Posts Tagged ‘Report’

Catering for Four-Year Old Transgendered Children

June 20, 2012


From a system that eats up and spits out so many children it’s great to see that we have the 4-year old transgender demographic satisfied. A classroom may struggle to curb bullying, respond to self-esteem issues and provide a safe environment, but as long as they promote gender neutrality they are going just fine.

A report found young pupils were being encouraged to express themselves and permitted to dress as the opposite sex without judgment.

The education watchdog highlighted examples of good practice, such as appreciating “that a boy may prefer to be known as a girl and have a girl’s name and similarly a girl may have a girl’s name but wants to dress as and be a boy”.

It praised primary schools where “transgender pupils are taken seriously”, and those which had “gender-neutral” environments.

According to a report on one infants’ school, teaching children aged four to seven, found it was doing “excellent work” with “pupils who are or may be transgender”.

In a survey of 37 primary and 19 secondary schools, Ofsted questioned 1,357 pupils about their experiences at school to draw conclusions.

According to the Daily Mail, it found one unnamed school encourage children to behave in a “non-gender stereotypical way”, with younger boys dressing up in traditionally female clothing and allowed to wear ribbons in their hair.

If these 4-year olds are really transgendered, why would we have to ‘encourage’ them to behave in a “non-gender stereotypical way”. Surely as long as we promoted acceptance and tolerance we could let these children find themselves without being so obviously pointed in a certain direction.

Likewise, I find it offensive that teachers are being congratulated for something they have always upheld. Besides in the religious schools (which you would assume are still opposed to the concept of transgendered children) what teacher would interfere with a child’s desire to express themselves in what ever way they see fit?

It bothers me when our system is judged by how we recognise the 1% of students that fall into categories like this one, instead of an all-encompassing policy that spends less time finding differences and more time focussing on the fact that fundamentally we are all the same. If you run a tolerant, caring, inviting classroom you don’t need to worry about transgendered children, because all your students will feel free to express themselves in the way that feels natural to them.

Instead of encouraging boys to dress like girls, encourage boys to be themselves.

Who Needs Quality Teaching or Parenting When You Have Medications?

June 19, 2012

Wake up America!  Your preparedness to prescribe powerful stimulants to children for reasons as slight as a lack of concentration is lamentable. It is a trend that threatens to effect a whole generation. Teachers have got to take a far more passive approach on this issue. Instead of recommending that students take these drugs they should instead concentrate on their own performance. Too many teachers take the selfish choice of trying to restrain a wayward or naughty child rather than focus on their own weaknesses as a teacher. Instead of picking on a childs’ lack of focus, they should be concerned about how engaging their lessons are.

To hear the medical fraternity boast about a reduction in antibiotics subscriptions when the real issue is Ritalin and others of its kind is very disappointing:

The new report also found an uptick in the use of some drugs in children, with stimulants for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, leading the pack.

From 2002 to 2010, the use of ADHD drugs grew by 46 percent — or some 800,000 prescriptions a year. The top drug dispensed to adolescents was the stimulant methylphenidate, also known as Ritalin, with more than four million prescriptions filled in 2010.

“What the article is suggesting is that the number of children that we are treating for attention deficit disorder has gone up,” said Dr. Scott Benson, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and a spokesperson for the American Psychiatric Association.

“For the most part I think the overall increase reflects a reduction in the stigma,” he told Reuters Health. “It used to be, ‘You’re a bad parent if you can’t get your child to behave, and you’re a doubly bad parent if you put them on medicine.'”

Dr. Lawrence Diller, a behavioral pediatrician who has written extensively about ADHD, was more critical of the rise in stimulant prescriptions, noting that the U.S. is far ahead of other countries in its use of the drugs.

“You have to look at how our society handles school children’s problems. It’s clear that we rely much, much more on a pharmacological answer than other societies do,” Diller said. “The medicine is overprescribed primarily, but under-prescribed for certain inner-city groups of children.”

A report in the New York Times last Sunday said stimulant use is becoming a commonly used study drug even among high schoolers, with healthy students easily fooling their doctors into prescribing the coveted drugs.

“There is no objective test, so obtaining the medications is relatively easy,” said Diller.

Children Exposed to Poor Maths Teachers: Ofsted

May 22, 2012

I am not particularly surprised by the finding that bright students, in particular, are being failed by poor maths instruction. It’s been my experience that most teachers come from a strictly humanities (i.e. English, Politics, History) background. These teachers often shirk maths and science as it isn’t their forte.

