VIGNETTES SERIES 15: SOCRATIC DISCUSSION

VIGNETTES SERIES 15: SOCRATIC DISCUSSION

These three vignettes encapsulate a superior method of developing classroom discourse for students of all ages. It is a method that worked for me over many years and I’d highly recommend this approach when developing classroom discussions.
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VIGNETTE 45

SOCRATIC DISCUSSION (1)

Please consider the following as a method of introducing quality discourse to students in classrooms. From experience, I can confirm this approach to conversation and discussing issues works really well. It can be tailored to engage children from early childhood through to upper secondary. it is a method that also works well with adults.
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1 SOCRATIC DISCUSSION

MY CONNECTION

I first learned of ‘Socratic Discussion’ when attending an Australian Education Union summer school program in Canberra during the 1991/92 school holiday period.

The program was one of a number offered as workshop options for participants. The presenter was Nancy Letts an educator and facilitator from New York USA. I enrolled in the workshop out of curiosity.

The deeper into the workshop participants were immersed, the more convinced i became that this discourse and discussion methodology was one that would work well in classroom contexts. It had worried me for a long time that children tended to be ‘all mouth and no ears’ when it came to speaking and listening. Part of this was manifest by the ‘kill space’ syndrome. If someone was speaking, listeners listened only for a brief pause. That pause was licence to verbally jump into the space, whether the speaker had finished or was merely pausing for breath.

Children, along with adult models, tended to criticise peers for holding viewpoints, rather than appreciating speakers for putting forward particular views on subjects.

Socratic Discussion offered an alternative whereby students could be trained or developed as respectful participants, appreciating peers and considering points of view offered in discussion.

The workshop was one of the very best I have ever attended because it had applicability. During the years since, I have done quite a lot of work around the model.

* It has been applied since 1992 in class contexts and for all year levels from transition to Year Seven ( when the sevens were still in Primary School).

* I ran workshops for students drawn from a number of primary schools who came together weekly at Dripstone Middle School as those ‘enriched’ and needing to here challenged by extension. One student was James Mousa whose commentary about Socrates is reproduced elsewhere.

Part of this was an evening culmination when students presented and modelled Socratic Discussion to their parents, running the evening from start to finish.

* It has ben modelled to teachers who have taken the approach on board in their own practice.

* I have conducted six or seven workshops with groups, outlining the concept and having the groups practice the process. Feedback has always been appreciative and many of those attending have taken the approach on board in their own situations.

How the Socratic Approach helps children

I believe Socratic Discussion is of benefit to children for the following reasons:

* It dissuades from the old fashioned ideal that ‘children should be seen and not heard’ but in a way that encourages structured rather than unthinking and garrulous approach to conversation.

* It helps persuade children that ‘all mouth and no ears’ (over-talking and under-listening) need not be a perception held of them.

* It is a process that balances the skills of speaking and listening in a positive educational manner.

* It is also a process upholding the rights of children to hold and express opinions; it reinforces the value of youthful points of view.

* It highlights the honesty and impediment free factors generally inherent in the speech of young people.

* The value of student voice is reinforced, with children who participate appreciating the fact that worth and value is placed on what they and their peers say.
In a Nutshell

Socratic Discussion is an ISSUES BASED APPROACH to thinking and speaking.

The important element is the process. The issue is a means too understanding that end.

The process is issues focussed not personalities directed: It aims to build not destroy.

Listeninng, thinking and speaking are all key skills appealed to and developed by the process.
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VIGNETTE 46

SOCRATIC DISCUSSION (2)

This is the second part of a topic offered in three segments. There is some repetition but this is a very significant topic. It begins with a focussing statement prepared by a student from Alawa School (many years ago).
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SOCRATIC DISCUSSION SECOND PART

MY CONNECTION

I first learned of ‘Socratic Discussion’ when attending an Australian Education Union summer school program in Canberra during the 1991/92 school holiday period.

The program was one of a number offered as workshop options for participants. The presenter was Nancy Letts an educator and facilitator from New York USA. I enrolled in the workshop out of curiosity.

The deeper into the workshop participants were immersed, the more convinced i became that this discourse and discussion methodology was one that would work well in classroom contexts. It had worried me for a long time that children tended to be ‘all mouth and no ears’ when it came to speaking and listening. Part of this was manifest by the ‘kill space’ syndrome. If someone was speaking, listeners listened only for a brief pause. That pause was licence to verbally jump into the space, whether the speaker had finished or was merely pausing for breath.

Children, along with adult models, tended to criticise peers for holding viewpoints, rather than appreciating speakers for putting forward particular views on subjects.

Socratic Discussion offered an alternative whereby students could be trained or developed as respectful participants, appreciating peers and considering points of view offered in discussion.

The workshop was one of the very best I have ever attended because it had applicability. During the years since, I have done quite a lot of work around the model.

