THE STOLEN OR LUCKY GENERATION

Much is said and written about the indignities confronted by children were members of the “Stolen Generation”. Sadly, much of that recorded history including things coming to light in more recent years offers an accurate account of what happened. Children were abused in various ways and some of that abuse was quite gross. It’s a good thing that those who perpetrated wrong on children have been identified and where possible punished.

Not for one minute that I condone abuse of any kind and that this is my reality was inflicted upon children is disgusting.

There are however two points that need to be considered.

The first is that those who were monstrous in terms of their conduct toward the young people removed from their families, have an unfortunate way of colouring judgements on everybody who was connected with indigenous children during this period.

There were “bad apples” who did very rotten things! However, the majority of support people well intentioned and had the welfare of children at heart. Many of them may have known about what was going on, but could do a little to correct abuse because of that time any allegations that they made would have been laughed away by authorities.

The second point to remember is that removed children were educated and also taught many of the basic skills enabling them to take a responsible position in society as adults. In many respects, they have been leaders for their people.

Regular school attendance (sadly something that does not happen in many communities these days) meant that they were literate, numerate, able to communicate aurally and write in a clear, confident manner. Again, for many of later generations these skills are far less well established. And that is due to the issue of poor attitudes toward school attendance.

There are many indigenous Australians who are getting ahead and doing well. These tend to be people who have elected to identify as indigenous, but who have been brought up in a far more standardised, westernised urban or large town society.

Issues surrounding the stolen generation were not good from the sociological viewpoint in instances of where abuse was perpetuated. However, there were substantial outcomes of benefit. Not the least of these was the overall and ongoing benefit conferred by education.

ARE SCHOOLS REPLACING PARENTS?

In our modern times schools, especially primary schools, are supposed to be all things to all people. Parents are increasingly engaged with work commitments extending from early in the morning until quite late in the afternoon. It is small wonder that an increasing number of children spend time before and after school in care programs. Many children are at school by 7.00 o’clock in the morning and do not leave care programs until well after 5.00 o’clock each afternoon. Most school councils accept responsibility for Outside School Hours Care (OSHC), providing after school support for children. The number of before school care programs for children are increasing. Children are spending almost as many hours each day in school and care programs than at home.

They are also enrolled in care programs during school holiday periods.

Preschool now commences for most children at the age of three, with timetables providing for full day rather than half day programs. This has been designed to fit in with working parents.

These key structural and organisational changes have contributed to redefining educational priorities. Pre and primary schools are as much about child care as education. This is added to by the fact that community expectation seems to be that children will be brought up by the combined efforts of parents, teachers and child care workers. That used to be the sole responsibility of families.

If schools organise pupil free days for professional development, the response from many parents is one of concern because child care for that day changes. Children either stay at home (with work implications for parents) or are booked into all day care.

In these modern times, family responsibilities have in large part been outsourced to secondary caregivers. Governments have reacted to community pressures and endorse institutionalised nurture and care as being a good substitute for parental time and attention. The justification is that parents are so busy working to boost the economy and sustain the home front, that key parenting responsibilities have to be outsourced. The community expects schools and teachers to be involved with the bringing up of children.

Schools and staff play an important part in the development of children. However they can never take the place of parents. Without doubt, parents are THE primary caregivers for their children. That responsibility should never be hand-balled to secondary providers and government agencies. Schools can do their bit. However, if parents and families fail in their obligations, children will be the losers.

TEACHERS ARE UNDER THE MICROSCOPE

Teaching comes under more external scrutiny than any other profession. This is quite aside from professional development and performance management requirements set by professional organisations and education departments. are also standards and expectations set by AITSL that teachers are urged to attain. This goal setting is supported by both education departments and professional organisations.

There is a great deal happening happening otherwise that adds to observation and evaluation of teachers. Included is the development of personal plans that consider the effectiveness of each staff member. Individual plans for continual growth and development derive from these meetings. Teachers and staff members are encouraged to self evaluate, measuring themselves against these plans. Everything about these processes takes account of AITSL recommendations for personal and organisational growth and development.

In an effort to build confidence in teachers and schools, parents and members of the public are encouraged to quite minutely scrutinise what is on offer within our classrooms. I believe teachers are willing to share with parents, appreciating the opportunity to converse with them about classroom programs and children’s progress. However, this needs to be done at a time appropriate to both parents and teachers. Conversations on issues with teachers at the start of the school day, while classes are in progress and immediately the school days concludes, are not possible. Teachers are preoccupied with their students and learning at these times. Conversations work best when parents make appointments through school front offices to meet with teachers. There are also programmed parent – teacher interview sessions at least twice each year.

In the interest of fairness, parents and caregivers should initially raise matters with teachers before going higher. Similarly, if the issue is one involving school leadership, the first call should be to the principal or a member of the school leadership team. If issues raised are not able to be resolved at those levels, taking the matter up at a higher level is then appropriate.

