REPORTING TO PARENTS

Reporting on student progress to parents and primary caregivers is of critical importance. It is an element of the educational partnersghip that includes the student, home and school.
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Reporting to parents and caregivers in most primary schools, is a task undertaken each term. Toward the end of terms one and three, teachers report orally. Oral reports allow for conversations with parents on student progress. They enable teachers and parents to discuss progress including student strengths and the challenges they face.

Written reports are provided toward the end of terms two and four. These documents are looked forward to by many parents. They are at times photocopied and sent to grandparents or other relatives living at distance.

For teachers, report writing is a task not to be taken lightly. The importance of reports to parents in large part influences the way in which these documents are regarded by our department and school principals. They are valued and valuable documents.

There are a couple of things that need to be understood. The first is that with teaching being increasingly a collaborative effort, a number of teachers may need to contribute to the preparation of student reports. Secondly, the steps leading to final report documents, mean that reports have to be started many weeks before the end of each term. Allowing time to prepare them reasonably is something that can be easily overlooked.

Consider the following:

* Reports as a statement from teachers to parents need to be honest and
accurate.
* Spelling and grammar need to be correct as they reflect teacher standards.
* Reports should be factually correct.
* Preparation is helped if teachers have a critical colleague read through their
documents before sending them to senior staff for vetting and approval.
* What is written needs to be substantiated by background facts supporting
statements of progress. Inaccuracy can be embarrassing to teachers if report
comments are challenged by parents and cannot be refuted.
* Language needs to be carefully chosen, reporting on facts and not supposition.
* Avoid words like ‘will’ and choose words like ‘may’ when talking about potential
for improvement. Absolute words throw the onus on teachers to make things
happen; it is up to the student to achieve his or her potential.

I have always favoured the idea of teachers discussing reports with children and students about whom they are prepared, on a one-to-one basis. Commendation and recommendation for improvement might be part of these conversations. Post report discussion with parents can also have positive spin offs, particularly if the approach is one of offering encouragement.

Reports reflect outcomes based on effort. That, together with character traits that contribute to good citizenship deserve recognition. While academic success is important, the social, emotional and moral/spiritual aspects of development are also worthy of mention. That is not always possible because these criterion have been expunged from many reporting templates.

ESTABLISHING CLASSROOM PROTOCOLS Take Time to Set the Boundaries

ESTABLISHING CLASSROOM PROTOCOLS
Take Time to Set the Parameters

One of the issues that often confronts teachers is a belief they must teach from the minute they are assigned to a class of children. This ‘quick start’ impulse dominates at the commencement of the year, the beginning of a semester, the start of a term or whenever a teacher takes responsibility for a new class.

It seems teachers feel the need to jump in from the first bell, beginning to teach in a ‘go, go, go’ manner. Some launch as if there is no tomorrow. Others may approach the task a little more steadily, but it seems the majority are for making an impact from the first minutes of the first day the class becomes their responsibility.

Routines and procedures are the linchpins on which sound classroom development is predicated. Jumping into teaching ‘boots and all’ before taking the time to establish classroom protocols, is a recipe for disaster. While much of the routine establishment does not directly impact on academics, processes and procedures help in the holistic development of children. This can help develop positive attitudes to work and learning. Classroom environment and atmosphere is critical to helping children and students develop work and study habits.

The establishment of classroom routines is a prerequisite need and should not be overlooked. Once in place, procedures become operational precepts, leading in turn to good learning habits. Children’s attitudes to classroom care, property management and respect for resources, builds atmosphere and promotes harmony within the learning environment.

Part of sound routine and procedure, are the working habits developed with and for children. These habits go beyond the classroom because they are about individual training. Positive attributes include the following and many more could be added.

