

Drops of water trail down leaves and peak at the top.

Bird’s wings doubles as it flies.

Twigs uneven like a fork.

The dripping tap splits into tracks.

‘Did you find what you were looking for? asked Piglet.

‘Yes,’ said Pooh in muffled tones.

‘But I have decided something.’

‘What have you decided Pooh?’

‘This honey pot is a lot more interesting.’

Continued in Part 2

As we move closer to May 9 the day of attrition

Back to ‘Comments on Comments’ soon.

NOPLAN DAY IS NOT FAR AWAY
Time for the wise to withdraw their children.

As Australia moves forward to one of the most important days on its socio-political calendar – the first day of what is now called, The Noplan Tests, we need to consider the climate in which our present system exists. A drum-roll for those who are forced to head for the learning gallows on May 9 to do the tests!

The Climate

* Schooling movements in Australia are moving further away from democratic principles and it is noticeable.

*Australian politicians do not know how to prepare for the future ….the future of work, of living; a future  of doing better at anything we do.

*Australians do not have the courage to stand up to corporate lobbyists who are now determining our  children’s future.

* The obstacles to a healthy school-learning culture are political, not educational.

* The unscrupulous domination of the greedy  controls our entire schooling system.

* Our obedience to the desires of vested interests keeps us from discussing what is important.

*The elements of the devices used to control basic principles of learning, contain their own form of decadence.  [Children fail NAPLAN because of NAPLAN.]

*The greatest social and industrial handicap to Australia’s future is NOPLAN.  Naplan is a noplan. It’s a political curse for which Australia will pay dearly.

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Keeping in mind that the most esteemed educational practitioner of the 20th century, Sir Alec Clegg, said: 
there are two kinds of education: the education of the mind by imparting facts and teaching skills, and the education of the spirit … the child’s loves and hates, his hopes and fears, or in other terms, his courage, his integrity, his compassion and other great human qualities.

Australia has the capacity to have both for its pupils. We are willing and able to do things properly, if we are allowed.. Sir Alec’s little homily is appropriate….
When Michelangelo was going to Rome to see the Pope prior to his being employed to build the great dome of St Peter’s and paint the Sistine Chapel, he took a reference with him which said: The bearer of these presents is Michelangelo the sculptor. His nature is such that he requires to be drawn out by kindness and encouragement. If love be shown him and he be treated really well, he will accomplish things that will make the whole world wonder.

Every child is a  Michangelo  if we believe in the worth of our children.
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Sadly, the climate of Australian schooling is certainly not conducive to child  care, progress and welfare. Aussies prefer that their teachers exert fear and worry and anxiety so they can pass tests.

The Child

* There is good in every child no matter how slow, damaged, ill-favoured or despised by others.

* Children will work to the limit of their abilities.

* All children matter.

* Happy relationships between school administrators, parents, teachers and pupils are extremely important.

* The life of every child is enriched by the development of its creative powers.

* Love and encouragement and having fun at school are much more important than fear and anxiety.

* Children need care-based pupilling rather than fear-based hard instruction and repetitive test-prep.

* Teachers need as much support as pupils. Both thrive on recognition.

Australians, however,  prefer to believe that children go to school to pass tests and examinations; and play sport. Nothing else.

The School

* definitions are clear and meaningfully used

* all adults on the campus think about their place in the scheme of things.

* thinking time is part of each person’s timetable.

* all members concentrate total effort on the improvement of teaching and learning techniques.

* progress through school is marked by increasing joy in the acts of learning as new thresholds are crossed. Such thresholds are not  marked by school years but by growth in experiences.  Schooling is fun.

* there is plenty of shared opinions about activities and efforts. The sharing of helpful opinion represent the limit of evaluation processes, because increases in learning joy would be the aim of any learning conversations. Shared opinions would lead to positive forms of self-evaluation.

* Oracy is part of the every-day time-table.

* ways  are found to develop talents as part of the normal learning process.

Times for unique interests are found but not over-ritualised.

Pupils  exit school with a greater love for some skill or interest of a particular kind than they had when they started.

 When decisions have to be made [e.g. whether to do Noplan tests]  they are based on a simple Four Way Test, not unlike the Rotary Test:

1. Does it help children to learn better?

2. Does it help teachers to teach better ?

3. Does it economise on efforts in the teaching/learning acts ?

4. Does it provide the greatest good for the greatest number ?

When you have the pupil in the middle of your eye, you can’t miss describing an effective, quality institution.

