Posts Tagged ‘Martin Dixon’

Schools are Failing Gifted Students

June 21, 2012

Catering for gifted students is a significant challenge for a teacher. Teachers can go dizzy trying to find time with students at both ends of the spectrum, whilst also working to help the rest of the class progress.

I am not surprised that many schools have struggled to properly cater for gifted students:

SCHOOLS are failing the state’s best and brightest students, a damning parliamentary report has found.

A 15-month inquiry has found the education provided to gifted students is often inadequate – sometimes with severe and devastating consequences.

The report, tabled in Parliament today, said up to 85,000 Victorian students fit the category of gifted.

“These students are frequently frustrated and disengaged,” the education and training committee report said.

“And rightfully so: they are being let down by the education system. These neglected students represent our state’s future visionaries and innovators.”

All teachers should be capable of recognising and teaching the gifted, the report said.

Education Minister Martin Dixon welcomed the report and said he “looked forward to responding to it in detail”.

“Our job in education is to engage, excite and extend students,” he said.

This problem is very real, but let’s not forget the difficulties teachers face with an ever-increasing workload and an overcrowded curriculum.

School Toilet Trial is a Terrible Idea

August 12, 2011

Teachers should stop being so precious about time wasted due to toilet breaks.  Of course it’s not ideal to have children come in and out of the classroom from the toilet whilst you are teaching a skill or conducting a classroom discussion.  I don’t doubt that students have the option in going at break times but choose not to, and they must learn to take those opportunities.  I also know that some students use it as an excuse to leave the classroom whilst not needing to go to the toilet.

But ultimately, so what?

The frustrations listed above should never lead to an imposed trial which could result in children wetting themselves.  I would rather have lessons impaired on a constant basis that have even one child wetting themself on account of a harsh rule I have introduced.

I never want to involve myself at any time with a trial like the one at Kew Primary School:

PARENTS are alarmed that children at a primary school in Melbourne’s east began wetting themselves after the school tested an approach that discouraged them from going to the toilet in class time.

In the Kew Primary School trial, which parents said was conducted without their knowledge, the entire class would go to the toilet if one child needed to go during a lesson.

One mother, who asked not to be named, said she first became aware of the trial when her child wet herself at the front door. ”I said, ‘What happened? She said, ‘I’m holding on, I didn’t want the whole class to have to come with me to the toilet.’ At first when she told me the rule I disbelieved her.”

Another mother took her high-achieving child to the doctor after she wet herself twice at home.

”She hasn’t done this since she was three,” the mother said. ”There was a kind of ripple effect where parents slowly became aware of changes in their children. Children were complaining of headaches, they were constipated, they weren’t drinking water and were coming home with full drink bottles.”

A group of parents wrote to Kew Primary principal Kim Dray, expressing their concern about the trial and citing medical research about the impact of constipation on children.

In an email, obtained by The Age, Dr Dray said the ”whole class” method of toilet break supervision was ”used successfully by some other schools” and was being tested by some classes.

”Team leaders met at the end of last week to discuss the trialled approaches, and although you may find this surprising, some commented on a decrease in disruption to class lessons, especially in senior and specialist classes,” she wrote.

The Disappointing Response to the Schoolgirl Fight Saga

June 22, 2011

Yesterday, Australians were horrified when footage surfaced of a fight between Melbourne schoolgirls.  The clip was a reminder at just how ugly bullying can be, from the violent actions of the perpetrators to the feeble and gutless innaction of the bystanders.

To watch the clip please follow this link.

To add salt to the wounds, the response by professionals, ministers and educators have been extremely disappointing.  Take this uninspiring comment from State Education Minister, Martin Dixon:

He said the department also has a zero-tolerance approach to bullying.

All schools are required to have anti-bullying and cyber bullying policies in place that students are made aware of and expected to adhere to.

This extends to appropriate mobile phone use, he said.

Government ministers often coin the expression “zero-tolerance” because it sounds good.  But what does it really mean?  I looked up the department’s so-called “zero tolerance” approach on their website.  This is what it said:

All Victorian government schools are required to include anti-bullying strategies in their Student Engagement Policy (or their Student Code of Conduct).

Schools have a duty of care to take reasonable measures to prevent foreseeable risks of injury to their students.

Does that sound like “zero-tolerance” to you?

And the standard line of schools requiring anti-bullying policies is predictable, but ultimately, it’s just pure spin.  An anti-bullying policy, as I’ve argued here countless times, is just a piece of paper designed to ward off lawsuits.  It’s to show that schools have a plan.  The plan is usually quite vague, so as to avoid instances where they might be caught out not following their plan.  It is also useless in cases where teachers and principals are unaware that bullying is taking place.  Recent incidents have shown how blind schools have been to the bullying that pervades within its walls.

And if that’s not bad enough, psychologists and the media have decided to blame Facebook for this incident. But Facebook doesn’t pull a girls hair or drag them on the ground.  Bullies create bullying behaviours, not social media.  The medium is not the real issue here.  The real issue is that bullying exists, it is absolutely unnaceptable and must be seriously dealt with.  Not by programs or policies, but by a change of mindset and culture.

The very worst response we could have garnered from this awful exhibition of bullying is, “Oh, that’s just because of Facebook.”, or “That’s as a result of an ineffective anti-bullying policy.”

How many more incidents do we need to watch before we dispense with the spin and blame game and start to see this for what it is – a complex and delicate problem that requires much more attention.


Sickening Schoolgirl Fight Caught on Video

June 22, 2011

A terrible fight which erupted between two schoolgirls was caught on camera.  The video headlined tonight’s Channel 9 news broadcast and shows gutless bystanders just watching passively.