* It has been applied since 1992 in class contexts and for all year levels from transition to Year Seven ( when the sevens were still in Primary School).

* I ran workshops for students drawn from a number of primary schools who came together weekly at Dripstone Middle School as those ‘enriched’ and needing to here challenged by extension. One student was James Mousa whose commentary about Socrates is reproduced elsewhere.

Part of this was an evening culmination when students presented and modelled Socratic Discussion to their parents, running the evening from start to finish.

* It has ben modelled to teachers who have taken the approach on board in their own practice.

* I have conducted six or seven workshops with groups, outlining the concept and having the groups practice the process. Feedback has always been appreciative and many of those attending have taken the approach on board in their own situations.

How the Socratic Approach helps children

I believe Socratic Discussion is of benefit to children for the following reasons:

* It dissuades from the old fashioned ideal that ‘children should be seen and not heard’ but in a way that encourages structured rather than unthinking and garrulous approach to conversation.

* It helps persuade children that ‘all mouth and no ears’ (over-talking and under-listening) need not be a perception held of them.

* It is a process that balances the skills of speaking and listening in a positive educational manner.

* It is also a process upholding the rights of children to hold and express opinions; it reinforces the value of youthful points of view.

* It highlights the honesty and impediment free factors generally inherent in the speech of young people.

* The value of student voice is reinforced, with children who participate appreciating the fact that worth and value is placed on what they and their peers say.

In a Nutshell

Socratic Discussion is an ISSUES BASED APPROACH to thinking and speaking.

The important element is the process. The issue is a means too understanding that end.

The process is issues focussed not personalities directed: It aims to build not destroy.

Listeninng, thinking and speaking are all key skills appealed to and developed by the process.
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VIGNETTE 47

SOCRATIC DISCUSSION (3)

This entry is down to the nitty gritty of making Socratic Discussion a classroom focus.
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SOCRATIC DISCUSSION PART THREE

Socratic Discussion is a terrific and engaging method of discourse which can embrace everyone connected with a discussion. It is a genuine form of shared dialogue.

Socratic Discussion initially focuses on analysis of thought and meaning conveyed by text or some other ‘genesis’ of discussion. The pivot or focal point is the analysis of messages received by us as individuals. Viewpoints and perceptions are debated and defended. The focus is the opinion (message) not the person (messenger) offering the opinion.

In modern argument the issues are often neglected. The presenter is the focus of response, rather than what was said. This focus (on the presenter) is often negative and can take various forms. It may be gentle chiding, regular teasing or serious deriding and lampooning. The end result can be to discourage people from putting forward their opinions on issues. This leads to ‘dominant’ (as in dominating the agenda) and reticent group participants.

Socratic dialogue encourages speakers to bring their own authority (through knowledge) to debate. All opinions on the subject are sought and welcomed. The aim is to develop ‘issues focussed shared participation’.

Reflection (how do we explain what we know) is a part of the socratic process. Linear discussion (sharing through saying and not remaining silent) is an element of socratic dialogue.

Socratic discussion is healthy discussion because it enriches participants. You leave at the end of the period knowing more about the subject than when your entered the session. Participants also develop a respect for the ideas and opinions of others.

Socratic discussion is philosophical and clarifying in nature. We consider what we mean and what we know, from where our information is derived and what evidence we have in making statements.

A key purpose of socratic discussion is to enlarge meaning and enhance understanding. A key outcome is the honing of critical thinking skills, together with appreciation for the viewpoints of others.

In most adult forums of debate, especially parliament, children witness conversational methods that are hardly inspiring. In fact, question time in any parliament is a period during which a very poor exhibition of consideration and manners is on display. That is reinforced by the fact that it is generally question time which is shown on television. A very poor impression of how debate should be conducted is apparent.

Socratic discussion is an excellent, dialogue and discussion supporting tool. The method is a ‘model’ of dialogue which gently dissuades from the use of unacceptable strategies. Facilitation, with leaders leading from within and modelling procedure, enhances the socratic process.
AIMS OF SOCRATIC DISCUSSION
(Outcomes toward which discussion is directed)

* Socratic discussion focuses on analysis of thought and meaning conveyed by shared text and discussion of issues that arise.

* Messages conveyed are discussed with pros and cons being part of that discussion.

* Viewpoints and perceptions are debated and defended. People holding viewpoints are allowed to change their minds if persuaded by a counter-proposition.

* The focus of discussion is the OPINION not the person offering the opinion.

* In modern argument, issues are often neglected, with the presenter being the focus. This focus, often negative, can take various forms. It may be chiding, teasing, lampooning or bald and derogatory character assassination. With the advent of Facebook, twitter and other social media, personal attack can be quite hurtful, scarifying and even soul destroying. The result can be to discourage people from advancing their opinions on issues.

