TRUST NOW A RARITY

I wrote this column for a recent issue of the Suns newspapers in the NT. The matter is one that has exercised my mind for a long time.
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TRUST NOW A RARITY

For better or worse, the innate trust that was once vested in schools, principals, teachers and support staff has diminished. There was a time when those working in schools were trusted to do their jobs. They were generally appreciated for the way they went about delivering on their educational commitments.

While there were some who did not fully live up to that trust, the great majority of school based employees did the right thing. There was also a time when teachers and parents could work together proactively to help students overcome poor learning attitudes. They were on the same side. These days there is a tendency for teachers to be blamed if student learning outcomes do not meet expectations.

Most educators worked far beyond the school day. The majority of educators were at work early and stayed until well after students departed in the afternoon. Weekend and holiday work were common.

Those who worked in schools during the 1960s until the mid 1990s would remember those times. It felt good to be trusted and appreciated for the work done in schools. That appreciation came from within the community and the Education Department.

An era of accountability, assessment, and compliance requirement now has a major influence on education. Times have changed. People are now called to account more zealously than used to be the case. Appreciation is less forthcoming and demand for results within narrow academic strands of accomplishment are front and centre. Trust in teachers and school staff to do their jobs without their efforts being closely monitored has all but vanished. Conversations with school based educators confirms that most feel under growing stress and pressure.

Accountability and compliance pressures have resulted in a refocus of teaching strategies and data collection. Data is all about justification. It is the number one topic that occupies the agendas of educational meetings in both schools and higher departmental levels. Focus on data, student results and comparisons of Northern Territory students with those elsewhere are the major drivers.

This pressure puts stress on educators in a way that causes many to feel they have their noses constantly on the grindstone. There is no respite, no letup and no longer an enjoyment of teaching. This in turn is transferred to students in classrooms. Teachers and students are educational game players who MUST meet predetermined teaching and learning outcomes.

It may be a cry too late, but teachers and students must be trusted to teach and learn without the need for their every move to be minutely examined

THE ‘SOMETIMES FORGOTTEN’ SCHOOL STAFF

It can be too easy to recognise teachers as key educational personnel, without appreciating school support staff. Those in support and ancillary positions help schools to tick.

This paper was published as a column in the ‘Suns’ Newspapers in October 2015. 

THE ‘SOMETIMES FORGOTTEN’ SCHOOL STAFF

When considering schools and educational issues, thinking generally embraces students, their parents, teachers and school leaders. There is a tendency to overlook the roles and positions filled by administrative and support staff. Key support staff occupy Department of Education positions. These are allocated to schools on an enrolment and pupil-teacher ratio basis. Included are the Finance Administrator and Administrative Officers (AO’s).

AO’s used to spend some time as teaching assistants in classrooms. However, educational complexity and school accountability have required them to increasingly focus on office management and administrative duties. They are no longer ‘teacher aides’ but occupiers of significant ‘whole of school’ support roles. The tasks they undertake on behalf of classroom teachers may be limited to photocopying, construction of material aides and completion of other peripheral tasks. School self management and independence has dictated this change in support staff roles.

Classroom support

Classroom support that teachers need is largely provided by Special Education School Assistants (SESA’s). SESA positions are funded on the basis of identified student needs through Student Support Services. Additionally, schools are allocated aide positions to support Preschool and Transition students.

Recent changes to school budget responsibilities combined staffing allocation and operational grants into a single one-line allocation to be managed as needed by each school. It includes both base funding and finding for student needs.

This budget strategy has been hailed as a step toward schools being increasingly accountable and responsible for outcomes. This may be the case. However in order to fund material needs, there is a possibility that staffing numbers will be pruned. The challenge confronting Principals with their School Councils or School Boards is to maintain school needs as a whole without compromising in the area of staff support.

Professional Development

Historically, school administrative and support staff could be employed without having any formal qualifications. A statement regarding employment prospects for Education Aides in the NT reads as follows. “You can work as an education aide without formal qualifications, but employers usually require Year 10. You will probably get some informal training on the job. Entry to this occupation may be improved if you have qualifications.”

Wise Principals and their Councils invest in training for school support staff. Professional development needs to be commensurate with the positions they occupy and should include every staff member.

School management practices and educational outcomes are enhanced if staff are well versed and up to date with workplace requirements. For the sake of school efficiency and educational outcomes, support staff along with teachers, need to be included within this educational loop.

GET ON THE FRONT FOOT

FRONT FOOT PLEASE

It is time, and overtime, for school based educators to get onto the front foot in response to matters within the arena of educational debate. For far too long, educators in schools from Principal to classroom teachers and support staff, have been reacting to pressures from above. ‘Above’ includes the supposed educational support area embraced within the overall systemic educational hierarchies. (This is often referred to as Educational ‘Carpetland’.)