To watch this video follow this link.

Unfortunately we are in the age of simplistic answers to major problems.  In this case, it is not a culture of bullying that is blamed, but instead, Facebook:

BULLYING on Facebook has been blamed for a violent confrontation between two Melbourne schoolgirls caught on film by classmates unwilling to intervene.

A 14-year-old, who has remained anonymous, has told Channel 9 she was too afraid to go to school after repeated attacks by a 16-year-old girl from another school.

In the footage, recorded in February, the victim can be seen being dragged by her hair while she refuses to fight. She is then kicked in the head.

Students can be seen doing nothing to help her.

The older girl can be heard taunting her younger victim. When the victim goes to ground, the older girl says: “Just get up.”

The victim was dazed and coughing up blood.

The girl and her mother spoke out after five similar incidents in six months. The girl was terrified and unwilling to go to school or leave her family home in southeast Melbourne.

“When I leave school, if my bus isn’t there then I get petrified because my school is 30 seconds away from the station and she’s always there,” the girl said.

But she isn’t willing to give up hope that life will return to normal.

“Look, there’s always someone out there that loves you – you don’t have to feel like it’s just you – that’s how I felt for a long, long, long time,” she said.

The online jibes began in January, when it is alleged the bully posted insults on her Facebook page.

It escalated to the point where the girl claims bottles were thrown at her and threats were made towards her family.

The police became involved on Monday, but the mother of the alleged bully said there was more to the story. She blamed Facebook culture for an outbreak in bullying.

State Education Minister Martin Dixon said the department would be told to act once the police finished its inquiry.

“I was deeply appalled. … The type of behaviour shown should in no way be tolerated,” he said.

He said the department also has a zero-tolerance approach to bullying.

All schools are required to have anti-bullying and cyber bullying policies in place that students are made aware of and expected to adhere to.

This extends to appropriate mobile phone use, he said.

Facebook doesn’t create bullying incidents, bullies create bullying incidents.  This footage is horrible and the very worst conclusion we can reach is to shift the blame from bullies and passive bystanders to Facebook.  It’s almost as if people expect that if you take Facebook away bullies will stop bullying and start becoming friendly.  Hmmm …

YouTube: The WikiLeaks of Education

May 9, 2011

YouTube is doing to schools what WikiLeaks has done to governments.  It is threatening to blow the lid on the kind of events that used to remain hush-hush.  Yet again, a damaging YouTube clip has surfaced, that exposes the violence in our schoolyard.  No longer can we pretend it doesn’t exist:

Click on the link below to watch the video.

School fight club.

DRAMATIC footage of a punch-up between students at a Melbourne high school will be investigated.

The clip, posted on YouTube, shows two Hampton Park Secondary College students trading blows while being egged on by up to 20 onlookers.

One combatant suffers a bloodied nose, while spectators call “Knock out, knock out”.

Acting principal Sue Glenn said she was shocked by the footage, and would investigate and punish those involved.

“I was completely unaware of this incident or video. However on now seeing it, I am totally appalled,” she said.

“This is not the behaviour we accept at Hampton Park Secondary, which has 1300 students who are well behaved and great kids.

“I will be taking this matter extremely seriously and definitely investigating this incident and then taking the appropriate action.”

Ms Glenn said the two students involved in the fight were no longer at the school, but the involvement of all onlookers would be investigated.

Students are heard calling “Go crazy at him” and “Do it, do it” as blood drips from the nose of one of the fighters.

At least two people filmed the fight last year. It was put on YouTube in January.

Education Minister Martin Dixon said the internet posting of schoolyard fights and bullying was a concern.

“We still have a real issue out there in our schools and we still need to be doing more in terms of educating our children and teachers and parents,” he said.

Mr Dixon said the Government had committed $14.5 million to anti-bullying programs in schools in this week’s Budget.

He said social media had made tackling bullying and schoolyard violence all the more difficult.

“It’s a complex problem, and when we see it manifested in these sorts of videos, it just shows there’s a large degree of misunderstanding (about the consequences),” Mr Dixon said.

“It shows an abject ignorance to what bullying and violence is doing to victims.”

Where do I start?

Firstly, here is another case of a Principal unaware of a major fight in the very schoolyard they preside over.  Where are the teachers?  Who is supervising?  How did this big crowd and the attention this fight would have garnered, go completely under the radar of the authorities?  How was a child with what looks like a broken or at least badly bloodied nose, able to hide his injuries?  And don’t tell me this was the first incident of such a nature.  Those onlookers seem like they have seen it all before.

And what about the minister who shows concern, not for the violence at school, but instead to the filming and public dissemination of the violence:

Education Minister Martin Dixon said the internet posting of schoolyard fights and bullying was a concern.

It sounds like a case of ,” I am not too bothered by schoolyard fights, just as long as they don’t go viral.”

I am very happy to hear that the onlookers are going to get punished for their involvement and I think that filming acts of violence is abhorrent.  However, now that the clip has been broadcast, it is important to use it as an impetus for positive change.

The following is my advice to schools:

Hampton Park Secondary School is now going to have to make swift and decisive changes to its procedures.  It is going to have to improve its quality of supervision, enforce stronger consequences for taking part in acts of violence in the schoolyard and punish passive onlookers.  Take note of what they do, and employ their new policies in your school instead of waiting for something like this to make your school look bad.

As uncomfortable as it is to be exposed in the way that WikiLeaks and schoolyard YouTube clips have been able to do so well, it does teach all involved a very important message.

It’s high time you started lifting your game!

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