Posts Tagged ‘primary school’

Why Can’t Teachers Touch Kids any More? :O’Brien

June 21, 2012

I couldn’t disagree more with the opinions expressed in Susie O’Brien’s column today. Allowing teachers to touch students, even innocently, is a step backwards. Every day we read news articles of teachers who have misused the privilege of working with kids and have overstepped the boundaries. It’s because of the evil minority that continue to heap shame on our wonderful profession, that these regulations are vital.

The rules that restrict teachers from hugging and touching our students without justifiable cause are not about political correctness, they are about common sense.  They exist to protect students, but in doing so, they also protect teachers from false accusations. I agree that it’s a sad state of affairs that I am obliged to keep my door open when having a private meeting with a student, but isn’t that a small price to pay for transparency?

I find Ms. O’Brien’s intimation that I can’t provide my students with the same standard of care due to the fact that I don’t touch them quite upsetting:

WHY can’t teachers touch kids any more? It used to be that teachers had total control over the children in their care.

They were allowed to hit them, cane them and handle them in pretty much any way they saw fit.

But they could also hug them, comfort them, and even check their hair for nits.

With the advent of political correctness, everything changed.

Teachers should be able to judge for themselves what contact is appropriate in any situation.

If we think any teacher lacks the ability to make such judgments, then they shouldn’t be in front of our classrooms.

For instance, take a look at the rules imposed on teachers in this state by the Victorian Institute of Teaching, which is the professional regulation body.

Their code of conduct says teachers are violating their professional relationships when they touch a student without a valid reason.

It’s a bit depressing that it’s come to this.

The code says teachers can touch students, but goes on to say it is a “difficult issue for teachers in the present climate”.

Apparently, teachers can touch students for comfort, guidance or acknowledgment, but not for any other reason.

And teachers are not meant to have any meeting with a student alone with their door closed.

It seems a pretty sad state of affairs.

As sad as it is that the evil few spoil it for the majority, these rules are vital. They protect teachers and students alike.

It is Never Alright to Put Down Your Students!

May 29, 2012

There is simply no excuse for denigrating your students. Whether they are unruly or not is completely irrelevant. It doesn’t matter how much they fidget, answer back, disturb or waste time, there is no place for a teacher to put down his/her students.

Teachers found breaking that rule repeatedly (or at least more than once), should be forced to tender their resignations. No school or classroom of students deserves such a teacher. Teachers have to wake up to the fact that if they choose to teach children, that’s exactly what they are going to be faced with – a room full of children. Children misbehave. That is reality.

If teachers can’t handle the constant disturbances and the rudeness, they have options:

1, Seek the support of their Principal, colleagues or even the parents of the unruly children.

2. Change their style of teaching (because whatever they are doing quite clearly isn’t working).

3. Find a different job.

I fear it may be too late for Mr. Griffin to take option one or two, and for good reason:

A primary school teacher branded his pupils ‘pests, idiots, clowns and buffoons’ a disciplinary panel heard yesterday.

Roger Griffin, 66, denied that the terms were derogatory and insisted that he had used ‘apt and appropriate language’ to describe the eight and nine-year-old pupils who he also labelled ‘miscreants’.

The now-retired teacher also stands accused of playing piano in the school hall for an entire day after he was not asked to come to work during an Ofsted inspection at Beechview School in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

A panel heard that Mr Griffin’s behaviour at the school was called in to question by acting assistant head Beatriz Melero, who had been called in as a trouble-shooter to boost the ailing primary’s fortunes after the previous headteacher was absent on a long-term basis.

She told the hearing that Mr Griffin – who worked at the school for nine years – had been ‘unduly punitive’ when he put three children in detention and listed the reason as ‘fidgeting’.

Representing himself at a Teaching Agency conduct hearing held in Coventry, West Midlands, Mr Griffin told a disciplinary panel that his conduct had been ‘appropriate’.

Presenting Officer Melinka Berridge said he had penned a letter to the school after complaints were made about his language towards children.

It read: ‘Persistent miscreants who act like delinquents can expect to be treated as such.