For eons of time, those in schools have been beaten around the ears with demands, suggestions, requirements and imposed priorities coming from above. ‘Above’ ultimately is higher and more rarified than system carpetlands. The head office of every Australian State and Territory Educational System is under the command of its relevant Education Minister. Notwithstanding the things said about consultation and lip service paid to the idea that discourse precedes policy, it is true to say that a great deal of what is imposed on systems by governments is done in quite not-consultative and dictatorial fashion.

This means that a great deal of demand placed upon systems is done on the spur of the moment and without proper consideration of policy pros and cons.

It needs to be understood that State and Territory Governments in turn have demands placed upon them by the Australian Government. Hearsay and general awareness would suggest that most things happening in our schools are at Federal behest. This is because of compliance and accountability tags attached to money made available for educational initiatives. I believe while States and Territories espouse the merits of independence in decision making and priority setting, their capacities in this regard are very limited. Unless they do things ‘The Australian Government way’ and comply with the strings attached to monetary grants, funding can be partially of wholly withheld.

COAG AND MYCEETCHA

On the face of it, there should be opportunity for State and Territory Education Ministers and Chief Executive Officers to discuss matters relating to educational policy and development in a frank and reasonable manner. From what I understand, these conversations rarely happen. I have been told that the agenda for COAG along with discussion papers are often presented close to meeting times, giving little time for fair and proper consideration of the issues at hand.

As a long term school based educator who for many years wore the pointy end of decisions I have come to believe that the (Australian Government) Education Minister and Department of Education say “jump”: State and Territory counterparts respond with “how high”! Healthy educational debate rather than weak-kneed acquiescence to Commonwealth demand is necessary.

A still recent and massive example of this need relates to the Building Education Revolution program (BER) that poured billions of dollars into States and Territories for infrastructural development. While facilities were added to schools both private and Government, prescription about what could and couldn’t be constructed strictly curtailed the value of money for facilities in many individual circumstances. Many schools would have willingly used funds to supply human rather than material resources, in order to support teaching and learning programs. That option was not available.

ERRONEOUS EXPECTATION AND MISPLACED BELIEF

For years and years school based educators have been beaten up by government and by members of the public at large because of student under performance. The fact that students achieve less successfully than their overseas counterparts is an achievement shortfall laid squarely at the feet of educators.

(In rushing to this comparative judgement, it matters not that the socio-cultural and geo-topographical Australian context is wildly different to similar overseas contexts. Our multiculturalism and the vastness of our ‘wide brown land’ makes Australia a vastly different and uniquely individual place within which education has to be provided.)

It seems with the passing of time student competence and levels of achievement are declining. This is small wonder, when one considers the impacts upon society of changing preferences and pressures placed by an increasingly cosmopolitan and rapidly growing population. A further exaggeration impacting upon us is the sad fact that society in wealth terms is definitely two tier with the pauper class a growing group because of cost escalation.

It is time to stop being reactive and start being proactive in educational matters. We need to play a part in shaping educational priorities and futures.

FUTURE SCHOOLS : BRIARS OR ROSES

Future schools: roses or briars?

During the 1970s and 80s, there was talk that future schools could become so technologically oriented, that teachers would become a ‘past profession’. I remember reading and hearing of ideologies that talked of home schooling, with computer focus being the way forward.  Gone would be schools as collaborative institutions housing aggregates of students and teachers for set times each day. I recall the notion of 24/7 education with that being about students tuning in as they wished. Going online at convenient times would be under the watchful eye of parents and carers for primary children and more independently of oversight for secondary aged students.

Schools were identified as places that promoted student dependence on teachers and timetables. This was seen as anathema in modern times. Technology was seen as superior, worthily and intelligently replacing teachers. The profession, in many forums, articles and conferences was trumpeted as heading toward redundancy.

Although not fully understood at that time, more recent technological developments, applied to this notion, would see students undertaking learning that is totally screen-based. Interaction with others would be controlled by online chat and links to progress engaged through a master program held in an overall server somewhere, to be doled out to children and students, when appropriate and applicable. The future of schooling would be increasingly about the physical separation of individuals engaged in the educational process.

Children need the opportunity to socialise and do things together.To my way of thinking, nothing could be more abhorrent than the idea of children being educated in some sort of isolated, balkanised state.  Be it at home with parental oversight and monitoring control or be it in some institutionalised setting, with students locked into learning carrels, that would be anathema.  It would be an approach that was locked into content focus, with little consideration being given to the human needs of the learners.  Children need the opportunity to socialise and do things together.

