Ned's latest thoughts, stories and opinions

Our politicians fiddle while our schools burn

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

If there is one universal truth about Australian politics it is that no matter what the cause, no matter what the issue, self interest will always win the day.  Read On

Size Matters

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

 Imagine for a second that you are given the task of supervising a group of teenagers. On your own. Not only have you been given the task of supervising them but of imparting some information (call it knowledge) as well. The information/knowledge is most likely to be of little or no interest to the teenagers but you will be expected to soldier on anyway.  Read On

Why Labor have got it so wrong about Gonski.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

 The Turnbull Government have gazumped Labor over Gonski.  Read On

When it is important to break the law.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The response to what I thought was a fairly innocuous comment from Sally McManus that there were times when it was necessary to break the law has been predictable from some but surprising from others. Of course, there has been faux outrage from what we once called conservatives. That is, the reactionary right. The group of “anti everythings” (except wealth acquisition) that our PM has aligned himself to.  Read On

Back on the Horse.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

I’ve just finished the first three weeks of my first full time teaching job in six years. It feels like three months.   Read On

Stop Blaming Teachers

Thursday, December 08, 2016
School children working with their teacher in the class room
 ‘When are we going to face up to the fact that we have got our priorities all wrong?’ Photograph: davidf/Getty Images
  Read On

Comfort in Distressing Times

Sunday, November 06, 2016

At a time when many of us feel we have lost our bearings there are few certainties we can rely on to give us comfort.  Read On

A Tale of Two Cities

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Tale of Two Cities.  Read On

Nice. The Voices the Morning After

Sunday, August 21, 2016

 I've never been to war. I've protested about many. I've never experienced what it must be like. But now I know what it is to be in a country that is at war.  Read On

It's time we stopped blaming teachers and started supporting them.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The response to the latest Naplan results has my head spinning. It's not the results themselves that have debatable relevance to anything apart from how well some schools coach their kids.

It's the response.

The usual suspects, from the federal minister of education to every educational expert in the land, have had their two bobs' worth.

"The figures are disappointing", "we're falling further behind", they chorused.

The minister opined that the Naplan results prove that educational funding doesn't affect results. Or, in other words, tried to justify his government's refusal to fund the Gonski reforms.

Others took the opportunity to push whichever barrow suited their ideological standpoint. All arrived at the same conclusion. "We need better teachers."

We don't need better parents, we don't need better politicians, we don't need better support systems.

We need better teachers.

Of course none of these experts actually works at the teaching coal face. Some have never set foot inside a classroom as a teacher. Others have spent a few years teaching Year 9 before escaping to the relative safety of their offices to pontificate from on high. Still others have expressed their outrage at the appalling state of affairs from behind their microphones or in their comfortable television studios.

Leaving aside the efficacy of Naplan testing. Leaving aside the hysterical reaction to results of dubious value that serve to boost ratings and make commentators feel important for 24 hours.

Leaving all that aside, it is a cop out to trot out the same old cliché that it's the fault of teachers. And it is a cliché because no one will take ownership of the real problems.

They begin with handing the responsibility for everything from our kids schooling to their behavioural problems to someone else.

What teachers need to become "better" is support. Not many 20-year-olds are equipped to walk into a classroom and confidently teach students that challenge them professionally and, often, personally. Becoming a good teacher takes time in just the same way it takes time to become a good doctor. 

No hospital hands an intern the scalpel and asks them to do open heart surgery. In the same we way we shouldn't throw teachers in the deep end without support. This may take the shape of mentoring from older, perhaps retired, teachers who know just how hard it is to gain the confidence to wrangle teenagers en masse. That's exactly why Gonski is so important. It's why we need manageable class sizes.

We need parents to take responsibility for their children's education and support the programs their teachers give them. It might be as simple as reading stories at bedtime. That will help literacy.

I heard someone on the ABC lament the "figures" from the Northern Territory. The same Northern Territory that has completely lost control of its juvenile justice system and seems incapable of bridging the gap for our First Peoples.

How can a society that washes its hands of all responsibility for the increasing number of people who are falling through the cracks turn around and blame teachers for all the ills of the educational system?

The point is that teachers don't work in a vacuum. They teach in a social context. They aren't magicians. They do their best but the odds are stacked against them, often in the shape of external issues that they have no control of.

  Read On

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