Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

Why Teaching and Politics Should not Mix

September 13, 2014

bushIt is extraordinarily important for teachers to resist imposing their political views on their students. At the essence of our democracy is the right for people to decide what path is right for themselves without a certain dogma inadvertently force fed into them.

This is what happens when teachers do not allow students to think for themselves:

A Washington, D.C., middle school assignment asking students to compare former president George W. Bush with Adolf Hitler has upset some parents and community members.

The assignment at McKinley Middle School asked sixth graders to compare the two figures in a Venn diagram, according to USA Today. Instructions say students “have read about two men of power who abused their power in various ways,” and asks them to refer to the articles “Fighting Hitler -– A Holocaust Story,” and “Bush: Iraq War Justified Despite No WMD.”

Some parents said the assignment was disrespectful to the former president, according to a local NBC affiliate. A former speechwriter for Bush said the teacher who gave the assignment should be fired.

A person who can’t tell the difference between George W. Bush and Adolf Hitler shouldn’t be teaching children,” Marc Thiessen told Fox News. “This isn’t even political bias, this is utter incompetence.”

A statement from D.C. Public Schools said the teacher “admits to extremely poor judgment and short sightedness and will apologize to students. The school will also send a letter home to families explaining the incident and offering to address any additional questions should they arise.”

Click on the link to read Abusing the Privillege of Teaching Children

Click on the link to read Teacher Allegedly Has Cocaine Delivered to School

Click on the link to read Dealing Softly with Bad Teachers Sends the Wrong Message to Students

Click on the link to read Up to 1 in 10 US Students Have an Inappropriate Relationship With Their Teacher

Click on the link to read Teacher Claims he Didn’t Think Sex Abuse Was a Crime

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I Can’t Recall Anything Useful About My Teaching Course

July 9, 2014

pyne

Besides the four schools my University sent me to during my course, there wasn’t one valuable insight, skill or technique that my course imparted to me. It is a simple fact that our teacher training courses do not measure up. They result in highly motivated and passionate teachers who are ill-equipped to deal with the practical challenges of a classroom.

I know minister Pyne isn’t the most popular figure at the moment, but he is absolutely right to call for better teacher training:

Universities and colleges are failing to produce teachers who meet the needs of Victorian schools, according to the state government.

In a submission to the federal review of teacher education, Victoria says it has “higher expectations for teacher education graduates” in some areas.

Of concern was that degrees were not equipping teachers with the specialist knowledge required in literacy, maths and science.

Courses often did not devote enough attention to teaching children with special needs – this was seen as an area of specialisation rather than a core requirement for every teacher.

And classroom organisation and behaviour management skills had been consistently identified by principals as areas in which graduate teachers were often lacking.

“There are growing concerns about the capacity of providers to produce sufficient graduates with the professional skills and knowledge required to teach in contemporary classrooms.”

The submission suggests reducing the number of universities and colleges that offer teaching degrees in order to improve quality.

Click on the link to read my post Why Principals Overlook Young Teachers

Click on the link to read my post The Bizarre Call to Train Teachers Specifically for Left-Handed Students

Click on the link to read my post Why Professional Development for Teachers is Often Useless

Click on the link to read my post Finally, a Step Forward in Education

Click on the link to read my post Tips For New Teachers from Experienced Teachers

Click on the link to read my post, Do experienced teachers give enough back to the profession?

The Ease in Which Our Children Can be Brainwashed (Video)

May 10, 2014

 

 

I am posting this video as an example of how easily our children can be lead. It is for this reason that teachers must make a concerted effort to resist divulging their own political views or preferences. It is not for our students to be puppets for our agendas. It is vital that they be given the opportunity and basic analysis skills to make up their own minds up regarding topical issues.

 

Click on the link to read Teaching Young Children the 3Rs Could be Damaging: Psychologist

Click on the link to read 7 Ways To Teach Kids Self-Awareness

Click on the link to read Kids Explain the Meaning of Happiness

Click on the link to read 5 Reasons Why It’s Healthy to Encourage Children to Play

Click on the link to read Allowing Children to Stand Out From the Pack

More Proof that Schools Operate Like Prisons

March 24, 2014

 

fingerprint

One of, if not the greatest goal I have in my daily teaching is the desire for my students to wake up on a school day without feeling negative about attending school. In my view, happy students have the best possible chance of achieving their potential and it is my task to oversee a happy classroom.