* Socratic discussion encourages speakers to contribute their knowledge and ideas on issues to the conversation. All opinions on the subject under discussion are weighed and valued. Socratic discussion enriches participants. One leaves the conversation knowing more about the subject than prior to the conversation. Participants also develop respect for the ideas and opinions of others.

* Socratic discussion is philosophical and clarifying in nature. Those involved consider what they mean and what they know. They learn about information sources and consider ‘evidence’ when adding their opinion into the discussion.

* A key purpose of discussion is to enlarge meaning and understanding about the subject under discussion. A key outcome is honing of critical thunking skills, together with appreciation of counter-viewpoints and the opinions of others.
SOCRATIC DISCUSSION: THE WAY IT WORKS

* Discussion leaders are facilitators.

* All participants get to lead if the group is sustained over time. As skills and understanding are acquired, participants gain in confidence and are prepared to accept the challenge of facilitating.

* All group members are equal. There are no hierarchical constructs.

* All participants get to speak. All have a right to question the opinions of others. All need to be prepared to justify their beliefs, but no one is ridiculed for holding particular and ‘different’ opinions on issues.

* Listening and considering the opinions of others is obligatory.

* De-briefing takes place at the end of each segment and session.

* Seating arrangements enable participants to sit in a circle facing each other. The facilitator is part of the circle. Standing is discouraged because seating places everyone on the same level and negates individual ‘shortness’ or ‘tallness’.

* Equal opportunity and equity are promoted by the process.

* The quality of ‘consideration’ is developed, including respect for each other and looking to draw others into the conversation.

* Discussion in open-ended. No belief is necessarily right, none necessarily wrong. Commitment to a position and willingness to share, defend and modify stance is a key element of socratic method. Influencing and being influenced by others is part of the group sharing process.

* Confidence is speech and verbal presentation are underpinning aims.

* Participants offer feedback, sharing what they learned with each other. Feedback is sought and must be willingly given. Group members have the right to pass during these personal response sessions if that is a preferred option.

POINTS ON FACILITATING

* When facilitating, ensure the following:

1. Children do not put their hands up in order to ask to speak. They wait for a pause in dialogue, and speak.

2. If more than one child begins to speak, encourage a process whereby one withdraws voluntarily, allows the other speaker to input, then enters her/his contribution.

3. Without undue intrusion, work to encourage recessive speakers while trying to reduce the impact that dominating speakers can have in group discourse.

4. If necessary and if there is a babble, call ‘time out’ offer praise and advice, then suggest when you call ‘time in’ a particular speaker, followed by another and another (by name).

5. Remind if necessary by calling ‘time out’ that the focus needs to be on the issue not the person speaking. (In time self realisation will cause participants to recognise that fact automatically).

6. As a facilitator call ‘time out’ for coaching purposes as necessary. As the group becomes more engaged in the process, the need for this intervention will become less frequent.

7. When participants are doing things right, it can be useful to call ‘time out’ and offer praise for the modelling.

8. The Facilitator

a. Sets the group in a circle ready for the discussion.
b. Reminds of basic rules including courtesy and politeness.
c. Offers a reading or discourse to stikulate interest.
d. Asks a focus question, repeating it twice.
e. Monitors the conversation and pros and cons that follow.
f. Asks follow up questions if necessary.
g. Allows the conversation to follow a natural course, including variance away from the original question – with a refocus of necessary through a supplementary question or questions.
h. Calls ‘time’ at the end of the discussion period.
i. Sums up the ‘ebb and flow’ of the conversation including the time the groups was involved in dialogue.
j. Invites participants to debrief, with each person in turn (working around the circle clockwise or anti-clockwise) invited to share something learned or something appreciated during the conversation.
k. Concludes by thanking participants and looking forward with them to the next session.

COACHING

As Socratic Discussion becomes ingrained within a group or class, it is wise for the teacher facilitator to coach students so they can take on facilitating roles. This might be with the whole class, or with a sub-group of class members.
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VIGNETTES SERIES 14: STUDENT POSITIVES

VIGNETTES SERIES 14: BUILDING POSITIVES FOR STUDENTS

It is the little things that help when it comes to entrenching positive characteristics and qualities.
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VIGNETTE 43

REWARDING THE EFFORT

Children owe it to themselves to do their best work in class. Sometimes they may think their work being done for teachers and parents. There are ways of helping children realise teachers and parents are supports, with the work being done ultimately for their benefit.

While ownership of work is vested in children, applauding their efforts helps when it comes to building pride in product and learning outcomes. It is discouraging for children who are trying their best, to be minimally recognised by teachers. Handwritten comments of praise, stamps, stars and stickers mean a lot. They are small tangibles that go a long way toward building justified pride in the hearts of children who have done their best. These small tokens of recognition are boosting for children. They love sharing their successes with parents, relations and friends.