Isolation in learning contexts is something experienced by many children and students who live in the far-flung outback of the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia. Students link for educational purposes through an increasingly enhanced technological focus. They are able to engage conversationally with their teacher and with each other online. They have video links and screen contact with each other.  However, they don’t have that physical and social connection that is offered to children learning in living classrooms and playing with each other during recess and lunch breaks.

For children who are physically isolated from learning peers, the highlights of the school year are camps and the brief periods of togetherness organised by the School of the Air.

I had a three-week totally technologically learning focus of sorts in the mid 1970s. We were on appointment to a remote Aboriginal community in Western Australia. It was a requirement that teachers appointed to this community, undertake a three-week intensive language learning course held at the Bentley Institute of Technology – now part of the Edith Cowan University. Learning consisted of many hours each day being spent in language learning carrels. These were enclosed and isolated from each other. There were 15 of us whose day consisted of brief introductions then a retreat into isolation. Sitting in those carrels, our program was controlled by an instructor who could listen in and communicate but usually only to bring learners back onto task. The ‘task’ was listening to the particular vernacular tongue being related from a master panel controlled by the instructor. The program was about listening to and imitating the dialect, in order to get intonation and pronunciation as spot on as possible. Some clarification was offered by the instructor but the bulk of communication was by way of pointing out better and correct ways of speaking the language.

At the end of the program, I graduated with a statement that included confirmation of the many hours I’d spent in this constructed learning environment. I had been part of a class that was ‘together’ in one room, ‘separated’ by soundproof learning booths. While we were accomplished in terms of learning outcomes, our development together as people learning in a shared environment was almost zero.

While outback schooling is less sterile than the constructed environment I have described, social contact is minimal, and by image projection, rather than in a living and ‘togetherness’ format.

My controlled learning experience and the limitations of online schooling convince me that future schooling and schools of the future, in-so-far as possible, should avoid constructions that would minimise teacher-student and student-student contact in a direct and living sense. While subject curriculum and learning content can be managed by children and students working on their own, important developments, a part of education and learning, simply cannot offer individuals the development they need, unless they are together in learning communities.

Education for the whole of life
At the risk of being typed an educational antediluvian, I would uphold, with vigour, the need to avoid departure from some very important and very traditional educational learning practices. I adhere to two belief positions.

… education … must support children in terms of their social, emotional and moral/spiritual development.Firstly, I believe that education should be ‘all round’. Certainly, it needs to provide for academic enhancement. However, equally importantly, it must support children in terms of their social, emotional and moral/spiritual development. I believe there is a distinct danger that modern education, enhanced by technological support, is amplifying the need for academic and skills development, while de-emphasising  the personal and social aspects of development that must be included, if education is to be all-rounded.

I advocate the need to always consider our students … as people.Secondly, I advocate the need to always consider our students, prime learners and tomorrow’s leaders, as people. It often seems to me that modern education is all about analysing and cauterising children, testing, measuring and evaluating them, almost in isolation to the personalities inherent within them. They become objects and artifacts rather than living, breathing human beings.

Many years ago, a manager with a gas company in Darwin told a group of assistant principals visiting his business that children were like gas bottles.  He said that gas bottles arrive empty, pass along a production line and emerge full and ready to go at the other. He said that children progressing through school were the same. They started school life as empty vessels. As they moved through the years and up the grades, they were filled with knowledge, emerging as useful citizens ready to contribute to life’s world.  At the time, I violently disagreed with this simplistic comparison because gas bottles are inanimate and capable of being manipulated. Children, on the other hand, are living, breathing entities with soul.

These days, I am not sure that we educators don’t consider children as gas bottles because so much humanity seems to be lacking in educational processes. It seems that depersonalisation has set in, that children are regarded as vessels to be filled in order to satisfy societal working needs. We carry out elaborate testing and measurement procedures in order to determine if they are up to scratch and ready to go forth in servitude to society. We tend to downplay and reduce to a secondary status, their rights, entitlements and developmental needs as people.

Education needs to revisit the soul
Alexandra Payne (editor) in an Australian Institute of Management publication Love@Work (1) identifies 10 characteristics that have come to manifest themselves in the workplace. She identifies joylessness, fear, dullness, dependency, insensitivity, mediocrity, discourtesy, lack of creativity, ambiguity and anxiety as characteristics rising to the fore.