* Desk habits including pencil hold, paper position and writing posture.
* Use of loose sheets of paper including storage in books and files.
Putting things away properly.
Using bins for rubbish disposal.
Cleaning up when activities are completed.
Care when using the toilet.
Keeping hydrated.
Washing hands.
Talking and working in a way that avoids excessive noise.
Correct school bag and lunch box storage with bags and boxes stowed by habit at the start of the school day or at the end of lunch eating periods. Included is refrigerator opening and closing procedures, recess and lunch eating habits, rubbish and wrapper disposal.
Movement habits in and around school buildings including places for walking, running and playing. Hats on and off depending on the area of play. Lining up and readying procedures at the end of recess and lunchtime are part of the ‘movement and motion’ strategy.

The establishment of routines and procedures MUST be the NUMBER ONE PRIORITY in any classroom at the start of the school year. Once these processes are in place, structure for meaningful teaching and learning is facilitated.

Good classroom habits and practices complement to class rules and procedures, ensuring that things go smoothly. The time initially spent on this ordering returns tenfold in benefit terms because interruptions and disruptions are avoided. Boundaries are established. Expectations that have been discussed and programmed, unfold in a practical day-by-day manner in support of teaching and learning.

The pity is that as children move up the grades or experience different teachers on rotation, the impact of training can lapse and attitudes can deteriorate. Reinforcement and gentle reminders are necessary. The most important is the need for the school principal or delegate to ensure that incoming teachers are aware of the need to establish procedures with the class in the ways already discussed. Each teacher needs to develop his or her set of overall routines, procedures and expectations. They are not inherited and don’t pass by right from one teacher to the next.

Teaching is spoiled and learning diminished if classroom management structures are not in place and practised. Teachers can be too busy valiantly attempting to control, manage and discipline, to teach.  They wear themselves to frazzles and finish  up with a group of students who range from the very disruptive (those setting the class social agenda) to the very frustrated (those who want to learn but are not taught because the teacher is too preoccupied to teach).

Process, procedure, rules and regulations can be reinforcing and satisfying. That satisfaction embraces students, teachers, the class as a community of learners and the school as a whole. It is ever so important that the initial time teachers spend with a new class is a ‘steady as she goes’ period.

Set the Scene with the Children

A losing strategy for any teacher can be an attempt to set the classroom scene without involving the children. It is essential that class rules and procedures are established by teachers working with children. Classes need to own their governance. Rules won’t work if they are dictatorially set and enforced without empathy. Collectivity, with the group contributing to and therefore owning governance is the smart way to formulate classroom procedures.

Recognising the constituency of the class is important. Without having the right approach to classroom management, a teacher can become an isolated and unappreciated individual. No teacher wants to be overbearing to the point of being ‘sent to Coventry’ by his or her class.

First and Second Level Ownership

The way classroom procedures are developed confers ownership. Children who feel a part of the ownership stratagem are more likely to be compliant and act in accordance with agreed procedures than otherwise would be the case. (There will be exceptions but aberrance may not be tolerated. Recalcitrant individuals are likely to draw quick responses from the class collective. Rules break down and lose impact when there is little commitment and scant adherence on the part of children.

* Developing rules ‘with’ children rather than ‘for’ children is essential.
* Expectations need to be encouragingly rather than punitively worded.
It follows that if children are participants is creating classroom procedures they will regard them in a primary rather than a secondary way.

All this points to the need for teachers with new classes to spend time in a ‘getting to know and understand you’ phase with children and students.

Part of this will be (or should be) development of the class environment through shared shaping of agreed procedures. Several essential precepts come to mind. They are simple, based on common sense and easily overlooked.

* Class members need to be organised.
Pupils are best predisposed toward being organised if they share in creating organising structures, including classroom rules and procedures.
Routines established should be based on fair and predictable management and administration. There is a need for impartiality and even-handedness in all situations.
Teachers can’t teach control but should teach in a way that gains control. This happens best in classrooms where the principles included in this paper are applied.

In a Nutshell

Rules, organisation, routines and procedures are important. They need to be established by teachers working in a way that allows the first days and weeks to be spent on getting to know and understand the children and students in their classrooms. This is ever so important and ought not be overlooked.