Recognition of work and effort through merit certificates awarded at class or school assemblies is boosting for children. Classroom wall charts which track star awards are constant reminders of student success. Mention in school newsletters might be an option. Letting parents know about the efforts of their children by work of mouth, phone call or note might be an option. Rewards policies are often established by particular schools but a great deal of praising opportunity is left to the discretion of teachers.

Don’t overlook recognising effort by encouragement awards. It is nice to let children know their efforts at improvement are not going unnoticed.

Some schools allow teachers to purchase stickers and other reward tangibles from classroom allowances. If not, purchases of teaching aids and requisites are tax deductible. It is wise to keep receipts.

Recognising and rewarding the efforts of children, goes toward creating a positively happy classroom. Children are made to feel good about work outcomes while praising is uplifting for teachers.
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VIGNETTE 44

CORRECTING FOR POLITENESS SAKE

These days, manners are not practised by habit. Many children (and adults) are poorly mannered. It seems that a big percentage have never been taught the rudiments of good manners at home. Child care programs may try but their prime focus is on minding, not on teaching.

All too frequently children overlook ‘excuse me’, ‘please’, ‘thank you’. ‘i beg your pardon’ and so on. Although it gets monotonous, correcting students who overlook these essences of politeness and good manners is important. Commenting in a praising context to children who do remember to use these words and expressions can offer positive reinforcement.

One of the most frequent oversights occurs when children butt into conversations being held by teachers with another student or students. That impetuosity certainly needs correction. Children need to appreciate the need to wait their turn when dealing with teachers.

Manners can be broached through appropriately constructed lessons. To involve students in situational role play where manners need to be practised can help. Periodic classroom discussions about manners and politeness might be useful.
The subject could be broached through a Socratic Discussion session.

Strategies to reinforce the need for good manners including reinforcement through daily classroom interaction should be part of teaching and learning strategy.
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VIGNETTES SERIES 13: PERSONAL PROFESSIONAL CARE

VIGNETTES SERIES 13

Vignettes 41 and 42: TAKING PROFESSIONAL CARE OF YOURSELF

Note: Vignette 42 relates to Northern Territory Government advertising time frames. Adapt this advice to align with the time frame within your own system.
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VIGNETTE 41

BUILD YOUR CV

Building a curriculum vitae is a professional necessity that is too often overlooked. People tend to think ‘why bother’ or ‘I’ll remember’ when it comes to things they should be recording. Memory fades and with it the capacity to recall things that can help with job and promotion applications.

I would suggest considering buying an expanding file. Label each opening with one of the graduate standards suggested by AITSL. It would be wise to label them in order of the way the graduates standards are listed in documentation. Then as evidence of meeting graduate standards is provided, place a note about that in the relevant section of the file. Also include evidence confirming your meeting of those standards. Samples of student work from time to time may help, particularly if they verify teaching strategies and efforts. In addition it can be handy to keep a notebook into which you add jottings from time to time, for transfer to your CV.

Make sure you unload those jottings into the file possibly expanding them into a more detailed format before so doing.

As time goes on upgrade your file to consider standards for teachers gaining new understandings, proficiencies and experience. In that way your folder is of evidence is always up to date.

Make sure that as you update your expanded folder, to take out those things that are no longer relevant. They become secondary (aged) rather than primary (recent) evidence. When cleaning out the file my suggestion would be that rather than destroying documentation removed, you store it in some secondary way to be called on if necessary.

Photographic evidence confirming what you have done can be useful. With iPads and iPhones, taking supporting photographs becomes easy. My suggestion would be that you either print these photographs and add them to the folder or alternatively that you start an index on the device into which photographs can be added.

From time to time colleagues and superordinates, even parents might offer you written recommendations or references. Keeping these and adding them to your CV is important because those statements substantiate and validate what you have to say about yourself.

Developing sound methodology in relation to compiling evidence for CV purposes is a very good habit to establish and maintain.
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VIGNETTE 42

WRITING APPLICATIONS FOR POSITIONS

Opportunities will arise enabling teachers to transfer to other schools or move into promotional and support positions. It is generally wise to consider staying in a particular position for a number of years in order to gain experience and consolidate as members of the teaching profession.

Building a CV as suggested (Vignette 41) will ensure that up to date information is available when it comes to preparing an application for a desired position that may be advertised. Having background material ready is especially useful because positions that are advertised generally require applications to be lodged within a fortnight of the advertisement appearing.

Most advertisements are listed on the government website rather than being advertised in newspapers. A regular check of the website will ensure teachers are aware of available positions.

Advertisements include details of obtaining job descriptions (JD’s). It is essential to have the JD to hand when completing applications because this enables applications to be written specifically to the job criteria. Follow and specified word limits and write applications tightly so they encompass the JD in a relevant and sensible manner. Evidence of capacity should be included to demonstrate suitability against each of the criteria.

Criteria are generally listed as ‘essential’ or ‘desirable’. The essential criteria are basic to the position and need to attract a sufficiently detailed response from applicants. All responses should be salient and based on evidence. Avoid getting off the point when preparing applications.