‘What we are missing in today’s workplace and business is essentially about joy, humanity and love. The challenge is to infuse these elements … to create a holistic workplace. We need to overcome these ten detrimental characteristics that are too prevalent.’ (2)

John Reynolds, interviewing Love @ Work  editor Alexandra Payne, was told by Payne that, while in terms of refocusing business ‘… we’ve done a great job economically … people at work are … dried up and stressed out’ (3)  Payne indicates that holism needs revisiting because ‘in my view it’s the holistic sphere that really creates enduring quality and sustainability’. (4)

Education is charged with developing within young people, those qualities that are going to impact within them as adults in tomorrow’s world. There has been a major emphasis placed on fitting youth up to move into an economic and rationalist world.

I believe that this has desensitised many of those who are today’s leaders and contributors to business and industry.  Payne is suggesting revitalisation and reinvigoration that must come from within. For that to happen, education and future schooling has an important role to fill in revisiting the soul of education.

Conclusion
My concern is that too many children and students lack in terms of interpersonal skills and don’t have the capacities to be decent persons. Care for others is definitely distant, while self-promotion and self-indulgence come through as stand-out factors.Education needs to be for the whole of life and it needs to consider the inner person, along with societal needs. I think that we have taken many steps away from considering and regarding our students as people, including distancing ourselves from the need to educate in terms of social graces, deportment, oral communication, deference to others and the capacity to listen considerately to peers. We are bringing up generations who may well have ICT adeptness and self-awareness. My concern is that too many children and students lack in terms of interpersonal skills and don’t have the capacities to be decent persons. Care for others is definitely distant, while self-promotion and self-indulgence come through as stand-out factors.

Hope is a quality that is going out the door with many young people, according to a recent newspaper report commenting on a youth survey, believing this to be the last generation. Personal desperation and innate despondency are sadly apparent elements, with young people developing short-term attitudes based on their perception of the future.

These attitudes and the lack of character definition imbuing too many young people deserve focus. Instead, we fixate on academic outcomes, and orbit our attention around ICT, testing, measurement and some sort of misplaced self-justification.

Future schools and future schooling need to focus on rebuilding a quality social fabric, where the warp and weft are competent, confident, caring individuals.I want for futurist education to go back to the past. We need to regard children and students as people and to develop within them a sense of longevity, social awareness, conversational capacity listening acuity and personal pride.  We have lost too much. Educational focus and our prioritising methodologies are largely to blame. Future schools and future schooling need to focus on rebuilding a quality social fabric, where the warp and weft are competent, confident, caring individuals.

References
1. Payne, Alexandra (ed.), Love@ Work. 2006. Australian Institute of Management, Wiley. Sourced from John Reynolds ‘In search of more love, more joy, more humanity’ in Management today, Issue 28, September 2006, pp. 34-39 & 42.
2. op cit, p.35
3. Op cit p.34
4. Op cit.

SUNS 84 and 85: ‘GOVERNMENT FUNDING NOT IMPARTIAL’ and ‘NAPLAN LANDS ON 2015’

SUNS 84 and 85: ‘GOVERNMENT FUNDING NOT IMPARTIAL’ and ‘NAPLAN LANDS ON 2015’

Both columns published in march 2015
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SUNS 84

GOVERNMENT SUPPORT NOT EVEN HANDED

There are many organisations which call on the NT Government for financial support and recognition. Some promote the performing arts and culture. Others are connected with sporting activities. These include motor sports, horse racing, football of all codes, cricket and periodic ‘big time’ sporting fixtures. They are all given government support to bring fixtures to the NT. The latest in a long line is tennis, with the NT Government ready to give big dollars to bring the Australian – Kagiistan exchange to Darwin. The government also provides $200 per school student each year, to offset family costs for their involvement with sport.

It seems that government support is not distributed even handedly. Arts and cultural groups struggle to earn government support. That has been the case during the lives of all Territory Governments. In an almost bipartisan way, sport is enthusiastically sponsored but arts and cultural needs are neglected. Those programs supported, for example ‘Bass In The Grass’ are about spectatorship rather than development for Territorians through participative programs.

The North Australian Eisteddfod has passed into history for lack of any long term budgetary assurance. Government support for this program was from year to year at best. The Eisteddfod’s demise has taken from students the chance to participate in music, dance, instrumental, speaking, reading and choral performance.

The Beat has managed to survive and continue. However, significant changes have been necessary, the major one being venue change from the Darwin Amphitheatre to the Darwin Entertainment Centre. The reduced venue is restrictive for both performers and audience size. The amphitheatre accommodated large audiences. The venue also allowed for many more children to participate for the two nights. DEC meant smaller primary school choir groups who were able to entertain for only one night. The second night involves a different set of primary school choirs.