‘If they don’t like being called idiots, fools, clowns, buffoons or any similar epithet, there is a very simple solution: don’t act like one.’

Mr Griffin later told the hearing he had only used the terms in reference to ‘the small minority who are disturbing the learning opportunities of everybody else.’

Mr Griffin said one allegation against him, that he shouted at a young boy and called him an ‘idiot’, omitted to mention that the boy had been ‘cavorting’ around his classroom for some time before he reprimanded him.

He said: ‘How do you describe that sort of behaviour without using that sort of language? There is no other way, is there?’

Mr Griffin faces two charges of serious misconduct towards staff and pupils between December 2007 and May 2008.

He is also accused of disregarding directions given to him by acting head Miss Melero, and for failing to follow the National Curriculum in his music lessons.

But Mr Griffin said it was ‘total rubbish’ that his lessons did not adhere to the National Curriculum but he was ‘very pleased’ to admit that he had not used Qualifications and Curriculums Authority (QCA) work schemes when planning lessons because they contained a mistake.

He said: ‘I made it quite clear that I never will follow the QCA schemes of work as they contain an error and I will not teach an error.

He went on to claim that work schemes he devised himself were superior to those created by the national body.

‘My scheme of work is much better than the QCA scheme of work,’ he said. ‘My work supports the National Curriculum to levels that by itself the National Curriculum can’t reach.’

Sexting Reaches our Primary Schools

May 28, 2012

We don’t need another useless educational program preaching to children about the dangers of sexting. They are preachy, don’t work and make children uncomfortable. What we need is a strong approach consisting of two important elements.

1. Clear and unambiguous consequences for those involved in sexting; and

2. Schools need to focus more squarely on setting up an environment that encourages its students to respect themselves. This kind of behaviour comes about from an abject lack of respect for one’s self. Schools should work on their culture and environment to ensure that their students are best placed to make good decisions, not just because they are sensible, but because they have an inbuilt sense of self and a regard for who they are and what they do with their lives.

Without this approach, nothing will properly discourage children from this potentially dangerous practice:

PRIMARY school children are engaging in “sexting” and experts believe parents are at a loss as to what to do about it.

UniSA academic Lesley-Anne Ey says research shows some pre-teens are taking and sending out sexually explicit photographs.

“There’s research saying the phenomenon is out there for children at primary school and I think parents might be a bit uninformed about it,” she said.

“They may think it is a risk when their children are adolescents but it’s unlikely they would think younger children would engage or be aware of that kind of behaviour.”

Ms Ey said educating children about the dangers of “sexting”, either by mobile phone or internet, had reached a point where it must be dealt with before they reached puberty.

“We need to start addressing this at primary school,” she said. “I think it’s too late when you start going into school at Years 8 or 9.”

Child protection expert Professor Freda Briggs said potential young offenders needed to be made more aware of the repercussions.

“Parents and schools need to be making young people aware that this is a criminal offence,” she said. “It’s a huge community issue and most parents don’t know what they can do about it. I think a lot of people have given up.”

Facebook Ignoring Their Own Age Restrictions

March 4, 2012

Facebook have done the right thing by setting age restrictions. Children under 13 should not have their own Facebook page. We have seen enough carnage caused by children misusing their Facebook page to know that a bit of maturity is essential to having the privilege of being part of the Facebook community.

That’s why I am appauled to read that Facebook may be trying to recruit underage children:

FACEBOOK claims it can reach more than 150,000 children in WA under the age of 13, according to the social networking giant’s advertising database.

Cyber safety experts say Facebook’s estimated reach shows that many young children are accessing the website despite guidelines stating it is only for older teenagers.

Online Child Exploitation Det-Snr-Sgt Lindsay Garratt warned young children were exposing themselves to risks such as sexual predators, cyber bullying and identity theft on social networking sites.

Facebook allows users access to its database statistics if they’re planning to advertise on their website.

It says advertisers wanting to target young teens in WA could reach an estimated 177,220 users aged 13 or under.

Facebook doesn’t let users sign up unless they claim to be over 13. But users often give away their true age by listing information such as the primary school they attend.