Primary evidence of capacity to fill a position is most important. Primary evidence is the recent (within the last three years) confirmation of experience and ability within a particular field. Secondary evidence can be useful but should only be included in a supplementary or supportive context.

I would strongly advise that applications be written on the basis of a certain amount each day. There is often a tendency to leave applications to the last minute, meaning they can be rushed and ill prepared. Such applications sell applicants short. Consider the following method of approach.

* Spend the first two days in reading the JD and writing key word points to be
expanded when you write the application.
* Write your CV which attaches to the application using headings suggested.
* Referring to your CV and considering other documentary evidence, write to each
point of the JD, setting yourself a goal of so much each day. Don’t over-write on
one day then leaving the task for two or three days before re-visiting.
* Periodically re-read the JD and requirements to make sure you keep on track and
don’t include extraneous detail.
* If the application is due by COB on a Friday, aim to finish it on the Tuesday
prior, including proof reading. It would be useful to have a colleague or spouse
then ready your documentation and offer feedback. Have this done so you can
spend time on the Thursday before lodgement is due, including final changes.
* Editing, including spelling and grammatical context is important.
* When lodging an application, ask for an email confirming its receipt.
* Make sure you keep a copy of your application, preferably a hard copy as well as
one that has been electronically saved.

Sometimes people defer from writing applications for positions because it all seems too hard. Remember, ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained.’
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VIGNETTES 38 – 40: ‘ALL ABOUT TIME’

VIGNETTES SERIES 12

Vignettes 38 – 40   ALL ABOUT TIME
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VIGNETTE 38

TIME TELLING AND TIME AWARENESS

These days many many children have difficulty in telling the time. It is important that children learn to tell and to appreciate time as early in life as possible. One of the things heading to confusion is the fact that we have both digital and analogue time telling devices.

I would strongly suggest the wisdom in having a decent analog clock in each classroom. If the school doesn’t supply clocks, a quite readable analog can be purchased from any supermarket for no more than about six or seven dollars. The clock would need to be of sufficient size to be clearly read from the back of the classroom. The numbers ‘1’ to ’12’ are preferable to those with other markers denoting five minute intervals.
While more expensive I would also suggest a digital clock to be displayed somewhere in the room. That will help students when it comes to comparisons between analogue and digital time telling.

No device is of any use if it is ignored! To that end, reference to time by teachers is important. There are many games available that help students when it comes to time telling. Another strategy may be for teachers to draw attention to the clock(s) as the day reaches towards milestones. That may be recess, lunchtime, home time, the start of art, physical education lessons and so on. I believe that after a period of time children will begin to learn to avert their eyes toward clocks and possibly to remind the teacher about what is coming up and what is happening next.

Time telling is very much a part of functional literacy. People who don’t know how to tell the time can become quite lost.

To appreciate time quotients it may help for teachers to tell students undertaking activities at what time that lesson is due to finish. They then begin to understand how long they have to go. This can help students organise their time and to work out how much should have been completed by the time a particular period in lapses.

A useful activity is to give children blank clock faces and ask them by inserting minute and hour hands, to show particular times dictated in a mental exercise. Variation on this might be to ask students to show their favourite time of the day and why it is that this is a highlight time.

To develop exercises drawing attention to both analogue and digital time telling is a way of having students understand both methodologies.

This might sound like an exercise that is never ending. However children will become time literate with practice and importantly have an understanding of what time means. Time management is an issue that often challenges people, including adults. To help students gain an understanding and appreciation of time and why it is important cannot be overstated.
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VIGNETTE 39

LEARNING TAKES TIME

It is easy to make the mistake as teachers, of thinking we have to approach teaching in a rip, tear, rush manner. There is so much to be taught and so little time in which to do it, that the only option is to cram and cram. It is easy to think like that because of the huge load placed on schools and staff.

Learning takes time. Brain and cognitive development does not come all at once. Rather the process is graduated and in sync with the overall physical and mental development of children. We need to keep this in mind, teaching empathetically and patiently.

This is not an easy exercise in our modern classrooms. There is so much pressuring in and upon teachers, that quite often the only thing of seeming importance is to cram in as much learning opportunity as possible. Children need to have time to understand and digest the concepts being taught. The traditional lesson of introducing new concepts, teaching then revising and extending in the cyclical way was a good method of operation. It still works in this day and age. Crowding too much into shorter periods of time will leave students with half understandings and cause them to be very frustrated learners.

Reinforcement is important. The joy of learning is to understand what one has been offered from a learning viewpoint. This means pacing learning steadily and carefully, not always easy because of the imperatives trust on teachers. Getting the balance right between quantity (volume” and quality (manner of teaching”) is important. Volume learning is frustrating for students. The emphasis on quantity so that ticks can be placed against lists of things to be taught to the disadvantage of quality is unfortunate.

