BILINGUAL EDUCATION

HERE WE GO AGAIN

(The sage of bilingual education)

Please, please,

Whatever you do,

Do NOT think,

Bilingualism is new.

It has come and it’s gone,

For six decades or more,

From the highest of ceilings,

To flat on the floor.

They say ‘yes’ then say ‘no’,

It starts, stops and then’s all the go,

Green light then red, it makes you so dizzy,

Does the concept have substance,

Or is it all fizzy?

They’ve argued for decades,

For scores of years,

Nothing is settled,

The subject brings tears,

Of euphoria and despair,

Of love and then hate,

It’s still all in the air.

POH

WHAT IS ISOLATION

Those living and working in remote communities in the 2020’s do not understand isolation and what it means.

Most remote communities these days have access to telephone communications and the internet. Services can be irregular at times but they are there. Phone conversations, FaceTime and Zoom are available, keeping those providing remote area service with personal and professional contact opportunitie

Fax machines have been available in some places while email means that the speed of written communication has overcome the isolation and delays of snail mail as the only option for the transmission of correspondence.

My first teaching appointment was to Warburton Ranges (WA) in 1970, an Aboriginal community over five hundred of kilometres from the nearest town . A mail and supply truck came once every six weeks. We had to rely on outback radio overseen by the mission nursing station for transmission of messages. That was weather permitting and provided there was room on the schedule for our communications.

This is no fairy tale. It is for real.

How would outback teachers cope these days?

SCHOOLS SHOULD BE FOR CHILDREN

All school pedagogy put should put children first. When the Northern Territory took on responsibility for education in 1979, our first director was Dr Jim Eedle.

In March of that year he gather all Principals of Northern Territory schools to a conference in Katherine. He said to us in his inimitable way of speaking, that we should always remember that “schools are for children”.

This he said was the prime function of schools. He went on to say that structure and organisation should always be about supporting function, the looking after of education for children. He suggested that if structure became the all important thing, that the quality of function would diminish.

Fast forward 40 years, and I think that the function of education is now well and truly in the shadow of structure. How I would love to have a revisitation to the words and sentiments of our first Director.

WHY OUR STUDENTS FALL BEHIND

In recent weeks, a lot of commentary has been directed toward shortfalls in student accomplishment. Australian students are regularly compared with their Asian peers. More money and material resources are directed toward our education than in Asia. Yet, our results are inferior to those earned by Asian students. The gap between Australian and overseas results continues to widen.

There are two issues that need to be considered when undertaking comparative study of this nature.

History needs to repeat

Until the late 1970s teachers were trained in how to teach maths, spelling, english, science, social education and so on. Teaching methods for every subject had to be passed before teachers graduated. This was by far and away the most important aspect of training. That is no longer the case. While content is covered, the way teachers go about teaching that subject matter, is generally left to what they glean from practice teaching periods.

While teachers on practice get an idea of how subjects are taught in their training schools, subject awareness and method is given less treatment than used to be the case.

Student Attitude

Asian students have a real thirst for learning. They are eager to attend school, always remaining focused and concentrated. They diligently complete all aspects of lesson requirements and pay close attention to their teachers. They realise that learning can be challenging, but succeed because of inner motivation. Parents and family members are fully supportive of their efforts.

There is a great deal of focus on rote learning and doing what teachers say. Students are inclined towards learning and achieve outcomes that are more significant than those of their Australian peers.

Within our educational systems, teachers are urged to ‘motivate’ children so they ‘want’ to learn. The desire to achieve has to come from within, as it does for our Asian counterparts. It cannot be instilled from without. That is an important part of attitude that often seems to be lacking in the Australian context. Overseas students are eager to attend school. Lateness and absence blemish many of our own school attendance records.

A parallel issue is that of classroom behaviour. Although not talked about openly, the behaviour of many students at both primary and secondary levels leaves a lot to be desired. Teachers spend as much, if not more time, on providing for classroom management and discipline as they do in teaching. This destroys instructional time and is not fair on those who are keen to learn.

These are issues that need to be corrected if our students are ever to attain the levels achieved by their Asian counterparts.

Classroom tidiness

School days are hectic and “hurly-burly”. There is so much to do and so little time in which to do it! That being the case, it is easy for teachers and students to overlook the need for classrooms and personal space within (desks, tables, lockers and so on) to be kept in a reasonably clean and tidy state.

There can be nothing worse than opening a student desk to see a mass of learning material, waste material, socks, hats, toys, and other bits and pieces shoved in all higgledy-piggledy and to the extent that it’s hard to exert the pressure necessary to force the desk lid closed.

