Bubblegum and stickytape. That’s pretty much what’s holding our public school system together.
A day of PL with a representative from the Dept who was completely out of touch, followed by a terrific presentation on the amazing potential of IT use in our clasrooms, delivered by someone who works out of a private school just left me completely demoralised.
The Dept’s rep came to tell us all about how important assessment was, particularly formative assessment and shared some examples of better ways to assess. Apparently we all still ask kids to raise their hand in response to questions (ahem, really?!). She shared some ‘better’ ways and explained that in dealing with our tricky kids we should be doing one-on-one assessments to ascertain each child’s PZL.
Can you imagine the collective silent shaking of heads in disbelief?
I was just blown away that anyone would think any of this needed to be said. We are all passionate educators who are WELL aware of the importance and various methods of assessment. The information presented today was 20 years out of date. Even the graduates are taught all of this in their uni modules.
The problem is NOT a lack of awareness or desire. The problem is a lack of resources to make it happen.
When 90% of your Yr 8 class are operating between Year 2 and Year 5 levels but you aren’t allowed to treat them as a focus class and HAVE to somehow get them through the new national curriculum, what do you do?
When you have no educational assistants in your room and 30 high needs kids (and the associated behavioural issues that have come from years of task avoidance and insecurity) when exactly do you remove yourself and a single child to do said testing? 142+ times (because that’s how many students we have) several times in a year?
The problem is one of logistics.
Our funding has been cut to the quick. We know where they’re at. We know what they need but we are not equipped to teach these kids how to read when we have such high demands on us to get through a program. And that’s where we’re all doomed to fail, because how do you get kids through a program when they can’t read the texts or communicate in writing the things they need to?
Our staff are so badly overworked, it’s crazy. Aside from the bubble gum and stickytape, goodwill is the other thing that holds things together as best as possible. And frankly, that’s not good enough.
I’m sad and tired. We teach to make a difference and for a few we do, but for every kid we help we’re painfully aware of the 29 we’ve let down.
And then there’s the IT issue. Oh gosh.
We were asked, ‘How do you use IT in the classroom.’ It seems very few people in the room do. I shared what my class does – as I’m keen for IT use – but pointed out that this only happens when we can access the computers, and even then half of them don’t work …. on a good day. So….
The conversation continued like this:
Presenter: Well you just have to get more creative in your approach to MAKE it work. At MY childrens’ school, laptops are just on the book list and every kid just bring their’s to school.
Me: Um, your kids go to a private school right?
Me: Hmm. Yeah. We couldn’t do that here. Our families can’t afford laptops. Some don’t even have a single old computer at home.
2nd Presenter steps in: Well, at OUR school, we use the BYOD (Bring your own device) method. The Yr 5/6s bring them in everyday now. (Ah – a primary school!)
Me: Well, in theory that would be good, I guess we could lend some to some of the class, but how did your parents react to that? With regards to the risk of theft and damage.
2nd P: Well we have guidelines. They have to keep them with them all day so nothing happens. We don’t have any theft problems.
Me: What about during PE? They have to leave their bags unattended. We are a very large school and theft is a significant problem.
P: Well then you have to get creative in your thinking…. the PE teacher just has to lock them in his office.
Me: 90 bags in a teeny office? (Our classes have PE at the same time)
P: Well, then you get those special lockers that we have – very slim ones that are purpose built for laptops.
Me: Aren’t those expensive?
P: Well, yes, but you tell your admin that THIS year, instead of buying new laptops/computers you want to invest in a set of the lockers. Really, it’s all about getting more creative in your thinking instead of finding excuses why things can’t work.
I was quiet after this. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that we were not a school who gets new computers every 12 months. In fact, we are lucky to get upgrades for our software every 5 years. Different worlds. He just had no clue.
And I cried inwardly thinking about the gap that widens with each passing year between the haves and have-nots in our education system and the impact it has on our students’ futures. And the fact that teachers working in the public system KNOW the limitations, and we are hushed again and again by politicians who ignored the Gonski report they funded (because it told them things they didn’t want to hear) and tell our country that we are brilliantly resourced and that everything is fine, and that teachers need to stop whining and get on with the job of teaching. That WE are the cause of the dropping rates in literacy and numeracy and the loss of our competitive edge in the world of technology.
And I guess that’s that. Pass the sticky tape, will you?