One way of a judging how well students are learning is to take them aside individually or in small groups is to discuss with them what’s been taught. If they can come back to you in a relaxed conversational manner showing understanding then it becomes clear that the right quantity/quality nexus is being met. If students appear to have no clues at all, then obviously the amount being crammed is overdone.

I believe that learning opportunities have to be consistent but “making haste slowly” is developing teaching in the right direction. One quality that is absolutely necessary when teaching is to have patience, to be prepared to spend time doing things with children so that learning sticks.
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VIGNETTE 40

TAKE TIME TO RELAX

Teachers need to remember that there is more to life than teaching. I believe it important for teachers take time to relax and in that relaxation to get right away from their professional obligations. One good way of doing this is to leave school at school and not to take it home. It may be that teachers start work early or leave school late in order to accomplish what needs to be done; that is wiser than putting school into bags and cases to take home in order to work on at night.

Teachers need relaxation, time with families, and to extend their interests and activities to life beyond classrooms. Dedication is important but to become introverted and narrowly focused on teaching and classroom does little to expand personal development for educators. Already a great deal of “out of class room” time is asked of teachers for extra curricular activities associated with schools. Then there’s the professional development needs that ask teachers to spend time after work and at weekends honing their professional skills. school camps, reporting nights and the many, many hours it takes to prepare school reports add to the extracurricular list.

While most teachers are motivated by the desire to work with and develop children, the issue of reward does come into contention. NT Teachers are paid for 36.75 hours each week. However, the vast majority put in 15 or 20, sometimes more hours each week over and above the time recognised by renumeration. This time is generally given willingly. It is easy to see why teaching can become a profession that totally consumes people.

Work life balance is important, and something that should always be taken into account.
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SNIPPETS FOR EDUCATORS (4)

 

SNIPPETS FOR EDUCATORS (4)

Continuing thoughts that educators may find useful.

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DON’T IGNORE HANDWRITING

Handwriting for students IS important. So many have little skill when it comes to pencil or pen hold. They lack mastery of the written word and the tools they should be able to manipulate with ease.
SCHOOL REFORM NEEDS SETTLING TIME

School improvement and reform are constant agenda items. Schools and staff need breathing time in order to fully implement ideas and ideas. Frenetic movement from change to change is dysfunctional.
TAKE CARE WITH WORDS

Words written via computer are indelible and everlasting words. They cannot be expunged. Think carefully before writing.
TIME HAS FLED

The older I get, the faster time seems to go. It seems that Monday is no sooner here than Friday is about to end. It was like that for me in my final years of full time work, and with retirement the time flying foot is even heavier on the accelerator.

Dispositionally, the mind remains active and engaged, to the point of not conceptualising age. Nevertheless, chronological enhancement increasingly impacts on my physical frame.

When I graduated as a teacher, time seemed to stretch into infinity. Upon looking back, it has passed in a flash. This lends credence to advice so often given, that we should make every day count.
SAYERS AND DOERS

“Do as I say”, or “Do as I do” can be a question begging an answer. There are plenty of sayers but those who ‘do’ for education, the workers, gain the respect of those with whom they associate.
BUILD YOUNG PEOPLE UP

So many young people feel pessimistic about the future and where the world is going. One of our key responsibilities must be to encourage them and help them feel a sense of purpose and worth in life.
‘RESPECT’ A KEY ESSENCE

We need to work on building confidence and trust between those within our schools and workplaces. Good leaders know that respect is an essence, a quality like glue that binds us in oneness and unity.
DOCTORATES SHOULD NOT BE GIFTED

By and large I appreciate universities and the efforts made to extend tertiary opportunity to students both internally and externally. Universities have to work hard to balance their research and teaching arms, with funding being a constant consideration. Neither do I believe it unfair for students to contribute to their tertiary education through fees charged. Many governments underpin universities by advancing student loans which begin to be paid back when those graduates become earners.

However, my concern has always been the way the university play up the conferral of honorary doctorates. This for mine discounts the honour due to hardworking students whose degrees come at great cost and substantial debt. I feel a focus on honorary qualifications degrades the quality of their work and effort.

Sportspeople, politicans, community contributors and notary publics should never be recognised with honorary doctorates or conferred professorships. Universities who indulge in this practice for the sake of attaching a prominent person to the university discredit academe.
TEACHERS AND PRINCIPALS, WHERE IS YOUR VOICE?

I believe many teachers are frightened to speak up. It may be a fear of ridicule but more likely to be a concern if they speak up and rock the boat, there could be negative ramifications for their future employment. Certainly many school leaders belong to the frightened class because they are on end dated contracts and worry lest speaking up jeopardises their chances of contract renewal. This concern prevents many who would and should speak up from so doing.
RELAX AND REFLECT

Take time each evening to relax and reflect on the day that has passed. Rejoice in successes and resolve that tomorrow’s challenges will be faced squarely, mastered and become tomorrow’s celebrations.
ISSUES OF BULLYING NEED TO BE FIXED, NOT IGNORED

As a school principal I always appreciated being told about bullying conduct. If you don’t know about a problem you can’t work on fixing it, for either the bullied or the bully.
KEEP CHILDREN ACROSS MATTERS OF DANGER

If OHS emergencies occur at school, remain calm and as measured in response and reaction. It is important for children and students to understand as much as possible to ameliorate their raw fear.