Another area easily sullied is the classroom floor. Pencil shavings, bits of writing tool, pieces of paper of all sizes, items of clothing, food scraps and wrappings if children needed the tables and other things finish up as then try to strewing around on the floor. Often the floors left in the polluted state until cleaners come in at the end of the day and endeavour to straighten out the chaos.

That is not a good look! Neither does it do anything for the reputation of the class or teacher – for cleaners certainly talk amongst themselves and to each other about the state of things they find in classrooms.

They need to be some basic rules about classroom cleanliness and tidiness. That can be hard because of pressure is driving on teachers and students. Nevertheless it is necessary. Some suggestions:

. Have children periodically (at least once a week) go through and clean the lockers of residue.

. Undertake the same routine for desks but possibly a little more often. Make sure the children have loose papers fastened into books or folders is the case might be.

. Have children or students pick up any rubbish from the floor at the end of each session or period. That become something done before recess and lunch breaks. If insisted upon that process becomes “automatic”, a habit of many children will undertake without having to be reminded.

. (Ensure that the above applies equally to older students as well as younger. Students will sometimes argue that it is not “cool” to pick up after oneself and to keep things tidy. That particular lackadaisical mindset needs to be overcome.)

. Check the children keep refrigerators closed and lunchboxes tidy within.

. If children aged lunches in the classroom, check to make sure that their lunch containers are clean, that they keep their food as they should, and that any genuine rubbish goes into the bin.

. Cupboards and, and Benchtops belong to the whole class. Include those areas in the cleanliness and tidiness drive. It might be appropriate to assign particular students groups to particular common areas within the classroom and it becomes their responsibility to ensure that tidiness is maintained.

* Make sure that the teacher for example is one that models to children. Teachers tables and work areas need to be kept tidy and organised in the same way as being advocated for children. There is nothing more powerful than personal example.

. Having students involved in group competitions reward cleanliness and tidiness in my opinion is a good idea. Rewards can be extrinsic or intrinsic. Reinforcing the need for positive civic attitudes is important and putting clean, tidy needs into some competitive context can be quite fun.

School days are hectic and “hurly-burly”. There is so much to do and so little time in which to do it! That being the case, it is easy for teachers and students to overlook the need for classrooms and personal space within (desks, tables, lockers and so on) to be kept in a reasonably clean and tidy state.

There can be nothing worse than opening a student desk to see a mass of learning material, waste material, socks, hats, toys, and other bits and pieces shoved in all higgledy-piggledy and to the extent that it’s hard to exert the pressure necessary to force the desk lid closed.

Another area easily sullied is the classroom floor. Pencil shavings, bits of writing tool, pieces of paper of all sizes, items of clothing, food scraps and wrappings if children needed the tables and other things finish up as then try to strewing around on the floor. Often the floors left in the polluted state until cleaners come in at the end of the day and endeavour to straighten out the chaos.

That is not a good look! Neither does it do anything for the reputation of the class or teacher – for cleaners certainly talk amongst themselves and to each other about the state of things they find in classrooms.

They need to be some basic rules about classroom cleanliness and tidiness. That can be hard because of pressure is driving on teachers and students. Nevertheless it is necessary. Some suggestions:

. Have children periodically (at least once a week) go through and clean the lockers of residue.

. Undertake the same routine for desks but possibly a little more often. Make sure the children have loose papers fastened into books or folders is the case might be.

. Have children or students pick up any rubbish from the floor at the end of each session or period. That become something done before recess and lunch breaks. If insisted upon that process becomes “automatic”, a habit of many children will undertake without having to be reminded.

. (Ensure that the above applies equally to older students as well as younger. Students will sometimes argue that it is not “cool” to pick up after oneself and to keep things tidy. That particular lackadaisical mindset needs to be overcome.)

. Check the children keep refrigerators closed and lunchboxes tidy within.

. If children aged lunches in the classroom, check to make sure that their lunch containers are clean, that they keep their food as they should, and that any genuine rubbish goes into the bin.

. Cupboards and, and Benchtops belong to the whole class. Include those areas in the cleanliness and tidiness drive. It might be appropriate to assign particular students groups to particular common areas within the classroom and it becomes their responsibility to ensure that tidiness is maintained.

* Make sure that the teacher for example is one that models to children. Teachers tables and work areas need to be kept tidy and organised in the same way as being advocated for children. There is nothing more powerful than personal example.

. Having students involved in group competitions reward cleanliness and tidiness in my opinion is a good idea. Rewards can be extrinsic or intrinsic. Reinforcing the need for positive civic attitudes is important and putting clean, tidy needs into some competitive context can be quite fun.