Sen-Sgt Garratt said it was important that parents monitored the websites their children were visiting.

Unless Facebook moderators can show they are doing everything in their powers to stop underaged children from having their own page, Facebook should be legally culpable for cybersafety and cyberbullying incidents as a result of their sneaky tactics and general lack of scrutiny.

Shy Students Should Be Allowed to Tweet Their Teacher in Class: Study

January 17, 2012

Last week I wrote a post on the challenges of teaching shy students. I gave an account of my struggles with one particularly shy student and the strategy I used to get him to talk. I have great empathy for the child that is too afraid to speak and understand the frustrations involved when teaching such a student.

However, I feel a bit uneasy about a recent study that promotes conversation via Twitter between shy student and their teacher.

The Courier-Mail reports new research from Southern Cross University has found strong benefits for the use of Twitter by students too embarrassed or uncomfortable to ask teachers questions in the time-honoured raised-hand method.

Southern Cross business lecturer Jeremy Novak, along with Central Queensland University’s Dr Michael Cowling, studied the use of Twitter among university students as a method for asking questions and gaining feedback without having to stand the stares and scrutiny of fellow students.

The positive feedback from students, particularly international students, has convinced the research team the use of Twitter technology could also be embraced by classrooms at high school and even primary school level.

In my opinion, shyness is not a genetic disease or impenetrable condition. To me, shyness is a result of a lack of self-esteem. Shy children act that way because they don’t feel valued. Instead, they feel judged, ostracised or labelled.

A teacher can do one of two things. They can either enable the shy student by using Twitter, or they can actually attempt to help that student find their feet and feel good about themselves.

“But who has the time for that? We have the curriculum to cover!”

This line sums up my frustrations with current educational thinking (as perpetuated through teacher training programs). In my opinion, it is every bit as important for a teacher to assist their students in matters of self-confidence as it is for them to teach them the curriculum. In fact, I would suggest that it is more important. Facts are learnt and forgotten. The average person on the street has long forgotten calculus and how many chemical elements make up the periodic table. What they wouldn’t have forgotten is how they were treated and how their experiences at school have changed them for the better or worse.

Why placate a shy person when you can change a shy person? Why play the game when you can show them that they have a voice and it’s special and unique and something to be proud of.

And besides, receiving Tweets in class is so unprofessional.What, am I supposed to stop my class so I can check my phone for a Tweet?

Trust me, as good a feeling as it is to teach children new skills or concepts, helping a child discover that they are important and that their thoughts and opinions matter is so much more rewarding.

One-in-Five High School Students ‘Learn Nothing’

September 20, 2011

There is a 1983 film entitled Teachers, which while universally panned by critics and eventually bombed at the box office, stands as one of the most accurate portrayals of schools caught on celluloid.  Starring Nick Nolte, the film is a satire of American Government High Schools.  Those not familiar with the way a school runs found it over-the-top, unfunny and irritating.  Whilst the film is badly made, it contains some insights and observations that are perceptive, extremely funny and just as relevant today.

There is no better example of this than the fact that the school in the film is being sued by a former student that was allowed to graduate without being able to read or write.

Now contrast that scene with these findings:

The UK is falling behind international rivals because one-in-five children “learn nothing” throughout their secondary education, according to the head of Britain’s top private schools’ group.

Figures show that almost one-in-five pupils left primary school this summer without reaching the standard expected of the average 11-year-old in reading. Some one-in-10 boys had the reading skills of a seven-year-old or worse.

Perhaps what worked most against the success of the movie Teachers was that it was too clever and too accurate for its own good.

It’s Not Career Advice that 10 Year-Olds Need

July 21, 2011

Whilst Simon Hughes’ call for Primary schools to offer career advice has some basic merit, it deviates from the most important needs of a primary student.

Youngsters will be urged to start thinking about their careers from the age of ten under plans unveiled today by the Coalition’s education access czar.

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrats’ deputy leader, wants primary schools to start giving career counselling to pupils.

Mr Hughes said: ‘It is never too early for people to start thinking about future careers and educational opportunities.

