Sunday, 31 January 2016

Challenges for Teachers in 2016

As the new year looms for teachers in New Zealand, I wonder about the challenges that face them. There will be new learning and I am not just talking about the new learning of the students, but learning for themselves, more about learning ways to improve their practice.  There will be new ways of working (systemic changes) that their leaders will want to implement and that includes moving towards changes that the minister wants to make.

I have thought about some challenges that I have for teachers.  Before you start the new year, ask yourself these questions.

  • What is the purpose of what you are doing? Ask this of yourself in an general sense and then also each day.
  • What do you want your students to learn?
  • Have you asked your learners and their families what they would like?  
  • What changes will you make to your practice knowing the students you have in front of you?
  • Will changes that you make improve the learning for your students?
  • How will you know they improve the learning for your students?
Now ask yourself if your leaders have made the answers to those questions clear to you.  If they have not, go and see them and ask them the same questions.  Only a foolish leader would deny you the opportunity for that discussion.

Most leaders want the same things for the learners that you do.  The perception sometimes seems to be that you are on different pages but sometimes it is just a conversation that needs to be had to clarify the reality.

Don't go down the track of "them" and "us".  You are all in this job together and the time to try your hardest to make it work is NOW.

My last piece of advice today is to not listen to rumours or ill advice.  How do you find out the difference between good and ill advice?  Check and check again.  I have seen so many instances of teachers telling other teachers what they genuinely think is right, but in fact is quite the reverse.
And yes, go ahead, check out my advice!

Sunday, 17 January 2016

A controversial discussion - the first for me in 2016.

A recent post in the Facebook NZ Primary Teachers Group got me wondering about whether some teachers would ever get over the industrial model of schooling.  The post started with a question as to whether it was acceptable for a year 5 student to be promoted to year 7, as the poster had heard that this was happening to a child.

I am disappointed to say that the post has now been removed, so either someone became abusive or the instigator of the discussion withdrew the post, maybe because it was too controversial.  So I have to try and reconstruct it from memory rather that actual postings but it went somehow like this.

My reply to the first question was that it was fine and that the child could simply be thought of as working at an advanced level.  Not "missing a year or two".  Other contributors came into the discussions and said that the child would probably be too immature to be able to cope at the next level(s).  They said there would or could be an emotional and social toll on the child and that a number of factors needed to be considered like friends at that level.

I suggested that grouping all students together, based on their age, was an artificial concept anyway (arising from the industrial model that Sir Kenneth Robinson talks about in this video.  We are still educating children in batches. (Check it out around the 6 minute mark).  The most important thing about kids is NOT how old they are.  Sir Ken is saying it is time to change the paradigm and I agree.

I posted in the Facebook that it happens in work, that people of different ages work together and it works fine there.  But this was met with opposition as there was "not a lot of difference between a 30 and a 32 year old working together."  But sometimes there is, of course.  Sometimes, colleagues of the same age can be quite immature, and others more mature.

The question to me is about should the child work at the same level as their age counterparts or should they work at the level which extends their intellectual capacity?  A modern learning environment, MLE or ILE, should allow students of different ages to work together - emotionally or socially disparate they may be.

I so wish the conversation could have continued.  I am very interested in what others think.