Once ground rules and relationships are in place, teachers will be able to teach with the confidence that couples successful teaching with meaningful learning outcomes.

Teachers who go full on from day one and ignore the need to establish sensible management strategies with children, will pay a high price. They may well set themselves up for a long, tiring and frustrating teaching stint.

Henry Gray

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SPEAK TO BE REMEMBERED

It is important that presenters deliver in a way that evokes appreciation from the audience. Good work can be enhanced or undone by presentation
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Many educators are required to present in public. That may be in every environment from staff meetings to convention centres. delivery may be to a few people or to hundreds attending conferences. Delivery at workshops comes into the equation. Included are interviews that may be on radio, television or on you tube and similar.

The way in which presenters deliver their messages often reveals alarming shortfalls in methodology. The way in which presenters speak often reveals shortfalls in their capacities. Gesture, body language, word choice, speech hesitations, and awareness of time are a few areas requiring education. There are many others.

It is said that beyond a presentation, 7% of audience recipients remember the speech content and often for short periods of time. On the other hand 42% of audience groups remember the manner and method of delivery and for substantial periods. It is the way in which presenters present, rather that what they say which makes key impact.

I believe that educators, from teachers through to principals and departmental CEO’S should consider speech and message delivery training. This might be through formal coursework, or through joining an organisation that promotes speaking and listening skills. Toastmasters and Rostrum comes to mind but there are other organisations including Zonta.

It is easy to discount the importance of speech delivery. This is an area that needs our attention.

THE EMERGENCE OF A GURU (The Birthing of Educational Practice)

The Emergence of a Guru
(The birthing of new educational ideas, which translate into practice)

Once upon a time on the eve of a Melbourne Cup day, an ordinary man had an extraordinary dream. In his dream it came to him that he needed to do only ONE thing in order to achieve personal greatness. In his dream the lightbulb of his subconscious mind flashed on. In order to achieve greatness he needed to develop a … develop a … THEORY. A new way forward.

A Theory! FANTASTIC!!

This very ordinary person thought about the inspiration presented to him in his dreams.
This new idea would be something he wanted to develop, espouse and portray orally and in written form. The would want to share his theory with one and all. He wanted it to be new, big and exciting. He wanted it to work for him in a way that would bring him acclaim, pecuniary emollient and above all, recognition.

He wanted to be a GURU. An ordinary man lifted to extraordinary heights caused by the ‘realisation and awakening’ of his theory falling on the ears of those who wanted to be convinced that his idea would indeed be a new way forward.

This “would be” Guru realised the importance of promoting and marketing his new idea.
So he talked about his new theory and never let a moment rest when he wasn’t theorising to others.

At first people were only mildly interested in the would be Guru’s Theory.
But like a little rock thrown into the middle a pond produces a ripple that spreads and spreads, the interest grew and grew and grew. It became quite exponential.

Gatherings of people (who self-defined as learned ones) began to talk, to echo and reflect upon the theory of this “Great One” who had come into their midst. They could not get enough of his exposition.

He went on a major lecture tour, preaching his theory in places wide-ranging in nature
– from small country town halls to metropolitan convention centres.

He was widely acclaimed and received by audiences everywhere in the educated world.
Figuratively (and in some cases literally) they fell at his feet. At times he couldn’t believe that he, an ordinary man, had become a “Guru Centric”.

Now it was that this Guru became a cult figure lauded by those who ranged from very high IQ’s to more run of the mill citizens. This acceptance by everyone became a denominator that linked people of all persuasions.

People paid to hear the words of this now Mighty Guru, basking in the matter and manner of his presentations.

People paid to buy his words. He made a mint from PowerPoint sales, DVD’s, essays and texts and by uploading these words into cyberspace and onto the net where they could be downloaded by adherents – for quite substantial remuneration.