It is thanks to the Darwin Rotary Club, its major sponsor and underwriter, along with other private support, that the Beat has been able to survive and carry on. The Rotary Club offers scholarships to primary and secondary school Beat participants who have career prospects in the performing arts. The NT School of Music and music teachers in school deserve plaudits for their dedication to the Beat. At least the Beat is still a goer, but for how much longer?

Sport and the arts responsibilities are now vested in the same minister the Hon Gary Higgins. I would like to think the Minister could see the need for a greater level of government recognition for the performing arts. Sportspeople endure for a relatively short period of time before being overtaken by age. Those preferring the arts, if supported, will offer a return to the community that is not end dated by age.
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SUNS 85

NAPLAN: FOUR ‘MAY DAYS’ EACH YEAR

Within a few short weeks, the National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) 2015 will be upon us. At this time each year schools begin to focus with earnestness on the upcoming tests. Four school days in week five of term two are set aside for the administration of these tests. Three of the days enable attending students around Australia to complete the tests, with the fourth being a ‘catch up’ day. On that day, students who have been absent for parts of the testing week, can sit tests they have missed.

Once it’s over, staff and students should be able to relax a little. However, many school leadership teams and staff become anxious as they wait some months for results. It often seems that NAPLAN is the steering wheel that drives education.

Results are released to schools and parents. While the time between tests being taken and these results coming through has reduced, the Australia-wide analysis task means a lapse of many months.

The focus by schools and staff upon results often saturates staff meetings and professional discussions. Tests are taken by Year 3,5,7, and 9 students. However, contribution to NAPLAN testing is the responsibility of all teachers because learning is a continuous process. Principals business days with departmental leaders always have a strong focus on NAPLAN issues of testing, measurement and evaluation.

The efforts of school leaders and staff are regularly appraised and evaluated. NAPLAN Results including NAPLAN trends since 2008 are part of this program.

While NAPLAN is a measuring tool, there is a distinct danger that it can become the major focus of schools. Indeed, in the weeks and months leading up to May each year, children in many schools are taken through past tests, often with monotonous repetition. NAPLAN based text and exercise books have become major items for sale in bookstores and newsagents. This means parents as well as schools get involved with test reinforcement.

In reality , ‘teaching to the test’ has become a priority focus in the classrooms of many schools, both government and private. Some years ago Tom Chappell released a song about NAPLAN with a by-line pointing to teachers. ‘Your score is my score’ was the key lyric.

Chappell went on to sing about the fact that other subjects, including music, the arts and physical education were being sidelined for NAPLAN. He bemoaned the fact that ‘fun’ was being taken out of education.

Some educators and certainly the Australian Curriculum and Assessment Reporting Authority (ACARA) downplay NAPLAN as being only a small cog in the assessment wheel. The prime focus placed on these tests, including both elation and disappointment at school and system results would indicate otherwise. NAPLAN dominates the educational horizon.

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VIGNETTES SERIES 17: BE VISIBLE TO STUDENTS and PRESENT WITH STAFF

VIGNETTES SERIES 17

BE VISIBLE TO STUDENTS and PRESENT WITH STAFF

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VIGNETTE 50

YARD DUTY

In most schools, yard duty is a very important part of the “extra” the teachers and staff provide for children. The pros and cons of yard duty have raised themselves as issues over many years but this responsibility is still with us.

I believe that yard duty is important not only for insuring children’s safety and well-being, but to help teachers get to know children in and outside the classroom.

There are a number of things teachers on the yard duty should take into account.

* Cover all areas of the designated duty area. Don’t stand still in one place but rather be aware and move around the whole of the area to which care is designated. Children love to get away into nooks and crannies, not necessarily for mischievous purpose but because at times they like to be alone, and on their own. Be aware of where children are with in your area.

* Converse with children as you go but avoid staying in the one place talking to individuals or small groups for too long. It’s the whole area that needs your coverage during time on duty. To spend too long in one place talking offers distractions from the 360°”eye and ear awareness” for which you are responsible.

* School guards can become horribly rubbishy places. Children have a propensity to throw litter onto the ground rather than using bins, even if the nearest one is only 2 m away. If and when you see children using the bins, commend them on their tidiness and care for the environment. A little bit of praise can go along way when it comes to building the tidiness and civic pride habit.

* If a child has an accident or injury while you are on duty, and if you are unsure of severity, send somebody who is reliable to the office to report the matter straight away. It’s often a good idea to send students in pairs to ensure that the message is delivered. If you have a mobile phone, contact with the front office may not be a bad idea. When out on yard duty I always carried my mobile and if there was a need to contact the office, it was done Some schools have two-way (walkie-talkie) radios which are used for this purpose.