But I am just a teacher. I don’t make the rules or pass the laws, so my mission has its obstacles and impediments. Most of these challenges come in the form of rigid prison-like rules imposed on students governing things such as who they can play with at recess and when they can be permitted to go to the toilet.

And now comes an even more astonishing rule that if imposed, will further reinforce the popular notion that school is a harsh and uncompromising place:

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has backed the right of schools to use fingerprint scanners to track whether kids are skipping class.

Several public schools are using hi-tech scanners to record when students enter and leave school across the state.

“I think that’s a good thing because it reflects our policy of ‘local schools, local decisions’, which enables schools to make decisions that meet the needs of their communities,” Mr O’Farrell told reporters on Friday

Asked whether he had any privacy concerns, the premier said the decision to use the technology was ultimately a matter for individual schools.

“If school communities want to make decisions, whether about the opening hours of schools or whether about these sorts of issues, I’m happy to back them,” Mr O’Farrell said.

Civil Liberties Australia have concerns over fingerprint scanning students.

“We support proper use of new technology, but this development has inherent dangers which should be evaluated by schools, their governing bodies and parents,” Civil Liberties Australia chief executive officer Bill Rowlings said.

“Schools and education authorities must put robust rules in place for how technology is used and administered, and the data safeguarded.

“A scan on arrival just tells you who passed through the school gates on the way in.

“The only way to ensure a child is at school all day is to fingerprint the student every half hour.

“So pretty soon children will be scanned into every classroom, every separate facility within the school grounds.

“If that is done, suddenly schools will become mini-surveillance states.”

 

Click on the link to read Truant Teachers

Click on the link to read How Do They Come Up With These Ideas?

Finally, a Step Forward in Education

February 19, 2014

pyne

I have been saying over and over again that something has to be done about the poor quality of teacher training. I have written to education ministers and tried to sell the message through this site, that improved teacher training was a must. Even though I was certain that an overhaul of our teacher training courses would bring immediate results, I felt that no politician would have the courage to even look at this area, let alone actively take the project on.

I am overjoyed to be proven wrong:

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne will announce on Wednesday a far-reaching review into teacher training in a bid to make education degrees less ”faddish” and ”ideological”.

Australian Catholic University vice-chancellor Greg Craven – a vocal opponent of minimum entry scores for teaching degrees – will chair an eight-member advisory panel to report to Mr Pyne by the middle of this year.

An eight-member ministerial advisory group will report by the middle of the year on how education degrees at universities can better prepare new teachers.

“There is absolutely no reason at all why Australia, as one of the wealthiest countries in the world … shouldn’t have the best teacher training in the world,” Mr Pyne told reporters in Adelaide on Wednesday.

“I want it to be more practical, I want them to have better experiences in the classroom rather than in universities and I want it to be less theoretical.”

Mr Pyne said the only way the federal government could influence teacher quality was by looking at university courses.

He suggested the standard was too low because very few people failed teaching degrees.

But he said imposing minimum entry scores for teaching degrees was a “blunt instrument” that would not guarantee quality.

Instead he wants the advisory body to have a particular focus on in-classroom training.

“My instinct is that the more a teacher is in the classroom learning on the job about how to teach people how to count and to read, the better,” he said.

Amen to that!

Click on the link to read my post Tips For New Teachers from Experienced Teachers

Click on the link to read, ‘Teachers Trained Very Well to Teach Very Poorly

Click on the link to read my post 25 Characteristics of a Successful Teacher

Click on the link to read my post 10 Important Tips for New Teachers

Education New Year’s Resolutions 2014

January 1, 2014

2014

With resolutions abounding as the new year arrives, I think it’s apt for our education system to undertake some resolutions of its own:

  1. Work Harder to Manage Cyberbullying Issues – Schools seem more interested in covering themselves legally than actually fixing a problem. Because cyberbullying usually happens off premises, the argument has been that it is a parental issue rather than a school issue. This is an insensitive approach. Schools, administrators and teachers must see themselves as crucial stakeholders in dealing with this problem. The welfare of their students rely on a multi-faceted approach.
  2. Stop Changing the Curriculum - In a bid to be seen to be doing something effective to improve student results, politicians continually change the curriculum so that they can boast about how they overhauled an ineffective syllabus.  In the last ten years I have seen 4 changes of curriculum, each of them decidedly more complicated and inferior to the one being replaced. This makes us teachers dizzy, costs the tax payers a fortune and achieves nothing for the student. We must resolve to put a moratorium on any changes to the curriculum. I don’t want even a comma or full stop tampered with for at least a decade.
  3. Respect Teachers’ Time - Even before the school year starts I have to submit Yearly Planners for literacy and numeracy, term planners for literacy numeracy and science, integrated planners covering my overriding topic of inquiry and weekly planners for maths and literacy covering my lesson for the first week. Then I need to continue the weekly planners and term planners throughout the year. These planners are incredibly detailed and onerous. They simply take a disproportionate amount of time. To deliver fun, engaging lessons, I need to spend less time on the paperwork. It is becoming fashionable for teachers to copy/paste their planners from specially made internet subscriptions sites that contain lessons covering the curriculum. Whilst this saves time, the lessons on these sites are often excruciatingly boring for the students. The best way to get teachers to teach in a fresh manner is to keep them fresh by reducing the paperwork.
  4. Make Politicians Accountable by Not Accepting Their Spin – Lazy politicians like to brag about how much money they are pumping into the system or how they have changed the curriculum, when neither is a major determinant in student performance. Politicians should start to focus on the major areas requiring change such as improving teacher training quality, support for new teachers, reducing teacher stress and helping schools achieve better welfare outcomes for their students.  In fairness to the current Federal minister, he has spoken about some of these matters. Let’s hope he is is able to deliver.

Click on the link to read Eight Fundamentals that Every Student Deserves

Click on the link to read 21 Reasons to Become a Teacher

Click on the link to read  25 Amusing Signs You Might Be a 21st Century Teacher

Click on the link to read  20 Questions Teachers Should Be Asking Themselves

Click on the link to read School Official Allegedly told a Teacher to Train her Breasts to not Make Milk at Work

Preschool Presidential Debate

October 30, 2012

Whilst I believe that healthy debate is vital for democracy, there are times when politics can lead to division and unruly behaviour.

Click on the link to read Kid’s Cute Note to the Tooth Fairy

Click on the link to read ‘Love’ as Defined by a 5-Year Old

Click on the link to read The Innocence of Youth

Click on the link to read Letting Kids Take Risks is Healthy for Them

Click on the link to read Study Reveals Children Aren’t Selfish After All

Standardised Testing Meets Spin City

May 15, 2012

A few weeks ago I sought to have an interview with Australia’s Education Minister regarding the upcoming NAPLAN standardised tests. I am still waiting for a reply.

Luckily, I came across his op/ed piece over the weekend, where he tries to allay the fears of the parenting community and make a case for these highly pressured, incredibly unpopular series of tests.

In his piece, he claims that:

Parents and the community should rest assured that the NAPLAN tests are simply a way of measuring how our students and our schools are performing in the three key areas of reading, writing and numeracy. Nothing more, and nothing less.

I assure you Mr. Garrett that parents of 8-years olds subjected to 4 rigorous exams in 3 days understand that these tests represent much more than just a simple way of measuring child progress.

There is nothing in any of the tests that students need to learn above and beyond what is already being taught in the classroom, namely the curriculum.

I am not sure that is true. Whilst my students are expected to write persuasive essays, there is no mention of persuasive writing in the Grade 3 curriculum.

By measuring how our students are performing as they progress through school, we can get a clear national picture, for the first time, of where we need to be directing extra attention and resources.

This is just spin. This implies that these tests exist to help direct the Government in regards to spending and programs. There is no evidence of any Governmental response whether it be financial or a simple change of priorities based on the yearly NAPLAN results. Instead, the outcome of the NAPLAN is designed to expose failing schools, inept teachers and anything and everything that can divert attention from a Government good at measuring performance but poor at performing themselves.

It needs to be made clear to schools and teachers that excessive test practising ahead of NAPLAN is unnecessary. While it helps to be familiar with the structure of the tests, carrying out endless practices should not be encouraged. NAPLAN matters, but it is not the be all and end all.

Unnecessary to whom? If you and your staff were to be tested on the performance of your portfolio wouldn’t you take the time to prepare? When a class gets appraised, so does the teacher. Are we meant to sit back and watch 8-years old kids sit for their first formal exams without preparing them for the kinds of questions and scenarios they are likely to encounter?

Mr. Garett, your opinion piece tries to win over parents, yet it completely deviates from the very issue that parents are most concerned about. Parents do not like seeing their young children exposed to so much pressure. They don’t like to see their children who may currently enjoy learning, subjected to such a negative learning experience.

Today, one of my students was so frightened by the prospect of these exams that he was reluctant to get in the car. We are talking about a child that loves learning.

I have no problem with High School children being tested. But 3rd Graders? Is it really worth it?