SUNS 83 and 84: ‘THE EISTEDDFOD IS HISTORY’ and ‘SCHOOL UNIFORMS A POSITIVE POLICY’

SUNS 82 and 83: ‘THE EISTEDDFOD IS HISTORY’ and ‘SCHOOL UNIFORMS A POSITIVE POLICY.
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THE EISTEDDFOD IS NO MORE

Many people now living in Darwin, Palmerston and the Top End have never heard of the North Australian Eisteddfod. The Eisteddfod, an arts and cultural exposition available to Top End Territorians, folded nearly five years ago. It had been an institution for 48 years.

The Eisteddfod used to run for two weeks in May each year. It offered school students from our top end schools, including Katherine, Arnhemland and remote communities, the chance to display their talents to appreciative audiences.

The Eisteddfod was held at the Darwin Entertainment Centre (DEC). It provided competition in singing, instrumental performance, dance, drama, poetry, reading, speaking and other cultural areas.

There was ongoing commitment to the Eisteddfod by an organising committee of volunteers. Schools, dance companies, music groups and others participated. The program was for both students and adults as individuals, small groups and large ensembles. Entry fees were modest and affordable. Prize money, perpetual trophies and individual mementos of success were on offer.

A hiring subsidy offered by the Entertainment Centre made the venue affordable. Entry fees defrayed some of the operating costs.

In its later years, the Eisteddfod began to struggle. Costs were increasing and the program did not have a guaranteed income stream. The Department of Education offered some administrative and financial support. A substantial donation came from an anonymous supporter. However, the program was mothballed. The only thing remaining is for this Association to be formally wound up.

Several factors have contributed to the demise of this iconic annual cultural event.
* The retirement of key committee members.
* The inability of the committee to attract new members.
* The scarcity of volunteers to help stage the event.
* Lack of guaranteed income because government funding had to be applied for each year. A triennial funding arrangement would have helped but was never endorsed.
* The takeover of May, the historical Eisteddfod month, by NAPLAN programs that impacted all schools. Commitments in place made the finding of another time-slot awkward.

The Eisteddfod’s disappearance into the annals of history is deeply disappointing.
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SCHOOL UNIFORMS : A POSITIVE POLICY

From time to time the issue of school uniforms gains traction in the press. This happened recently with the NT News reporting ructions about dress standards at Casuarina Senior College. The concerns expressed by a small group are not representative of the College as a whole.

The uniform issue in the NT goes back to the 1970’s. I have read and been told that before Cyclone Tracy school uniform was part of life for government school students, but not afterwards. Personal experience dating from 1987 is that uniform wearing in Darwin was optional for primary students and non- existent for their peers in secondary school.

Principals and school councils desirous of students wearing uniform were not supported by the Education Department or Government. Uniforms were available, but worn by a minority of children, usually those in Early Childhood. Competition to encourage uniform wearing included acknowledgement of best dressed classes each week. Some schools had mascots awarded weekly to the class with the most students in uniform.

In 2006, the Henderson Labour Government began moving in the direction of school uniforms. Department policy released in 2009 states the official position for primary and middle schools. “All students in Northern Territory Government schools from Transition to Year 9 are required to wear an authorised school uniform whilst on school premises and when attending official school activities during and after school hours. …
School uniform policies must include the following elements:

1. A requirement that students wear an authorised school uniform

2. Measures to address short and long-term exceptional circumstances that may be faced by a student or their family. For example, cultural and/or religious considerations and financial hardship.

3. Measures to address health and safety considerations such as appropriate footwear, hats and other sun protection factors.”

Since then, the uniform policy has been extended to include students in senior years Government schools.

Those attending private schools, both Catholic and Independent have always had uniforms as part of their dress code. That is one of the elements about private school education that over the years has appealed to many parents and students.

There are many positives derived from adherence to a school uniform policy:

* It builds pride in the school providing a sense of identity.
* It avoids argument and heartache caused when students feel embarrassed when not
in costly designer dress.
* It reminds students when they are in public or on excursions they are representatives
of their schools.
* It offers clothing affordability. Many schools sell second-hand uniforms in good
condition which helps defray school costs.

The introduction of dress codes for government schools is one of the best policies developed in recent years.