* If a child is injured while out in the sun, offer them shade if you can. That may mean you shedding a jumper, giving up your hat, or standing over the child in a way that prevents the sun from shining directly onto him or her. At the same time encourage peers to stand back and not crowd in on the injured child.

* It can be helpful and comforting for somebody who is distressed to have a close friend with them to talk to them. It’s usually easy to identify such a person. To allow that person close proximity to the injured child while keeping others back is a good idea.

* Most schools have hat policies and also students who at times either forget the hats or prefer not to wear them when out in the sun. When on duty, be aware of children who may not have hats and direct them into shaded areas if your duty is out in the sunshine.

While some teachers don’t like wearing hats (and therefor set a bad example to children by not wearing them) I’d strongly urge duty teachers to always have a hat on their heads when out on duty. Remember, we model for children. If we don’t do what they’re required to do that places us in somewhat of a hypocritical situation.

* In most schools, recess and lunch duties are shared between teachers. That means at any break period there will be two teachers who share the time to oversight an area. Always be on time if going out on the yard duty or replacing somebody already there. It’s important to not leave an area unattended, because if an accident occurs while supervision is not supplied, duty of care comes into question. There has been more than one court case as a result of poor supervision when children are at play.

* If your duty area covers toilets, make sure you keep an eye on activity around toilet doors and be aware of the behaviours of children inside. You may not feel comfortable (nor might it be appropriate) about going into a particular toilet block but eyes, ears and awareness play a very important part in this observation. Behaviour in and around toilets needs to be appropriate and not ignored.

* There is usually a five minute warning bell or chimes to alert children to the fact that recess and lunchtimes are about to end. If out on duty, make sure the children stop playing when the bell begins to sound. Directing them back to classroom via the toilet, hand basin, and drinking fountain is a good idea. Encouraging children to be ready and in line with the second bell goes can be a good habit to acquire in time management. Time awareness is very important. As well, duty teachers generally need to be back to take charge of their classes or groups when the second bell goes.

Yard duty is central to the care provision provided for students by school staff. At times it might be a little irksome and you may not feel like doing it. However in the overall scheme of things here for children is paramount and duty of care critically important. Yard duty should never ever be neglected.
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VIGNETTE 51

STAFF ROOM CONTACT

If not on duty, my strong suggestion is that during recess and lunch breaks teachers spend time out of their classrooms, mingling with staff in the school staffroom is. It is important for teachers to have social contact with each other where that is not necessarily connected with professional learning and formal collegiate exchange. Sharing time together is important; teachers and staff members need to get to know each other.

Those who don’t intermingle miss out on a lot of conviviality and the sharing that goes with being in the company of others. Avoiding isolation and being regarded as an isolate is important.

Don’t focus conversation entirely on classroom issues. These matters will come up. However being away from the classroom physically should also support the need to be away from it mentally. There is more to teaching then classroom space and children within the class. If sharing outcomes, concentrate on the positives and things that have been good about a particular teaching session. It can be all too easy to focus on the ongoing challenges and continuing problems, therefore overlooking the good bits.

Avoid scandal, gossip and character besmirchment when sharing with colleagues. This includes picking children to bits and making comment of a negative nature about them. There is a time and place to have a conversation about challenging children. The social aspects of gathering together are important and again forgetting about what’s going on within the classroom for a period a useful device.

Cups and plates used during breaks should always be washed and placed in a drainer. Washing, drying and putting a way of utensils can help keep the class the staffroom neat and orderly. Many staffrooms provide dishwashers. Placing crockery and cutlery in them before going back to class helps ensure staffroom tidiness. There is nothing worse for support staff and those left behind to have to clean up after others. Messy teachers and staff quickly fall from favour with their peers.

Spillages on carpets and other floorcoverings can occur. To clean up any mess quickly is important. There are far too many school staffrooms where floorcoverings have been spoiled and the aesthetic affect of the room impacted because spillages have been left. Once dried on floors they are hard to remove.

Move on the first bell and aim to be back with the children when breaks are over and it is time to resume teaching activities. There’s often some distance between learning areas and the staffroom so giving yourself travelling (walking) time to get back and resume duty needs to be taken into account.

Mix with staff in a social context and don’t hide away from colleagues.
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VIGNETTES SERIES 16: LOCATION and TAXATION

VIGNETTES SERIES 16: LOCATION AND TAXATION

Where to teach and reclaiming costs
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VIGNETTE 48

REMOTE AREA SERVICE

The challenge for the Department of Education in our Northern Territory is readying teachers after training to undertake remote area teaching service. Very few teacher education graduates in the NT go to remote or very remote communities on appointment.