School leaders, teachers and support staff act with the best interests of students in mind. To this end, most schools are doing a commendable job.

SING WITH YOUR STUDENTS

BE A SINGING TEACHER

As a classroom teacher or as someone working with children on program lessons, consider an area that is supposedly unappealing and therefore neglected.

The one area of engagement with children that is seldom given any credence is that of singing with them. There seems to be a belief that music and singing a specialist areas and therefore taboo to teachers. Classroom teachers and others skirt around the issue of music and singing as if it was some dangerous discipline.

There seems to be a belief that the only ones who can work with children in terms of singing or musical appreciation or qualified music teachers or those with recognised skills in this domain.

From experience, I think that is total Buncome. Some of my most enjoyable experiences with students over 40 years and across all primary school levels time including year seven, was to teach them songs and to sing with them.

There was no need for musical accompaniment. Vocal synchronisation was sufficient. Children can be taught about rhythm, pitch, internation, pause, punctuation, word emphasis, and the other elements that go with production.

The thing was for children to enjoy their singing, and they did. 30 and 40 years later I’m still sometimes greeted by students who remember the singing that we did together.

THE PROFESSIONAL/PERSONAL CONUNDRUM

It seems at times that there is an expectational mismatch occurring because the “professional” and “personal” nature of relationships becomes confused.

The school principal is professionally responsible for teachers and ultimately accountable for the job they do within classroom situations. If the principal is a person who regards members of staff as “friends”, there is a possibility the friendship will get in the way of professional expectation. It may well be that the friend is a quite mediocre teacher needing a lot of support. Ultimately that support may lead to performance management issues – or should do!

If the person needing development is a mate or close friend to the principal, professional mediocrity might be forgiven and overlooked. If discounted, then students will suffer.

On the other hand, the teacher may be an excellent professional doing a quite outstanding job but at the same time be a person who is not appealing to the school leader. It can be that people who are not liked, are also not respected and valued for the good job they may be doing in a professional context. These people can be put under the hammer with life being made intolerably hard for them. In the end the only option might be that they move on to other appointments.

If that is the case the school and ultimately students taught by this excellent teacher become the losers.

It’s critically important that principals and school leaders do not confuse the “professional” and “personal” elements of relationship.

LET’S CELEBRATE OUR TEACHERS

‘THANK YOU’ TEACHERS

This Friday, October 25 is being celebrated as World Teachers’ Day. Territory teachers will be recognised and thanked at functions in Darwin, Palmerston, Alice Springs, Katherine, Nhulunbuy and at smaller centres around the NT. Individual schools, their students and communities will also celebrate their teachers and school support staff. This is well deserved.

Teachers and school staff members have enormous responsibilities. High-level expectations are held for them. Teachers are people responsible for a great deal that goes beyond the academics of teaching and learning. They are advisors, counsellors and friends, responsible for social, emotional and moral aspects of development in young people. They share a real partnership with parents and primary caregivers in the nurturing of this world’s most precious resource – our children.

Dispelling Myths

There are two everlasting myths about teaching that need to be dispelled.

The first is that teachers work a six hour day, five days a week, for forty weeks each year. The amount of time teachers spend “on tasks” over and above that time means the public is only aware of the “tip of the iceberg”. Hours of additional planning and preparation go into teaching. Instruction is followed by assessment, upon which revision and extension programs are based.

The second myth is that teachers focus only on academics. Although the “3Rs” are very important there is a great deal more to the development of children than ‘Reading, Writing and Arithmetic’.

The aim of school educators is to work with parents to develop well rounded students. Young people need both confidence and skill to master the challenges they will face. Sincere educators offer children the chance to succeed, by growing up to become confident, competent adults.

Recognising Northern Territory Teachers

The Northern Territory Government, the Department of Education, the Northern Territory Independent Schools Association’s and others will recognise teachers and school support workers for the contribution they make to our community. This once a year celebration recognises the effort, care and commitment teachers and staff bring to work every day.

Celebrations on Friday will enable the NT community to appreciate teachers, support staff and others connected with education across the length and breadth of the Territory. This recognition is richly deserved.

There can be no greater or more significant work than what is done by staff in our schools. The destiny of our children and young people of today, the leaders of tomorrow’s world, is largely in their hands.

LETS HONOUR OUR SCHOOL STAFF

WORLD TEACHERS’ DAY

Tomorrow October 25 Is World Teachers Day – as celebrated in Australia. The day will be celebrated in schools in all states and territories and offers parents, students have the general community the opportunity to remember teachers and the contribution they make.

There are some teachers and staff and some schools who are fairly “minimalistic” in terms of what they do. However, these minimal perform is it illuminati and the vast majority of our teachers and school support staff go the extra mile and then some when comes to fighting for student benefit, welfare and empathetic care.

I hope that all teachers will have a chance (along with school support staff) to reflect upon the great job they do. I also hope the community and and students reflect upon and appreciate the great things teachers do for children in schools each and every day.

May tomorrow be a day or significant remembrance.