PHONES AT SCHOOL SHOULD BE A ‘NO GO’.

This piece was published in the ‘NT Sun’ on February 13 2018. I would welcome reader feedback on my position. This reflection takes account of my experiences with mobile phones in schools while a school principal.

 

PHONES AT SCHOOL SHOULD BE A NO GO

The issue of mobile phones and students accessing them while at school has again come to the fore. The issue has become more critical because of self harm and suicides apparently motivated by the receipt of macabre messages.

Cruel messages and heartless pictures have a deleterious impact on the well-being of many students. From anecdotal evidence it seems that the impact of these messages on younger students is particularly pronounced.

We hear of students misusing their telephones during the school day to send such messages. They are also being used to “steal” photographs of others which can then be shared online. There are also stories of older students (in both primary and secondary schools) using their mobile phones during recess and lunch periods to share pornography between themselves and with younger students.

That this sort of thing is happening in schools is mind-boggling! The suggestion that it’s okay for students at school during the school day to access mobile phones when ever they want, is beyond all common sense.

We are also learning that very young students have their own devices which they are able to freely use, seemingly, whenever they wish

The latest scenario is that federal and state politicians suggesting that students should not be able to use mobile phones at school during the school day. This should not even be a point of debate. Students should not have phones and free access to the use at school during the school day. That used to be the way it was. If there has been a relaxation of the “no phone“ rule, it needs to be immediately reinstated.

Children and students bringing phones to school should be required to hand them to the front office or to a teacher for minding until home time. It would be better in the altogether for parents to resist pressures from children to supply them with “phones without operating rules”.

There are mobile phone options available which can be programmed to limit incoming and outgoing calls to pre-set numbers. The use of a limited device should be sufficient to enable necessary contact between parents and their children.

While some schools require students to bring their own devices to assist in study programs, these are usually laptops and iPads, which lend themselves to better control and monitoring. To continue unfettered phone use at school will continue the bullying and harassment trends which should not be a part of school culture.

BULLYING IS ALL TOO COMMONPLACE

 

BULLYING IS ALL TOO COMMONPLACE

The consequences of bullying behaviour have played out in the saddest possible way. The passing of Amy Everett, a 14 year old girl from Katherine, again highlights an issue that continues to press upon modern society. In Australia, suicide is the major cause of death for children between the ages of 5 and 14. While there may be a number of factors contributing to this sad loss of young lives, bullying and harassment, has without doubt, become the number one contributor.

The online access people have can encourage bullying. While face-to-face bullying has been a traditional tactic of harassment, the coming of cyberspace communication has added an exponential element to the problem. Bullying, much of it sharp, vicious and aiming for maximum hurt, has become a 24/7 occupation. Keyboard bullies can get at anyone, anywhere and at any time.

Amy Everett’s passing is the most recent case of a phenomenon that is ending the life from far too many people, especially young people. And it is happening all too often.

The ‘Courier Mail’, in covering the Amy Everett story (January 11) intimated that online bullying can be taking place without parents having a real understanding of what might be happening. Clearly there is a need for children and young people to be protected from online savagery. The following sound advice was offered to parents and those responsible for children.

“ 1. Regularly talk with them (children) about technology and their online activity.
2. Put filters in place and set security levels to high restrictions.
3. Make sure their passwords are changed regularly and kept private even from friends.
4. Many children don’t want to talk about online bullying for fear they will have their social media access taken away. Assure them this won’t happen.” (Courier Mail April 11, 2018)

Many very young children have access to social media platforms and can be reached by unscrupulous persons. Michael Carr-Gregg an eminent child psychologist, believes that 60% to 70% of primary school aged children are on social media and this should be discouraged.

It is suggested that social media companies should not allow children under the age of 12 to use their platforms and this should be enforced.

Children, along with everyone else, can and should be encouraged to eliminate vicious and hurtful online bullying. Young people should be taught to bar access to their accounts by those seeking to harm them through vicious words and vile statements.

DON’T FORCE UNDERSTANDING

This column was published (with abridgment) in the NT Suns on June 20 2017.

DON’T FORCE UNDERSTANDING

We need to be very careful that the development of young children is not detrimental. Little children need time to absorb and to understand the world into which they are growing. In these modern times, that world is increasingly complex and difficult to understand. There is a tendency on the part of many to advocate the ‘forcing’ of learning and understanding on children before they are mature enough to grasp concepts.