You end up describing joy in the processes of learning, growth in the quest for learning how to learn, and high satisfaction in achievement.

HOW DOES THE 4-WAY TEST APPLY TO NOPLAN? WHAT DO YOU THINK? Comments?                                                                                                                                                  _______________________________________________________________________________________________                                                                                                                                                                              Phil Cullen 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point Australia 2486  07 5524 6443  0407865999  cphilcullen@bigpond.com  REFER: Who’s Who in Australia

The politics of testing.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave

When first we practise to deceive.
         [Sir Walter Scott]

It’s NAPLAN season

The longer Australia persists with the notion that we send children to school to pass tests and public examinations, the worse things will get.

The result of using the NAPLAN system of testing within the Klein system of execrable schooling, imported from the United States in a most deceitful manner, has resulted  in a structured climate of threats to the mental health of Australian children and has exposed the dangerous prejudices and misologies of our political masters, notably Gillard, Rudd, Pyne and Birmingham.  It has failed.  The killer DNA within the tests themselves that forces children to dislike school learning,  has proved to be  degrading to our beautiful children and unworthy of its proponents and users. It has retarded the progress of Australian schooling very seriously.

Since such a system threatens the health and well-being of Australian citizens, shouldn’t it be incumbent on a federal minister who initiates such changes,  and on those who, following a change of government, continue with the unwarranted crudity, to demonstrate unequivocally to colleague ministers in the states, from whom the right to conduct such tests has been captured, that the new system is superior to any other? What hard evidence or indisputable empirical evidence do testucators have that would convince normal concerned citizens to support the continuation of this toxic device?  Forget the boganaire view that children will learn after teachers ‘Diagnose’ and “Remediate.” That went out with slate pencils. We’re talking about teaching and learning, about being happy and determined and confident while at school.  Diagnosis is part of the teaching/learning component…not something that is done to children some months later.

It is incumbent on our politicians occupying education portfolios to prove, beyond doubt, that this mode of schooling to which they expose  our children is far superior to any other kind……that NAPLAN works and how it does…..if it does. The patriachal control of education by the Institute of Public Affairs and the Australian Bankers Association is not helpful. The public must be told why our schooling relies so heavily on NAPLAN tests. The serious crushing results in the international PISA results and the TIMSS international  tests last year confirmed children’s and teachers’ extreme animus with anything Naplannish. Pupils flat- lined these local results, having already flopped the international ones, because the tests themselves contain HATE and DESPAIR and UNNECESSARY TENSION .  So, what do adults do? With casual disregard for children’s rights and with Treehorn-type negligence, they,  just as casually, dismiss all interest and allow the torturers to turn up the heat and keep trying old ways .. fiddling with test processes and modes of testing…not better learning habits….to get better scores. It’s not fair to kids. You know what, honourable members of IPA and ABA….and your political flunkies?  Kids hate having  to test swot and to sit tests. THEY PREFERLEARNING.

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“When the affective is secure, the cognitive is inevitable”  was the way that John Settledge described this basic teaching/learning dilemma.

Here’s a certainty. Drop NAPLAN. Just drop it, encourage school-based evaluation techniques; and watch PISA & TIMSS test results increase.

An alternatuve is to dumb-down the tests themselves – as is being widely predicted – so that public confidence is restored. That can work, but it will not remove the tension and fear of that testing moment and the damage that it does .

Message received, Mr. B ?  When will we ever get to talk about learning?……about schooling?….about pupilling?

No. You will keep subjecting our kids to the terrors of NAPLAN  again this year…….9 -11May……unless someone does somethings about it.

We know that NAPLAN is nasty, cruel, unnecessary, immoral, expensive, abusive, mentally crippling operation and a big waste of time.  It’s genesis is in the search for someone to blame for children’s lack of enthusiasm for being pushed around by your mob.

Most Australian parents and almost all Australian teachers dislike, even  hate the whole business, but feel that they have to ‘go with the flow’.  No political party is brave enough to mention it.  School principals dislike it, except for those who see a quid in it or believe that better scores provide better promotional opportunities.  If there was a public rally arranged to march on federal parliament to “STOP NAPLAN”, Canberra would not be big enough to contain the numbers.  Of course this wont happen while our indifference to the way kids learn remains at such a high level; and while greedy corporations maintain their control over the politics of testing.

