SCHOOL ATTENDANCE – The Challenge Remains in 2016

This paper was published in the Suns Newspapers in January 2016. School attendance remains a key issue in NT schools. I offer the idea of reward that will cost little and may turn the issue.

SCHOOL ATTENDANCE NEEDS REWARDING

A perennial educational issue in the NT (and I suspect elsewhere) is that of school attendance. Some believe the issue only impacts on Indigenous Education but that is far from being the case. Sporadic school attendance is a universal problem.

Punctuality goes hand in glove with attendance. Students who are continually late for school, do a disservice to themselves and to classmates. Teachers have to go over what has already been covered. Lateness along with absence contributes to lost learning.

For teachers and educators, there is double jeopardy about this situation. Unless children establish regular habits of school attendance, there will be substantial gaps in what they learn. Yet when these students perform poorly in standardised tests, the onus of responsibility is placed back on teachers and their schools.

School attendance was identified as a key issue in the 2014 Wilson Report on Indigenous Education. However, in terms of recommendations, the report intimated that children attending for 60% of the school week (three days out of five) were almost satisfying the attendance requirement. That is a far cry from what should be happening and will not help overcome learning deficits. A good education depends on constant school attendance.

Attendance is certainly an issue dear to the heart of the Australian Government. In recent years, close to $40 million has been spent or committed to employing school truancy officers, to boost school attendance in Australia’s remote communities. There are similar attendance challenges within our towns and cities.

Recognising Attendance

There are several key determinants to success at school. One is attendance. At the end of the 2015 school year, Gracie Ah Mat, one of Wagaman School’s students gained media attention (NT News 12 December 2015). Gracie earned her school’s ‘Deadly Attender’ Award, commemorating the fact that she had not missed one day’s school in four years. A rare achievement indeed.

Without doubt, there would be other students, probably a significant number, whose regular school attendance would be worthy of accolade. If they don’t do so already, schools might consider recognising students for excellent attendance and punctuality.

Some years ago, the NT Government devised a Chief Minister’s Literacy Award program. One student in each class in every school was recognised for literary excellence. This recognition helped promote the importance of literacy within our schools.

My suggestion would be that our Government consider a program which recognises and rewards the school attendance and punctuality of one child in each class of every school. Intrinsic appreciation costs little. However the development of any program that adds value and recognition to the habit of school attendance is priceless. It won’t cost $40 million and could be worth a try.

EDUCATIONAL PREDICTABILITY NEEDED

New idea after new idea, curriculum initative after curriculum initiative descend on schools with increasing frequency. Schools and staff hardly have time to consider and digest one new idea before the next one arrives. School is a place becoming increasingly frenetic and often decidedly unsettled. That is not what education should be about.

Published in the ‘Suns’ newspapers in September 2015. This subject was relevant ten years ago and will have that same relevance (if nort more so) than ten years from now.

EDUCATIONAL PREDICTABILITY NEEDED.

Education so often seems to involve roundabouts and swings. As a profession it attracts more commentary and contribution than any other occupation.

Quality education is founded on the application of research. That research is often quite extensively tested before being released and recommended as part of future practice. However, the volume of ideas being passed down from governments, to systems and then onto schools can be quite overwhelming. Often very little time is given for the acceptance and embedding of initiatives before they are changed again. This means that school programs are in a constant state of flux.

National Curriculum

While many overseas systems have national curricular applying to all schools within the jurisdiction, that is not fully the case in Australia. While “National Curricular” is the flavour of current discussion, adaptation is staggered. This means that implementation is largely dependent on the resources of States and Territories. Authorities also have the right to determine if, how and when National Curriculum guidelines will be introduced. There is no uniformity or overall plan about the way this is being done.

Another anomaly is the belief that new ideas have never been previously tried. National Curriculum is an example of this thinking. During the 1980’s an attempt was made to introduce a curriculum with uniform application across Australia. States and Territories cooperated during planning stages. At the end of many months, involving time, travel and endless meetings, a national plan was created. Implementation however, was a failure. States and Territories were not prepared to surrender their own identified curricular to a national agenda. Tens of thousands of curriculum and subject documents were permanently shelved then destroyed.

Thirty years later in a new era, nationalisation is again in favour. Timing may be better but until all systems are using the national curriculum in step with each other, the initiative is still in a developmental stage.

Reactivity

A real danger about the floods of new ideas being dumped onto our educational systems and schools, is that school leaders and teachers are grappling with new directions and constant change. This can be unsettling for students. Change needs to be carefully orchestrated. Shifts in emphasis are often based on sudden urges to move educational focus in new directions. That is very destabilising for schools and students. New directions are necessary, but change should be managed within a structured context. To be ad hoc in introducing change creates suspicion and builds resentment.