VIGNETTES 35 – 37 : More Tips for Teachers

VIGNETTES SERIES 11

Vignettes 35 – 37
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Vignette 35

DON’T DISCOUNT DRAMA
Drama is an area often underdone in classrooms. It is generally seen to be a subject that must give way to more important requirements, like getting on with language maths science and other key subjects. Drama is seen as a diversion taking attention away from key learning and conceptual areas.

That this happens it’s a pity. Rather than being an isolated standalone subject, drama can be used to correlate and integrate with other subjects. It can be used to reinforce learning by putting students into a context of acting out situations about which they’ve been learning. It offers a first hand experience rather than being second and third hand. it allows students to engage with and immerse themselves in experiencing what it was really like to be a part of the past

Children love to play and to pretend. To reinforce literature, stories been told, history, even mathematical and scientific concepts through acting them out and in gauging through play can be reinforcing.

Sometimes teachers feel drama is a subject that is below them. They feel embarrassed about the idea of getting involved with students in dramatic play situations. Drama can be a very vibrant and engaging area and for teachers to involve convinces students of the authenticity of Drama as a subject reinforcer. And what’s wrong with teachers having fun in classrooms with students. If they can assume roles outside their skins, this will encourage children to do likewise.

I encourage teachers to integrate Drama into student learning and developmental opportunities. ‘Learning by doing’ (and drama IS doing) is one of the very best methodologies available to educators.
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VIGNETTE 36

IMAGINATION

One of the delightful things about teaching and working with children is the quality of imagination they can bring to learning and understanding. I used to say to children in classes, particularly those in the upper primary area, that they had three eyes: Their left eye , right eye, and their “I” For “imagination”) eye. Their “I” eye was in the middle of their foreheads but not visible. Their “I” eye was hidden from view but had the capacity to work hard and to see a lot beneath the surface. Their imagination was something that enabled them to visualise things not necessarily there at the moment. For instance the ability to conjure up pictures in their minds of what was going on in stories, in their understanding of historical facts, their engagement with music, drama, and with core subjects including Literacy and Mathematics.

The use of imagination can make learning a living and vibrant experience because it facilitates engagement. Too often people feel disassociated from what they are doing. They don’t bring imagination into play as they tackle tasks.

As the teacher and in later years as a person who used to work with children in the areas of music, storytelling, and drama I used to encourage them to use imagination to make things real through their engagement with what we were doing and therefore learning outcomes.

Imagination can also be used to help tackle problems and solutions. Often adults find it hard to overcome problems with which they are confronted because they don’t bring imagination into play. Inhibitions come to the fore and make overcoming challenges hard. Children are not confronted by those same obstacles or barriers. It’s for that reason that children often find solutions to problems much easier to reach than do adults. They don’t have the same hangups and worries about their environment as may be be the case for adults.

It is of concern that video games and technological entertainment can diminish imagination for children. Rather than relying upon their imagination and thought processes to reach end points that’s all done for them by games which reward them for no more or less than following the sequence of activities and events by letting their fingers walk around keyboards. While games are part of life they should never be allowed to take over the natural ability of children to immerse themselves in situations and solve problems without assistance.

Imagination is to be encouraged, particularly when it comes to story writing and creation. It’s something I believe we as teachers need to work hard to grow upon our children. Neither does it end with primary school students but extends into the middle and upper school domains.

I believe the teachers who work with children to grow their imaginations also grow their own. Being aware of imagination and its qualities is important. Imagination should not become stunted as people reach from childhood into adult realms. It is critically important as a teaching of development tool.
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VIGNETTE 37

DESK TIDINESS

One of the things that happens all too quickly and easily in classrooms is for student desks or working tables to become untidy. This bad habit applies to students of all ages. It impacts tidy trays and disk storage areas.

One of the things that quickly adds to untidiness are sheets of paper students have completed but which haven’t been filed, glued into scrapbooks or arranged for permanent keeping. They quickly become ratty, crumpled, dog-eared and therefore not worth keeping although they are a record of work.

It is important to encourage children to take pride in their work. One of those pride elements is the way in which work is stored in desks and storage units.

Another thing that often happens is that pencil shavings get left either on the top of the desks, in desk storage areas or on the floor. It’s important to encourage children to sharpen their pencils at the waste bin. The best pencil sharpeners are those that contain the shavings so that they can be periodically emptied into the bin.

Desks and tidy trays can become cruddy, quickly. I believe it is important for teachers to have students go through and tidy their desks at least once a week. It is a habit worth establishing.

When choosing a time to clean desks or desk areas make sure that a time limit is set. It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes for desks to be given a regulation cleanup and for tidy trays to be fixed. The ideal thing happens when students automatically and by habit keep their desks clean neat and tidy and. To encourage this when students finish work and have five minutes spare, to ask if their desk need attention can be a way of helping to establish that habit.

I’ve heard it said that “cleanliness is next to Godliness”. There is no better way of starting young people who grow to become tomorrows adults into acquiring the tidiness habit than reinforcing it through school. And there is no better place to start than with desk tidiness.
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