Only passionate individuals and groups that worry about the way kids are treated, are prepared to stick up for them. “Nuggets’ was a once famous nickname for the meek, but that’s unkind. There are very few  groups of game, knowledgeable nitty-gritty teachers and parents in Australia who are prepared to stand up and keep pushing.  Too few,   Members of so-called learned groups like the Australia Primary Principals which was captured early in the piece,  enwrapped now in an impenetrable bozone layer that prevents individual members from speaking out or organising the parents of their school to refuse en bloc to do the tests or even to tell them of their rights. It’s understandable. It’s what Dan Kahan calls the Identity Protective Cognition : “As a way of avoiding dissonance and estrangement from valued groups, individuals subconsciously resist information that threatens their defining values.”  It then becomes easier to parrot the words of the controllers than to espouse ethical principles out loud.

While NAPLAN may not be a top issue on the usual election calendar because things are arranged to keep it so, it still remains a significant part of  each electorate’s disenchantment with the major parties. As quiet as it remains, any party that calls for its abandonment is on a winner.

Far too many Australians believe that we send children to school to pass tests and examinations in Maths, Science, Grammar and anything that is measurable.  What would happen, do you think, if authorities insisted that our kids be taught to like learning Maths and Science and  anything else that their school does for them…..presuming that the school knows what it is doing, of course; and that our authorities remain in that totalitarian neo-Fascist frame of mind to demand it. That Finnish Maths teacher, whom you saw on the Michael Moore clip, said that his pupils have to be “happy with Maths”.  Australian pollies don’t like that sort of thing.

Our schooling system is arse-about-face. Totally arse-about-face. Predicated on the belief that school kids will do better in life when they are threatened with failure and tested and tutored and ‘homeworked’ as much as possible, the system is just not working. There is no evidence anywhere in the history of the world that any fear-based system has ever worked for too long. Stagnation is the best outcome that fear can promote. Sure we all try harder when we are scared but the end-point varies.This descriptive crudity [a-about-f] of it clearly expresses our rear-vision predilection [‘worked for me’ sort of thing] that can only assure us of mediocrity and further failure. It is soooo arse-about-face. Amen. A more moderate description might be: ‘a dog’s breakfast’.

Put even more gently, it is at the wrong end of the effective-teaching-strategy continuum that ranges from pedantry to maieutic. 

Although many of our most efficient and dedicated teachers have left the profession because of the crudities of NAPLAN, there are sufficient left who make sure that children enjoy the curriculum left-overs – those aspects that can’t be measured.  We cannot rely on this state of affairs forever. Besides, the unknown future keeps reminding us that we need citizens who are adventurous in their learning habits, inquisitive, forward-thinking, innovative, zestful, excited by learning , compassionate, electronically charged,  tolerant, but we Australians are unconcerned about the future nor what is imperative for our schools to do.   How can Naplannic test-freaks help children to prepare for these essential requirements?   Teachers can, and oft-times do teach these developmental enhancers and produce true scholars, as part of their natural teaching genius,  but the system presently prohibits any emphasis on them.  Measurers focus on robotic test responses and do not see the yen to learn  as being of any use. The ‘yen to learn’ compnents of schooing have to be  caught not taught. Our masters believe that as much time as possible must be spent on test preparation for NAPLAN, HSCs and other learning inhibitors. Practice. Practice. Practice. It’s all so robotic and nasty and mediocre and negligent….and wasteful.

The Frankenstein monster has had its head inserted back to front.

YES! It’s all so back-to-front. so S-A-F.  The trend must be stopped. Progress in Australia’s ability to think laterally and innovatively is absolutely essential for its survival and progress. We need to pupil pupils so that they will like learning forever.

Why don’t we try?

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Phil Cullen  41 Comnan Avenue  Banora Point 2486 Australia  07 5524 6443   07865999  cphilcullen@bigpond.com 

Education Readings March 3rd

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

What Australia can learn from Finland’s forested classrooms

‘Children’s brains work better when they are moving, the master teacher explains. Not only do they concentrate better in class, but they are more successful at “negotiating, socialising, building teams and friendships together”.

Finland leads the world in its discovery that play is the most fundamental engine and efficiency-booster of children’s learning.’

http://bit.ly/2lYaq3U

Mainstream schools need to take back responsibility for educating disengaged students

Thanks to Phil Cullen for this article.

‘Exclusion from school places makes vulnerable young people at greater risk of long term unemployment, dependence on welfare, mental health issues and social isolation.