 

Proof That Educational Programs Are Ineffective

April 11, 2012

At first glance, who would you think would be the least likely group to be calling for education against improper gambling?

CLUBS Australia is calling for responsible gambling education to be part of the national school curriculum.

The registered clubs movement, in a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into problem gambling, is keen to see gambling education and awareness programs integrated into personal health and financial literacy lessons.

“Youth are at increased risk of developing a gambling problem,” Clubs Australia said.

“Research has found that education programs can be an effective tool in preventing the development of problematic gambling behaviours.”

Clubs Australia said the program should dispel common myths about gambling and educate people about how to gamble safely.

It would also highlight consequences of problem gambling and promote avenues of help and ways to intervene, it said.

But the more you think about it, the more it makes sense. Clubs Australia achieve two important objectives by supporting gambling education.

1. They can boast about how they are all about social gambling and very much opposed to problem gambling. This is potentially a great PR coup for them; and

2. It’s not as if they will lose anything out of it. Since when does a three lesson program on gambling behaviour have any effect in later life?

They have argued that such programs have proven effective. I dispute that claim. I don’t think they really believe it makes much of a difference either.

The bigger question is how many “good cause” programs are we going to have to put up with in the new National Curriculum? It’s all well and good to adopt educational programs, but a teacher cannot afford to spend too much time on them. Not only are they dubious in their long-term effectiveness, but they can potentially hijack the curriculum.

I personally am sick of the abundance of such programs. It takes so much teaching time away from maths, science, reading, writing and history, that it ultimately, for all its good intentions, puts teachers under greater pressure to cover important skills in a reduced amount of time.

Clubs Australia will get a lot of good press out of this story. Ultimately, I wouldn’t be surprised if there will be more problem gamblers as a result of the positive spin of this story that there will be responsible gamblers as a result of educational programs.

Teacher Morale at an All Time Low

March 8, 2012

Should we be the least bit surprised that teachers are generally not getting job satisfaction? Did anyone consider for a moment that the introduction of standardised testing would do little for student achievement and do even less for teacher morale?

Or better yet, an even more compelling question, does anyone even care about the plight of teachers?

As long as Governments keep on peddling their diatribe about how many poor teachers there are in the system and how they are determined to expose them before slowly weeding them out. As long as Educational bureaucrats have someone to blame for low achievement levels, then why should they care?

Sure there are more stakeholders in the educational system than just teachers, and it’s true that teachers aren’t the only ones responsible for disappointing academic figures, But who cares? As long as the public buy the spin about the poor state of the teaching fraternity, it doesn’t really matter that spending on education is mismanaged and misallocated, curriculums are inflexible and politically motivated and the paperwork expectations of teachers are extremely unfair. Why should it matter?

“Those hopeless teachers! All they ever do is complain!”

So, no, I am not surprised the teachers of New York are not enjoying themselves:

More than half of teachers expressed at least some reservation about their jobs, their highest level of dissatisfaction since 1989, the survey found. Also, roughly one in three said they were likely to leave the profession in the next five years, citing concerns over job security, as well as the effects of increased class size and deep cuts to services and programs. Just three years ago, the rate was one in four.

The results, released in the annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, expose some of the insecurities fostered by the high-stakes pressure to evaluate teachers at a time of shrinking resources. About 40 percent of the teachers and parents surveyed said they were pessimistic that levels of student achievement would increase in the coming years, despite the focus on test scores as a primary measure of quality of a teacher’s work.

Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonpartisan advocacy group in Washington, said the push for evaluations, punctuated by a national movement to curb the power of unions, had fostered an unsettling cultural shift.

“It’s easy to see why teachers feel put upon, when you consider the rhetoric around the need to measure their effectiveness — just as it’s easy to see why they would internalize it as a perception that teachers are generally ineffective, even if it’s not what the debate is about at all,” Ms. Jacobs said.

More than 75 percent of the teachers surveyed said the schools where they teach had undergone budget cuts last year, and about as many of them said the cuts included layoffs — of teachers and others, like school aides and counselors. Roughly one in three teachers said their schools lost arts, music and foreign language programs. A similar proportion noted that technology and materials used in the schools had not been kept up to date to meet students’ needs.

“The fixation on testing has been a negative turn of events when the things that engage kids in schools are all being cut,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

I could argue that unless teachers are given the conditions and freedom to thrive in their workplace the results are not going to come. But solutions have never been an urgent matter for politicians. They are far more interested in scapegoats – and let’s just say, teachers make great scapegoats!


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