‘Children in their last year of primary school can be inspired, and can form their first clear impressions of the world of work and further study.’

Primary schools will have to host career advice sessions with industry experts  and parents to discuss what qualifications are needed.

He hopes the move will make youngsters start thinking about university before they even start secondary school. Mr Hughes said: ‘The message I have heard from young people around the country is clear.

‘We need better careers advice, starting early, and with parents as well as students given better information about going to university.

If you give students the encouragement and support to help them see where their qualities lie, what they are good at and how they can use those skills to contribute to a classroom, school and society you never need to worry about career advice.  The reason why so many students seem aimless and unsure of their future is because not enough time and energy has been put into their strengths and too much time tends to be focussed on their weaknesses.
By Grade 6 students seem to be aware of where they are academically, what they struggle to do well and how they are regarded by teachers and fellow students.  What they might not be aware of is that there is so much more than academics in the makeup of a person.  There is their personality, creativity, street smarts and leadership skills.  Teachers must understand the strengths of all their students and praise them accordingly.
A student who is aware of what they love to do, where their talents lie and how they can use those skills and traits to contribute to society never need worry about career advice.  Not at 10 years old anyway.

The Expectation of Teaching Cyber-Safety to Pre-schoolers

June 21, 2011

I am all for addressing cyber-saftey and cyber-bullying in schools.  I have written many posts that attest to how important those topics are to me.  But a report that calls on the Government to make educators teach cyber-safety to 3 and 4-year-old children is crazy.  They are simply too young.  At that age, the responsibility of introducing the potential hazards of the web should be left squarely to parents.

Cyber education for children should start in preschool, a major investigation of online safety has found.

More than a year in the making, the High-Wire Act report makes dozens of recommendations to parliament on how to educate children and teenagers on remaining safe in the increasingly complex online environment.

The first recommendation calls on Early Childhood Minister Peter Garrett to consider providing “cyber-safety” lessons in pre-schools and kindergartens.

“It seems sensible that schools introduce cyber-safety when they introduce computers and online access,” the report, released on Monday, says.

“Unfortunately, it is just too late, because children have already developed a set of habits and practices.”

When I read this new Government report, I reflected on an apt comment from reader Anthony Purcell, who wrote:

I am a little frustrated that teachers are being the ones that are to teach children how to be good digital citizens. Where are the parents? They should be helping out as well. Unfortunately, I know that many parents don’t know how to be a good digital citizen. There are sites out there that teachers can build to help students out with this. Should they be on Twitter and Facebook in primary school? No, but we can set up ways to help them begin their good digital citizenship roles.

I find it ironic, that of all the important skills that teachers could be imparting to pre-schoolers, the Government has focussed on an issue that not only doesn’t affect them but also is too complex for them to fully understand.  Surely a program championed by the esteemed veterinarian and author, Vadim Chelom, on dog safety is a much better fit.

“… In fact there isn’t even an Education Department approved set of lesson plans to teach this subject.  This is a catastrophic omission as for the under-7 age group dog attacks account of more injuries than road traffic accidents.”

Teaching cyber-safety to preschoolers poses an unfair challenge on teachers.  It is a program best taught in primary school.




Should Primary Students Get Homework?

June 12, 2011

I have dwelled on this very question throughout my career thus far.  At the moment I am ‘for’ homework with the following conditions:

  1. It be no longer than 15 minutes a night
  2. That it not be new work but rather revision of class work
  3. That students have time to read questions and see me if they need clarification rather than go straight to their parents in a panic
  4. That it not be given in busy or stressful weeks such as the week of National Testing

Why am I “for’ homework?  Whilst ideally my homework would be to help set the table or to share the days learning with a parent, in reality it is not for me to prescribe domestic chores or family interactions.  I then have to weigh up what is better for the child – the opportunity to fit in a bit of revision or the inevitability that most students will go home and vegetate in front of the computer or TV.

Child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg disagrees with me:

HOMEWORK in primary school is needless, does not contribute to academic performance and adds unnecessary stress to families, child development experts say.