Young people unable to attend mainstream education then need to look for an educational alternative that addresses the complexity of their lives and needs.’

http://bit.ly/2lXBsbp

Our crisis of democracy is a crisis of education

‘I think the challenge is that we have an education system, globally, and very much so in the western world, which is geared towards things that we can measure: particularly ‘academic subjects’ – maths, science, and English. Because these are taught and tested in a way that is eminently measurable. The problem with standardisation is that you end up narrowing the curriculum and narrowing the tuition, so that we can measure success through a quite restrictive testing regime.’

http://bit.ly/2mfIbQG

Rescuing Education Reform from Decades of Post-Truth

‘For those of us involved in education and the education reform movement, however, the negative consequences of post-truth discourse have been around for more than a century—and during the past three decades, a harbinger of what the Trump phenomenon has brought to the U.S.’

http://bit.ly/2mfCzpr

A High School Math Teacher’s First Experience Teaching Elementary School

‘At a workshop in Alameda County last month, I made my standard request for classroom teachers to help me make good on my New Year’s resolution. I assumed all the teachers there taught middle- or high-school so I said yes to every teacher who invited me. Later, I’d find out that one of them taught fourth grade.

As a former high school math teacher, this was NIGHTMARE MATERIAL, Y’ALL.’

http://bit.ly/2mMwRID

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

The way we teach our children is truly crazy

Education in Australia is crazy – a parent’s view

‘Now I can say it.  With my youngest child having safely fled the school system, I can finally say, without fear of jinx or reprisal, that how we educate our kids is insane. It’s not the teachers, who show the normal human range from fine to feeble. Not the particular schools, which included public and private, selective and non-selective. What’s insane is the system and – feeding it, as fear feeds war – an intensifying cultural madness. Not theirs. Ours.’

http://bit.ly/2lUMyzy

Want to be a great parent? Let your children be bored

‘From books, arts and sports classes to iPads and television, many parents do everything in their power to entertain and educate their children. But what would happen if children were just left to be bored from time to time? How would it affect their development?’

http://bit.ly/2lAjsTx

‘An education in the arts is limited to the economically privileged. It is an unjust waste of national talent’

‘A good education should be a preparation for life. It requires the development of the whole child, not merely their intellect. It necessitates students becoming intrinsic learners with self-discipline and a genuine thirst for knowledge, rather than being goaded or corralled, which is what students may become with a single-minded focus on exam results.’

http://bit.ly/1GHLhwE

Stress Literally Shrinks Your Brain (7 Ways To Reverse The Damage)

Here’s an article for teachers:

‘It’s not impossible to reduce your stress levels; you just need to make managing stress a higher priority if you want to reverse this effect. The sooner you start managing your stress effectively, the easier it will be to keep unexpected stress from causing damage in the future.’

http://bit.ly/2lUFbZc

Teacher: A one-size-fits-all approach to instruction is stifling our classrooms

‘Everyone has an opinion about what’s wrong with American education. Classrooms are overcrowded. Funding is misallocated. Segregation persists. Politicians, principals, and academics have rancorous debates over how to best fix our schools. On at least one issue, however, everyone agrees: Students deserve great teachers. But how can we attract — let alone retain — them?’

http://wapo.st/2ldBRtq

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Don’t touch the bananas!!!!

What monkeys and bananas can teach us

“It is always amazing to see how exposure to an environment, or culture, can change how we think without us even knowing – I guess this is called conditioning. New ideas always rely on those individuals who can see reality without the blinkers.The truth however is not always welcome and it is always easier to go along. As Oscar Wilde once said, ‘The truth makes you very unpopular at the club.’”

http://bit.ly/1hLoV7C

Tapping into the student’s world

‘Every student brings with them memories and ideas gained from the experiences they have had. All too often this personal form of motivation is overlooked by teachers who seem to think they have better ideas to use – their own. It is as if students come to school as blank slates (tabula rosa) when instead they come with a wealth of ideas to share but to do their ideas need to be valued.’

http://bit.ly/1LwCrc8

Teachers’ key role in fostering creativity.

It is is worth thinking about the dispositions and pedagogical skills that make a creative teacher.The key attitude is a desire to help every individual student develop his ,or her, own particular set of interests and talents rather than simply ‘delivering’ the curriculum in an innovative way. The curriculum need to ’emerge’ from the students’ felt concerns.’

http://bit.ly/1EUJFm2