Those of mercenary bent designed and sold T-shirts, mugs, writing stationery and other items enhanced by his countenance and embellished by his signature. He even became a hero on Pokemon cards.

Like Pedro climbing the mountain, he had reached dizzying heights of stratospheric proportion. He WAS the “Great One” above and looking down on all below him.

HIS was the pinnacle of life.

As the Guru
THIS GURU
Looked down and proclaimed.
“I’m on top of the world
Looking down on my creation
And the only explanation I can find
A the people I see
Looking at me, Me, ME,
Think I am special
And one of a kind.”

Of course the admiration of his adoring public eventually reached saturation point.
His theory had achieved a status of becoming standard household and workplace practice.
There was no more tinsel and glitter about his new idea. Then of course it was time for role to move on, embracing other thoughts that were new, untried and untested.

So it was that his adoring ones moved on, creating new heroes, new Gurus, all the while continuing to practice the habit of ‘discipleship’. They of course were dedicated to being followers.

He was quite happy to let them go. He had had his turn! The translation of his ordinariness into extraordinariness had earned him years of substantial acclaim and one huge pile of dollars.

Years later he pondered the “why”. Why can mortals rise, their ordinary becoming extraordinary.

Through his ponderings he realised it takes time, effort, thought and creativity to translate a dream into reality.
He wondered about his experience. And wow, what an experience.

“Guruism” had set him up for life. He faced the prospect of enjoying an early, long and carefree retirement.

“Blessed be ordinary people who take ordinary people and create for themselves a Guru Class.
I am glad, so glad I was able to cater for those who had itchy ears and who longed for excitement. Thanks to my theory I feel better now .

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SERVICE SHOULD BE RECOGNISED

Although written with the Northern Territory in mind, teachers and school support staff everywhere should be recognised and intrinsically appreciated for their contribution to the profession.
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SERVICE SHOULD BE RECOGNISED

The Department of Education and the Northern Territory Government tend to take service somewhat for granted. I believe that it is important for teachers and school support staff to be recognised for their service.

Interestingly, those working for the Northern Territory Police, Fire , Emergency Services, and some sections of the Health Department are recognised and appreciated with service awards. That generally doesn’t happen for educators.

I have been told that a service recognition system would be too hard to organise because of the number of teachers and support staff working in NT Government Schools. A simple database maintained by the Education Department’s Human Relations Section could be set up to record details about staff service. As particular time anniversaries come up, a simple prompt could alert the system manager to the service anniversary. The level of recognition offered should align with the number of years of completed service.The system would be maintained if staff transferred from one school to another, because of its central administration.

It should be relatively straightforward for schools to be linked with our department through an application that would recognise service. That recognition if in the school’s system, could easily transfer onto the department’s main frame.

There is a popular belief that teachers and those working in schools come and go with unfortunate regularity. Many believe that educators have only short term commitments to their school roles. From the 1970’s through to the 1990’s many came for no more than two or three years before heading back to southern states. However, this has changed and people are now coming for much longer periods. Many are making the Territory their permanent home. People deserve recognition and appreciation for long term professional commitment.

In the past

A number of years ago the Department of Education began developing a program to recognise years of service. The plan was to acknowledge those who had given ten years of service, with further recognition to be forthcoming at five yearly intervals. However, with staff turnover and the succession of people operating at the highest levels within our Department, this determination seems to have lapsed. Changes of government may have played a part in these plans being shelved.

Some consider that this level of appreciation is not very important. That is just not true.

Service recognition needs to be revisited. It is not good enough for teachers and education support personnel to remain unrecognised and unappreciated after years of devotion to their profession. This is a matter that needs urgent attention.

STUDENT MANAGEMENT AND DISCIPLINE

This is a key ingredient and need that is often overlooked. It is an element of need that can be quite frightening for teachers and school administrators.
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The control and discipline methods once available to teachers and educators were overbearing and harsh. Chastisement of both a verbal and physical nature was often cutting. Teachers were often very overbearing and students were used to being put down. The anticipation of ‘being corrected’ by punishment often sent shivers through children.