This is due in part to many pre-service teachers from interstate training by external mode. They intend to seek appointment in their home states. The other issue is that many of our local graduate teachers are mature age, with family or personal commitments that will keep them in Darwin, Palmerston and other major centres.

If interested about teaching in a remote community, it is advisable to try and organise a practice teaching round or two in a remote locality. Charles Darwin University has a policy of sending at least two people to aa community so they have the opportunity to talk, provide feedback to each other and generally share the experience.

It would be altogether wrong to go into a practice teaching round with romantic or “missionary” expectations or ambitions in mind. Undertaking a practice should be based on rational and logical pre-considerations. To consider indigenous students as a “special” group is often to under estimate them, their capacities for learning and their ability to make progress. Neither should they be regarded as unique in the context of being almost treated like special toys. They are people and need to be regarded as having the same expectations and abilities as anybody else.

If going into a community on practice teaching, it is a good idea to gain an understanding of the place by googling, reading, talking with people who may have been in that or similar communities in the past. Going in cold can be very unhelpful. Be aware of the facilities available within the community including accommodation, food, shopping, communications, and so on.

I believe it’s important if going into a community to maintain our cultural standards. In the past some teachers have let their standard slip in order to try and be like locals. They gain no respect but earn contempt if that happens.

Respect is a two way street. While it’s important to gain the respect of community members, it is also important to respect that community and not to belittle the people or place in your thinking or actions. In the same way as we talk with each other, including aboriginal people in conversation if working at their place is important. A lot is learned through conversation.

There is a place for our local graduates in remote area education in the Northern Territory. At the moment significant number of teachers who do bush service are recruited from interstate. That is because locals are not available to take up appointments. Our aboriginal population is very much a part and parcel of our Northern Territory. An ambition of our University and Education Department should be to train teachers for remote community. Lots of positives can be gained in life’s world from undertaking teaching service in these places.

If interested in training or on graduation in teaching in our remote communities, don’t let that ambition lapse. Follow it up. It could well be an appointment bringing you rich experience and personal satisfaction.
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VIGNETTE 49

TAX DEDUCTIONS

Teaching can be a cost heavy profession. Keeping receipts of expenditure related to costs can help when it comes to taxation time. I am not a tax professional. Googling ato.gov.au or putting into your search engine ‘taxation deductions for teachers’ brings up the entry appearing below. It is good to be aware of what can be claimed because every bit helps when it comes to legitimate claims for taxation purposes.

Keeping documentation takes a little organisation. I keep an indexed notebook and glue receipts in against particular categories. Come taxation time, it is then a case of going through documentation and tallying expenditure against each deduction category.

I would never advocate dishonesty when claiming deductions. However, claiming legitimate work related expenditure can help with cost recovery.

What comes up when ‘taxation deductions for teachers’ is googled. (Australia)

“Teachers – claiming work-related expenses
About this guide
If you are an employee teacher, this information outlines some of the deductions you may be able to claim.
The work-related expenses include:
motor vehicle
clothing, including compulsory uniforms, protective clothing, laundry and dry-cleaning
self-education
other – such as phones, calculators, electronic organisers, computers and software, meals, and teaching aids
There may be other deductions you can claim that are not included in this publication. Refer to More information at the end of this guide for a list of resources.

When you sign your tax return, you are declaring that everything you have told us is true and you can support your claims with written evidence.
You are responsible for providing proof of your expenses, even if you use a registered tax agent.”
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End of attention

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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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.

VIGNETTES SERIES 8 (Ideas for teachers)

VIGNETTES SERIES 8

Vignettes 26 – 28
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VIGNETTE 26

ASK FOR HELP

One of the strongest attributes of the teaching profession is that of ‘fraternity’. Collegiality and sharing are elements of that togetherness. Unlike some occupations in which people feel they have to sit on problems or challenges and muddle through, teaching invites those with questions to seek assistance in finding answers. This does not mean teachers should not have a go, but rather that they seek support to help in reaching satisfactory outcomes.

This might include asking for clarification when a particular theory or teaching practice is not fully understood. It could be that teachers are struggling with classroom management, that discipline policies need explaining; a myriad of issues may press upon the teacher’s mind. They will remain there unless help is sought or given.

Teachers are often credited with having a sixth sense. Part of this is having the intuition to understand matters that others might be finding confusing and offering advice or support. Gumption needs to be a characteristic that allows teachers having difficulties, to ask for help if it is needed.