Recent Early Childhood supplements in the NT News and the Suns point to the wisdom of gradually presenting learning opportunities to children. Articles in these supplements laid stress on the importance of play and providing relaxed, enjoyable places of learning for young children. The building within them of a desire to learn and having confidence in their learning, will not come if unduly hastened. ‘Force feeding’ knowledge into children goes against both common sense and espoused recommendations.

A significant point made in the Suns EC supplement was that ‘Play makes a lasting impact’. That article went on to confirm that “skills developed through quality early childhood education last a lifetime.” The critical importance of quality parenting, well prepared educators and empathetic schools count for a lot, in terms of young children growing up.

Against this backdrop of thoughtful reflection about development, come Australian Government directives that amount to premature expectation and force feeding of knowledge beyond the ability of young children to comprehend.

There are two recent examples of this imposition. The first was Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham’s decision that all preschool children in Australia should be introduced to the Japanese Language. How can little children possibly comprehend ‘Japan’ and the ‘why’ of this language, when they are still in the initial stages of literacy development in our mother tongue. A directive like this is confusing for them and distorts their key educational needs.

More recently PM Turnbull has decided that ” three year olds in childcare and students from preschool … upwards will be taught about suicide awareness and mental health … .” ( “Aussie youngsters get mental health boost’, NT News, 8.6.17) Specific suicide discussion could happen with children as young as 8 years of age. Introducing children to complexities beyond their comprehensive ability poses distinct risks. It is far better to provide for the emergence of happiness and satisfaction through carefully structured learning experiences, than attempting to educate through hastily conceived programs.

NURTURE BY PARENTS THE BEST CARE

Published in the NT Suns in April 2017.

NURTURE BY PARENTS THE BEST CARE

The best love and care that children can have, is that which is offered by parents. Too often this is overlooked. Some believe that early learning educators, teachers and after school carers can stand in the place of parents. A recent Sunday Territorian article (April 2) touched what might be a raw nerve. ‘Hands on parenting is what helps children’ is so true. A study conducted by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) focussed on this truth.

Study authors Stacey Fox and Anna Olsen from the Australian National University found that ” reaching out to children, talking with them and helping them with their homework matters more than income or background.”

In these modern times, the need for parents to work, too often distances them from their children. Before and after school care have become a way of life for children whose parents leave early and arrive home late. They are often placed in vacation care during school holidays because their parents are at work. Many parents are both preoccupied with and made tired by work, making quality time with their children during the week a rarity. While family catch-up may happen on the weekend, there is a need to attend to domestic chores and get ready for the working week ahead. In these contexts it can become easy for children to become somewhat overlooked. They may also be misunderstood by parents.

According to Fox and Olsen, “children … benefit when their parents provide a positive environment for homework and play a role in school activities.” They want their parents around, wishing to identify with them in school settings. Parents attending assemblies, participating in parent teacher nights, and supporting their children’s extra-curricular school activities is a part of what their children want.

According to the study, children really welcome and greatly value the first hand connection of parents with their educational development. In terms of hands on parenting, “the aspects which appear to matter most include high expectations and aspirations for children, shared reading between children and parents and family conversation.”

Children need room to move and develop as independent human beings. ‘Helicopter parents’ who constantly hover around children can be very stifling. They suffocate the independence and dampen the decision making potential of their offspring. However, when parents are there for children, engaging with them, nurture and love are to the fore. And it is these attributes in parents that their children want and need.

‘BACK TO SCHOOL’ HELPS

 

  BACK TO SCHOOL POINTERS THAT MIGHT BE USEFUL FOR PARENTS

1. Be confident, not hesitantly or ‘worried’ in conversation with or around children. Doubts rub off.

2. Label possessions – clothes, lunch boxes, – clearly and indelibly.

3. Choose lunch boxes small enough to fit into school fridges. Oversize boxes are often full of emptiness and take up unnecessary refrigerated space.

4. Be aware of healthy food policy for your school. Don’t pack poor quality food.

5. Be aware of school nut policies that are often in place.

6. Cut fruit, sandwiches and other food into manageable portions. Younger children do not get on with whole pieces of fruit.

7. Defence Force children enrol from interstate at this time of year. Know about the support that can be offered through Regional Education Liaison Officer’s (REDLO’s) for primary schools and Defence School Transition mentored (DSTM’s) for secondary schools.