EDUCATIONAL POINTS TO PONDER

TOO MANY people with ‘disconnect’ from prima facie educational delivery engage, sincerely but from a remote viewpoint, in ‘earnestly’ shaping educational futures. All many do, with respect, is to muddy the waters. Students and teachers at the chalkface become the victims of their enthusiasms and the guinea pigs sacrificed to their pet theories. That is precisely what is happening with Aboriginal education. Interestingly, people like myself who spent years in this educational domain are never asked to offer responses levied at systems by theorists. It is a shame that practitioners are so often discounted with the words of academics in ivory towers and far removed from prime places of teaching and learning, being the only propositions that count.

Many of the ‘new’ ideas tried by government and departments in the NT have been tried and disgarded in past times. As we are so abysmal at keeping historical records, new leaders don’t have a clue about past times. So often our recall of the past stops at yesterday. We need to get smarter about recording and revisiting and learning from our past.

NAPLAN being out of the educational picture this year, was the one positive in what has been a difficult educational year. May this testing regime, a distraction and bane of Australian education since 2008, stay gone.

EDUCATIONAL POINTS TO PONDER

A program desperately needed as part of a curriculum component for students at every grade level in all schools, is one that highlights the importance of saving money. Young people everywhere are bombarded with advertising urging them to spend. Far too many Australians do not have savings plans and therefore no funds to fall back on in times of hardship. The value of money and the importance of saving need to be stressed ; without that, ‘living beyond our means’ and being perpetually in debt will be a never-ending Australian cultural characteristic.

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Student unrest and disputes between children in school yards particularly at the end of school days is becoming a problem in an increasing number of schools. Without doubt, mobile telephones and social media contacts between students from different schools contributes to the problem because fights often from online teasing. It would be far better if schools required phones to be handed in at the start of each school day, being returned as students leave for home. Or better still, leave phones at home.

All the very best to our students and teachers (and support staff) or was they get ready for the commencement of term for.

This is the culminating term when all the hard work comes together, hopefully in a way that leads to celebration. The year has been hard and the resilience capacity of students will tell in terms of final assessments.

REJOICE FOR OTHERS

Teaching is a significant profession, in my opinion the most important of all. From time to time colleagues and those with whom we work May be recognised and celebrated by the conferral of awards.

It can be easy for professional jealousy to creep into the thinking of those who feel they should be publicly recognised but have missed out.

A test of true collegiality is rejoicing in the success of others, appreciating what they are doing for the system. Thanking and congratulating them on their successes and what they’re achieving for education can often mean as much to them as the award itself.

Unfortunately we live in an age where Balkanisation and selfishness somewhat to the four. It’s in this context of jealousy and envy for the success of others can be quite an doing of one’s own personal attitude. “Why not me?” Becomes the salient question. People who dwell on perceived injustice is associated with nonrecognition can become quite cynical and spoiling of their own characters and outlook. Feeling good for others and genuinely rejoicing in their successes can help build personal self-esteem and build positive this of attitude.

From time to time throughout my career I’ve confronted this particular issue and been enriched by having appreciated the efforts and recognition bestowed upon others.

Education is the collective profession, one that is most effective when we are all pulling in the same direction.

EDUCATIONAL POINTS TO PONDER

TOO MANY people with ‘disconnect’ from prima facie educational delivery engage, sincerely but from a remote viewpoint, in ‘earnestly’ shaping educational futures. All many do, with respect, is to muddy the waters. Students and teachers at the chalkface become the victims of their enthusiasms and the guinea pigs sacrificed to their pet theories.

That is precisely what is happening with Aboriginal education. Interestingly, people like myself who spent years in this educational domain are never asked to offer responses levied at systems by theorists. It is a shame that practitioners are so often discounted with the words of academics in ivory towers and far removed from prime places of teaching and learning, being the only propositions that count.

Many of the ‘new’ ideas tried by government and departments in the NT have been tried and disgarded in past times. As we are so abysmal at keeping historical records, new leaders don’t have a clue about past times. So often our recall of the past stops at yesterday. We need to get smarter about recording and revisiting and learning from our past.

CARRY ON MISSES THE EDUCATIONAL BOAT

Aboriginal (these days Indigenous) Education has been examined from so many angles over so many years and in so many ways, that there is really nothing left to examine that hasn’t been examined before. Educationists have developed plans built in plans that have grown from plans.

If it only took plans, Indigenous Education would be the most enriched and most successful elements of all branches of Education bar none.

It is what happens to plans after the research is done and the reports are written. Educators make whoopee about the research and its findings for two days. Then the report is shelved and any planning is archived, generally before it is trialled.

It’s juxtapositional that for all the attention paid to Indigenous Education, everyone seems happy to skirt the major issue and key impediment to student progress. The over-arching deficit is that school attendance has always been treated as optional. Unless and until school attendance becomes obligatory in action and not just a stated need, student outcomes will not improve.