It is not a sign of weakness or inability to ask for support in understanding matters that are not fully comprehended. If there is a need ‘sensed’ in others, ask if they would like assistance. Two way caring and sharing should be informal, a part of the relationships that establish between members of staff.

In some cases, mentors are assigned to staff members new to a school. Building a two way professional relationship with a mentor or coach is wise. Beginning teachers can contribute to these relationships for they often have a better understanding of new methodologies than those who have been in schools for a number of years. Therefore meaningful two-way relationships can be established.

Keeping in touch with each other in a professional context is essential to the professional growth of teachers and school staff members. If problems are not shared and help not sought, worry, despondency and despair can set in and infect the soul. It is indeed sad if this happens … and it need not!

Caring and sharing are attributes to be cherished and practised.
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VIGNETTE. 27

E-MAILING – CAUTION NEEDED

In today’s world, emailing has become possibly the most common form of written communication. Most people have email accounts and use emails prolifically. Schools and teachers have email accounts, often displayed on the school’s website.

Communication by email is encouraged, including contact between parents and teachers. Notwithstanding the ease with which email communication can be used, it is important consider a cautionary approach to its use. This is because emails are written documents and can be held against writers for years and years to come.

* If parents seek information about homework assignments and work due,
excursion information or similar, response is fine.

* If parents want information on school policy or are confused about particular
whole school policies or school matters, refer them to a member of the
leadership team and forward email sent and you reply to your senior.

* Under no circumstances offer parent value judgements about a child’s
character by email. Written statements can come back in future times to haunt
the writer.

* Be aware of the fact that emails can be used as documentation supporting
actions in courts, including custody battles between parents. To that end avoid
sending emails that ‘take sides’ or can be interpreted as supporting one parent
viewpoint or the other.

* Never promise by email that a child ‘will’ make certain progress by a particular
time or ‘will’ achieve particular outcomes. ‘Will’ is an absolute and confirms
that a particular attainment will be the result. Use ‘can’ or ‘could’ or similar
non-committing words. The onus is then on the child and not on the teacher to
take prime ownership of possible outcomes.

* It is wise to keep copies of emails sent too parents in a designated folder.
Trashing can be tempting but if a communications issue is raised to the
teacher at some future time, not having a record can be very unhelpful.

The above dot points could be extended and others added. Suffice it to say that the use of emails can be fraught with danger, a situation that all too many people find to their eternal sorrow. Stick to material issues and don’t enter into the realm of value judgements and character comment. Parents may send emails of this nature, asking to you comment on their perceptions. That invitation should be avoided because response means they may quote you and tie you to what is really their position.

Never ever write and send emails in the hear of the moment, while over-tired or while less inhibited than usual because of the use of alcohol. The reasons for this advice should be obvious.

If in doubt on the subject of email correspondence, check with a senior staff member. It is always better to be sure than sorry when dealing with email traffic.
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VIGNETTE 28

PRESENTATIONS AND MIND SET

From time to time teachers will be asked to prepare presentations for colleagues, school staff, parents committee meetings, and possibly for other audience groups. Used to working with children and students in a classroom context, presentation requests take teachers outside their normal comfort zone. Suddenly they are confronted with a new arena.

Quite often people who were asked to prepare a presentation react with stage fright. Presenting in a formal or semiformal matter is something that causes them a great deal of nervous reaction. Some become so nervous they refuse point-blank to participate.

In an informal or social context people are comfortable to converse and exchange experiences. Yet when asked to present to the same people and others more formally, those selfsame and confident communicators clam up!

There is no doubt that the first time is the hardest when it comes to presentations. Relaxation of the mind and not anticipating “the worst” is critically important.

I would strongly recommend to teachers and indeed to all professionals that they consider joining Toastmasters, Penguins, or some other speech and speaking club. Membership of such groups enables people to develop confidence when it comes to speech presentations. Graduated programs help recognise the essential ingredients of speech. Graduated development means progress in understanding the rudiments of a presentation with presenters building on previously acquired skills. Membership of these groups also facilitates critical listening, with a view to members evaluating each other and through that process honing their self evaluation skills.

There are many people in high places who have great difficulty when it comes to presenting. Some have managed to sidestep the challenge by resort to PowerPoint presentations but the essence of delivery can be stilted, uninspiring and predestinated to leave the listening audience feeling bored, flat and unconvinced.

Speaking up with confidence does not come naturally to a lot of people. However it is a skill that can be acquired and once gained builds confidence in people called upon to make formal presentations or contribute to organisations and groups.

Details of such groups are often available by word of mouth, online, and through telephone book entries. Although membership has a fee attached this can be tax-deductible because it has to do with professional development.

I unequivocably recommend this course of action for your consideration.
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