“It’s hijacking family life, it’s bound to cause arguments and it’s turning kids into couch potatoes,” said prominent child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg.

Most studies show homework either has a negative impact or no impact on the achievements of primary school students, he said.

“The whole thing is a farce, it is modern-day cod liver oil; people think it’s good for them but it’s not.” 

In a study, soon to be published in the journal Economics of Education Review, US researchers assessed 25,000 Grade 8 children and discovered only maths homework had a significant improvement on test scores.

Helen Walton, president of the Federation of Parents and Citizens’ Association, said homework, which is set by individual schools, was a source of ongoing family stress.

“Our position is we don’t like the ‘must do’ attitude about it, that if kids don’t do it there will be consequences. It should be optional. Homework is a stressful time for parents because kids are tired and hungry and distracted and it becomes a struggle.”

Educational consultant Dr Ian Lillico said homework for primary school children was a major contributor to childhood obesity.

The founder of the Boys Forward Institute and author of The Homework Grid, said homework should consist of interactive learning opportunities like a game of Scrabble with parents or a visit to the theatre.

Dr Shelly Hyman said daughter Samsara, 8, has too much homework: “The tears and the argument that go on, especially because my daughter goes to after-school care, where is the free time?”

What is your take on homework?  Is it responsible for creating stress at home?

Is There Any Benefit in Children Repeating a Year of School?

May 20, 2011

The findings of a study I came across recently claims that not only is there no benefit in making a student repeat a year level of school, but that it actually does some harm:

The study, by Deakin University’s Dr Helen McGrath, also found students who repeated a year were 20 to 50 per cent more likely to drop out, compared to similar students who progressed.

Dr McGrath reviewed dozens of studies by academics in Australia and the United States over the past 75 years comparing the outcomes for students with specific needs who were either held back or allowed to progress.

She said those studies failed to support the popular assumption among teachers and parents that repeating a year helped a student’s academic performance.

“There may be an occasional student who is the exception, but for most students providing them with more of what didn’t work for them the first time around is an exercise in futility,” she said.

“In fact, repeating a year confirms to a student that they have failed.

“They experience stress from being taller, larger and more physically mature than their younger classmates. They miss their friends who have moved on to the next year level.

“They also experience boredom from repeating similar tasks and assignments. Their self esteem drops. All of these factors ultimately lead many to drop out.”

There also appears to be no benefit in holding children back from starting school because they were not seen to be “school ready”.

“If a child is old enough to enter primary school, then holding them back and enrolling them in an additional year of preschool appears to provide no academic or social advantages and may in fact be detrimental in many cases,” she said.

Dr McGrath said simply promoting the struggling student to the next year level was not the answer either.

She said schools needed to consider more effective alternatives to support students who experienced social, behavioural or academic difficulties.

These included identifying problems at pre-school level and developing programs to address them, creating individual education plans, providing specialist support and adapting the curriculum to the needs of the student.

“Multi-age classrooms and peer tutoring also provide ways of supporting students who may be struggling,” she said.

Whilst I respect the findings of this study, the trend of promoting students for no other reason than to protect their self-esteem is quite challenging for teachers.  It means that the child is often far behind, is often missing basic skills and therefore cannot understand advanced concepts and sometimes disrupts the other students.  It means that there will be students that can’t read or write properly entering into high school.

How is that beneficial to the child?  How does being set vastly different work to ones classmates make that child feel any less of a failure?

Teachers will generally do anything they can to accelerate the divide between struggling students and the rest of the class.  The last thing they would ever want is for any of their students to suffer emotionally.

At the same time, the current closed mindedness of education experts when it comes to repeating year levels is a concern.  Surely, at some point, the child has a better chance repeating a year than they do being promoted on the back of under developed skills?

I am in no way an advocate for making children repeat year levels.  But I am also mindful that gaps can grow, and the result of a skills divide in the classroom can have a lasting effect on both class and struggling student.

I suppose it just goes to show the importance of good teaching in the early years, alertness in spotting any learning problems or difficulties and a well run and resourced Special Education/Remedial Education department.

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