In a damning report, the watchdog warned that the scale of underachievement at school was a “cause of national concern” that risks robbing the country of well-qualified mathematicians, scientists and engineers.

It said that many of the most gifted children were “insufficiently challenged” at primary and secondary level after being set the same work as mid-ranking classmates.

Inspectors insisted that too much teaching focused on the use of “disconnected facts and methods” that pupils were expected to memorise and replicate without any attempt to solve complex problems in their heads.

Large numbers of pupils are also being pushed into sitting maths GCSEs a year early – forcing schools to completely ignore many of the most demanding algebra topics, it was revealed.

In a highly-critical conclusion, Ofsted said that teaching was not good enough in almost half of English state schools, with almost no improvements being made in the last four years.

I realise that what I am writing is a gross generalisation, but I believe that maths is generally taught in a very abstract and monotonous way. No wonder the students are not benefitting from maths instruction at the primary level. Traditional maths teaching involves worksheets, a mindless array of algorithms and plenty of other rote styled goodies.

The tragedy of it all is that maths can be taught in a completely different way. I find the basic skills of maths the most refreshing and creatively exciting subject to teach. The fact that maths is a composite of everyday skills means it translates wonderfully to problem solving activities.

Repeating a Year Doesn’t Work: Report

October 12, 2011

New reasearch suggests that children who repeat a year suffer both academically and socially:

OECD figures released this year found about 8 per cent of Australian students were repeating grades at school, often with the intention of helping them catch up and get better educational outcomes.

But a University of Sydney study of more than 3,000 students in eight different New South Wales schools has found repeating a child could have the opposite effect.

Professor Andrew Martin says the research found the students who repeated did not only suffer academically, but they also struggled in other ways.

“We found that students who repeated a grade tended to be less likely to do their homework, they had more days absent from school, they tended to be a bit lower on the academic engagement and motivation scale, they were lower in academic confidence and they were lower in their general self-esteem,” he told ABC News Online.

“In many cases, it seems what educators and parents were hoping for does not quite happen.

“It seems that simply pressing the pause button does not get at the issues that might have led to the decision to repeat a child.”

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.


Captain Phonics to the Rescue!

July 7, 2011

It’s like the pest that wont go away.  Phonics sneaks up on us all the time, with it’s many proponents insisting it is the missing key in getting literacy levels up to standard.  I doubt that is the case.  In fact, while I think phonics has a minor secondary role to play, if you make phonics the key method for teaching reading, you will almost certainly turn your students off literature.

It seems some British MP’s agree with me:

MPs have criticised government plans to test pupils on their reading ability at the age of six, warning that it will put children off reading for pleasure.

The report criticises the government’s focus on phonics – in which children learn individual sounds and then blend them to read words – as a “mechanical” approach and warns that it will contribute to a decline in literacy.

Fabian Hamilton, who chairs the MPs’ group, said: “If there is a central theme to this, that is, reading must be a pleasure. Of course children need the tools to understand what sounds the symbols make, and what those sounds mean. Phonics is only one way of doing it, there are others.”

The MPs’ report says: “The phonics test is likely to demotivate children rather than ensure that they become eager and fluent readers.”The government is facing a backlash over phonics. Critics, including the United Kingdom Literacy Association, have written to education secretary Michael Gove lobbying him to abandon the test.

The schools minister, Nick Gibb, said: “High-quality evidence from across the world – from Scotland and Australia to the National Reading Panel in the US – shows that the systematic teaching of synthetic phonics is the best way to teach basic reading skills, and especially those aged five to seven.

“It is vital that we focus on the reading skills of children early on in their lives, and give those who are struggling the extra help they need to enable them to go on to enjoy a lifetime’s love of reading rather than a lifelong struggle.”

Surely the greatest contribution a teacher of reading can make is helping to nurture an appreciation and fondness of reading.  Phonics is for most students a giant slog.  Even the expression “systematic teaching of synthetic phonics” is a turnoff.

Phonics has its place, but enjoyment of reading is tantamount.  I want my students to enjoy reading about different people and places, connect with well drawn characters and gain insights. I want them to experinece how reading can trigger emotions, form opinions and nurture their imaginations.

I didn’t become a teacher to turn my students off reading.


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