KEEP, CELEBRATE OUR SPECIAL DAYS

Published in the NT Suns in June 2017. This is the unedited text.

 

WE MUST CELEBRATE OUR SPECIAL DAYS

School principals and staff members are increasingly confronted by the issue of recognising and celebrating special days on our Australian calendar. Christmas and New Year coincide with school holiday periods and do not impact during term times. Others, including Australia Day, Easter, Anzac Day, Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day take place during the school year. They are acknowledged in classroom programs and by schools.

Historically, there was no problem with celebrating these occasions. As a matter of course, classroom teachers covered them as days of significance. Australia Day, coming at the start of the school year, was a day recognising a period of changing direction in Australia’s history. Acknowledging and appreciating contemporary Australians and their contribution to society became part of the celebration. Easter cards, letters and cards for mothers and fathers and ANZAC commemorations were regarded as thanks and appreciation opportunities. Easter was about Jesus’ character of sacrifice and forgiveness. ANZAC recognition focussed on our defence force, their families and their selflessness in upholding peace and security. Mothers and Fathers days are timely reminders of the important part parents play in the upbringing of children.

In recent years, community resistance to celebrating these days has been rising to the surface. Some people see Australia Day as having negative connotations for Aboriginal Australians. Easter, in recognising our traditional religious base, could be embarrassing to migrants and others who have alternative belief systems. Others may use ANZAC Day as a chance to comment negatively on the roles played by governments in denying entry to some who would like to call Australia home. Finally, the celebration of mothers and fathers is seen by some as failing to recognise single parent families and families of same sex parents.

The character of Australia’s population has changed. We now have a truly multi-cultural and multi-ethnic population. The definition of ‘family’ is changing. Our evolving society has become more empathetic and aware of the role filled by Aboriginal Australians which was misunderstood for a long time.

While some modifications may be wise, there is no way our special days of celebration should be vacated. Abrogation would be very unfair on people and their need to rejoice as Australians in the country we call home.  Part of this is recognising values, beliefs and people who contribute as family and societal members, to the growth, progress and well being of our country. Broadening the scope of celebrated days to incorporate our diversity would be a wise option.

 

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!

SCHOOL HOLIDAYS – FRAUGHT TIMES

SCHOOL HOLIDAYS OFTEN AN ISSUE

During school holiday periods, our community worries as to how young people are going to spend their time during their time away from the classroom.

The police gear up for an expected increase in everything from misdemeanour to property crime. These activities attract a small minority of young people. City and town councils prepare an array of activities that might be appealing to children and adolescents.

Cartoonists offer a humorous take on the reluctant acceptance of school holidays by parents. Media stories also cover the issue of challenges they face in having to have to find extra time for their children during holiday periods. Much is made of their difficulty in having to juggle work commitments with care for their offspring.

Employment and family priorities juxtapose on parents, who want to do the right thing at home and work.

Work is a major issue. Several decades ago with only one parent working, children were more ably provided for at home during holiday periods. Changing family circumstances has lead to reliance on organisational and agency support to provide holiday care.

While closed for regular lessons, there is pressure on schools to provide meaningful activities for children during these weeks. Expectations range from duty of care, to providing parents with child minding alternatives. Many schools provide outside school hours care during the school year, extending their programs to include vacation care. These programs are fully subscribed almost as soon as applications for holiday care are invited.

During holiday periods, some sporting groups offer extended activities for young people. Community based organisations including the YMCA design programs likely to appeal.

Safety

Generation X and Y adults, when children, could play outdoors without supervision in a relatively safe and secure environment. During holidays, they would go for long walks, bike rides or enjoy extended hours of play in parks and public places. This included unaccompanied visits to shops and cinemas.

Safety and security issues have changed this free and easy approach to outdoor and independent activities. Because of these concerns, parents and society no longer condone unsupervised activities. Independence for children and young people has been curtailed.

The holiday weeks are always welcomed by students. But there have been significant changes to the way they can spend time away from school. Those changes are more about necessity than desire.

APPRECIATE [AND BE INFORMED BY] EDUCATIONAL HISTORY

It often seems that educationists are always looking to the future. It’s all about pushing, changing, re-aligning, re-defining, re-prioritising, planning, implementing, evaluating and so on. It is always about looking forward, usually impatiently.

No-one it seems, wants to pause and reflect. Few consider school or system development in terms of where we have come from to be where we are at the present moment.

This futurist bent means that that the far, far away tomorrow’s are the days that count. There is today, there was yesterday. Before that, to all intents and purposes, there was nothing. Historically, we peer into the rear vision mirror of schools and systems at what is essentially a blank page.

We need to reflect upon aned appreciate our history. Our present and future needs to be informed and shaped by past priorities and lessons learned.

Our schools and systems educators and support staff need to record educational history. They wrong the present and possibly distort the future by failing in this task.