Things needed to change. Correction needed to be based on empathy and understanding. Matters requiring disciplinary treatment needed to be fleshed out, ion order that students were not dealt with incorrectly or unfairly.

Wrongs have largely been righted. However, teachers ion our modern times can be left in positions of vulnerability because they have so few corrective tools available to counteract poor behaviours. About the only thing teachers and school staff can do is talk to children about behaviour. This does not work with all students. They quickly sense that teachers have a limited repertoire of responses they can apply. That being the case, children can feel that they can continue with poor behaviour. They even ramp it up, which adds to the hurt and discomfit inflicted upon others.

Teachers have to have management tools they can use to control and counter negative behaviours. If these are not available, the qualities of teaching and learning can be ruined.

A happy medium is necessary. I believe in many cases we are still searching for the idealism that goes with happy, contented, harmonious and productive classrooms.

CELEBRATING STUDENTS

While this entry relates to the Northern Territory and Board of Srtudies recognition of students who have done well, similar ceremonies take place elsewhere … Or should do.

We are quick to point out areas of challenge while often reluctant to celebrate student success. This paper is about rejoicing.
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BOARD CELEBRATES TERRITORY STUDENTS

In February every year the Northern Territory Board of Studies recognises the accomplishments of Year 12 NT Students, along with several stand-out primary and middle school children . This year’s celebration was held in two stages. On February 4, a ceremony was held in Alice Springs for students attending schools in the Southern Region. Last Friday the Top End celebration was held in the main hall of Parliament House. Students from Darwin, Palmerston, Katherine, the rural area and throughout Arnhem Land were honoured.

The Board’s Chair Mr Ralph Wiese was Master of Ceremonies.

Students were recognised for academic subject excellence. Awards for vocational educational studies acknowledged the universality of education and preparation of young people to enter into a wide facet of occupations in the years ahead. Both private and government school students were applauded for their 2015 results.

Each recipient received a certificate and monetary reward. The top 20 Northern Territory Certificate of Education students were also presented with trophies to recognise their hard work, dedication and commitment.

The most outstanding NT Certificate of Education Student, Lauren Northcote, attended Darwin High. She has earned a full scholarship to the Bond University (Queensland) for double degree tertiary studies.

A feature of 2015 was that 13 of the 20 top NTCE students were educated in the public school system. Nine were from Darwin High, two from Casuarina Senior College and two from Katherine High School. Three of the top 20 students attended Essington and one the Good Shepherd Lutheran College. In 2014, 19 of the top 20 students came from the government sector.

Monetary rewards earned by students are sponsored by business, a number of professional associations, Charles Darwin University and the Department of Education. Many thousands of prize dollars are awarded to assist students with tertiary study or occupational training.

Special Awards

A highlight was the conferral of the Administrators Medal. Two medals, one for a primary and one for a junior secondary student recognise academic accomplishment, behavioural excellence and the modelling of citizenship qualities. Olivia Anderson (Larrakeyah Primary) and Morgan Gurry (Darwin Middle) were recipients of medals awarded by our Administrator the Hon John Hardy.

Three awards named in their honour were presented in recognition of outstanding Territory educators taken before their time. Sally Bruyn (Year 6 science Award) Vic Czernezkyj (Mathematics excellence) and Karmi Sceney (Indigenous excellence and Leadership urban and remote schools). Alice Campbell (Alawa Primary), Leonard Ong (Essington), Kyana Hubbard (Casuarina Senior) and Daniel Bromot (Kormilda) were the award recipients.

Along with 2015 awardees, 1338 other students successfully completed their year 12 studies. Many are opting to complete their tertiary education at Charles Darwin University. Our university is continuing to gain status, recognition and respect.

The celebrations confirmed that many of our upcoming generation will be key contributors to the Territory’s future. That future is in good hands.