8. Be aware of tutorial support programs for defence children arriving from interstate.

9. Be trustful and avoid being helicopter parents.

10. If parents need to have in depth conversation with teachers, make an appointment at school office for these meeting. Don’t shoehorn in and at Teachers who are trying to introduce children to the year and settle them down.

11 . At home time, let teachers dismiss children to pack their bags including getting lunch boxes from fridge without doing it for them. Children have to learn these strategies.

12. Don’t crowd into classrooms and around doors at the start of the day or at home time. ‘Crowding’ leads to chaos. Wait at a respectful distance for children to emerge.

13. For Middle and senior school enrolments, discuss courses and study options with school coordinators within the first few weeks.

14. Most schools have parent/teacher information evenings within the first weeks of school. Plan to attend and ask question about school processes and directions.

15. Most schools have websites. Look them up on Google and read about your school.

16. LET GO OF YOUR CHILDREN FOR THE SCHOOL DAY AND BE TRUSTFUL.

17. Be aware that all teachers establish classroom rules with children. Learn from your children what they’re rules are, so parents and teachers can be together on the same expectational wavelength.

18. Become aware of school homework policy. Read handbooks.

19. If nearby when bringing or collecting children, avoid what can be disruptive conversations in loud voices with other parent. This talk can be off-putting to teachers and distracting for children.

20. Make sure vaccination and immunisation records are up to date and bring these records so they can be copied onto student enrolment data.

21. Ensure that a contact phone number is available to the school and always kept up to date.

22. Where applicable, know the cyclone policy applying to your school. Keeping a copy of this and essential data on the fridge or home notice board is not a bad idea.

TEACHING ISSUES & STUDENT SUCCESSES

Teaching Issues and Student Successes

The complexities in which we wrap educational issues leads to mediocre outcomes.

Too much focus on process and not enough on actual educartional needs.

Too much pandering to tinsel, glitter, trimmings and trapping issues and not enough to core educational matters.

Too much wanting to make education exciting and appealing and not enough focus on nitty gritty hard core learning.

Too much focus on the froth and bubble and insufficient atttentiion paid to basic, sequential learning.

Unwillingness to confirm that failing students are failing.

Too many committees, advisory panels and too many people putting their oar into educational decision making in a way that confuses and distorts intentions.

Too many people wanting personal illumination (guru status). They use education as a vehicle for personal aggrandisement rather than being there for what they can contribute to and for others.

Too much focus on teacher training options that leads to irrelevancy in classroom contexts. For example, offering pre-service teachers the chance to either learn how to create ceramics or develop an unbderstanding of early childhood teaching methodology.

Dumping the ‘tried, true and successful’ teaching approaches because sticking with one approach for too long ‘gets to be boring’ – for teachers. ‘If it is working well and is not broken, fix it anyway’, seems to apply.

Just SOME of my concerns about the way things are!

CHILDREN, PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES AND CHILD CARE

PARENTS, RESPONSIBILITIES AND CHILD CARE

Child care is over the top in Australia. Children need to be brought up by their parents. It is altogether too much for people to give birth, them thrusting their children at agencies, including child care, early learning centres and schools to bring up.

Parents should do their job and be primary caregivers and developers of their children. There is far too much ‘passing the buck’ and abrogating parental responsibilities.

Neither should parents and community expect government to spend billions of dollars subsidising their child care costs. During the 1970’s and 1980’s, a small amount of child endowment or family benefit was available to help offset the costs of children – and that was it! Fast forewords to 2017 and paid childcare is available, even to parents who do not work, for at least 12 hours per week.

Too many childen get born, then ‘outsourced’ to agencies to bring them up. That is not good enough. Neither does it work as well for children as the nurture and care offered by parents.

Maybe, people needs to make a choice between having children or a career. You often cannot have both, other than in the context of doing a mediocre job at work and home. Too many children are parked with organisations from before school care, to school, to after school care. When picked up, they are taken home by tired parents who park them in front of TV or with an iPad, because they are not in the mood to engage with their children.

And sometimes some parents feel that socialisation has a higher priority than being with their children.

And how many parents when taking holidays, leave their children with relatives or friends so they can enjoy themselves without being encumbered by offspring.

Children can quickly come to perceive, accurately or otherwise, that they are unloved and unwanted. If that is the case, it become inordinately difficult to change this perception and concept in their thinking. That can be a factor that places their attitude to school and schooling behind the eight ball.