 

SEPTEMBER 6 -WHEN STUDENTS BECOME PRINCIPALS

 

SWAP JOBS FOR A DAY

For the past seven years, schools within the NT and around Australian have been invited to participate in the ‘Principal for a Day’ program. This year’s program is set for September 8. Schools participating have various ways of choosing the student who is selected to become principal for the day. While there is a certain novelty about this program, it offers the selected student an opportunity to appreciate the school from a principal’s perspective. Choosing the right student to fill the job can be important.

A nationwide “Principal for a Day” concept is comparatively recent. However there are schools where this has been part of the program for many years. A student principal has been chosen by the Student Council or by other means of selection. The chosen student is generally being rewarded for attitude and effort.

There have been instances of the student becoming principal with the principal taking the student’s place in class for the day. I had some first hand experience with this dual model.

Mind Set

Swapping positions works best if both the student and the principal embrace their changed roles. For the student who is principal to see, hear and experience the principal’s environment can offer a perspective and understanding of administration not usually shared with the student body.

For the principal who is student to see, hear from and associate with child peers for the day can offer understanding and insights not usually experienced. These might include awareness of classroom noise, the way students mix in the playground, recess and lunchtime activities, willingness or reluctance to comply with school rules and so on.

Experiences the student has, can be conveyed back to the student body as a whole. That might be in the form of a report at assembly. It could also be written with the student composing a piece for the schools newsletter or website. The principal who has had the experience of being a student should reciprocate in a similar manner. Marketing the experience gets the whole school and community involved in the program.
Ideally a file on the school’s website might contain the experiences of students and principals who participated in the program. This would build over time, adding to the culture and history of the school.

This is a fun activity but there can be more to the program than novelty effect. The initiative is one well worth introducing.

SNIPPETS FOR EDUCATORS (12)

More thoughts that may be helpful.

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APPRECIATING VOLUNTEERS
So many teachers and educators give of their time and talents in out of hours, voluntary activities supporting students and their schools. They go the extra mile and deserve thanks and appreciation.
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SCHOOL ATMOSPHERE – HARD  TO  BUILD  AND EASILY LOST

School atmosphere is precious. It can be built but not bought. It’s establishment comes from hard work. Without dedication it can be easily lost.
Schools are like weather maps. There are highs and lows. Principals are like unto the forecast. There is a need to disperse the lows and bring on the highs. Maintaining optimal atmosphere is challenging.
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THE PRIME PURPOSE OF EDUCATION

Teachers and educators should always consider how their contributions and efforts can benefit and enrich student learning outcomes. What they can do to build the school collegiate is also important.

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REPUTATION – LONG ON DEVELOPMENT, SO EASILY LOST
Building a school’s reputation takes time and effort. It requires the focus and concerted effort of staff. It is added to by the contribution of parents and students. And it can be so easily lost.
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ENRICHING STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES

Teachers and educators should always consider how their contributions and efforts can benefit and enrich student learning outcomes. What they can do to build the school collegiate is also important.

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KNOWING STUDENTS

As a principal, educational leader or teacher, make every effort to know your students and give them every opportunity to know and appreciate you. Knowing and speaking to students by name is a must.

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TEACHERS SHOULD SET STANDARDS

Teachers  should “model” for their students. This extends to include dress standards maintained by teachers in schools.

In my opinion it would be a good thing if the state and territory departments work to establish dress codes for teachers which were mandated. At one stage that used to be the case in some of the states.

With the passing of time departments have vested confidence in teachers that they will dress appropriately and according to standard setting. For most teachers follow a reasonable and sensible dress code, there are some who don’t enter in the correction.

Correcting teachers by advising on dress standards can be difficult and embarrassing. Where practicable it is advisable that female teachers should be spoken to about dress standards by a female member of the senior team. Likewise if mile teachers need advice that is best offered by a male member of the senior staff (if indeed there is a male in the senior leadership cohort).

I believe that the teacher dress does not need to be “over the top”. Neither should people dress scantily or inappropriately because this let’s the standard of our teaching profession down quite badly in the eyes of the public. Whether we like it or not, members of the community do talk about the way we dress and comment on our general behaviour and deportment.

Recently (2014) the New South Wales Department of Education introduced minimal standards of this for teachers which will be regulated in that state. This may have been because of a need for this issue to be addressed. Whether other departments will follow in a similar direction remains to be seen. It is to be hoped however, that teachers will dress in a way that shows their respect about profession so that regulation is not necessary.

I believe at the end of the day, teachers are modelling and setting standards for students. That is something we need to do in a respectful and empathetic manner. While it may be considered not proper to talk about these sorts of things the way we dress and our quality of deportment as teachers is certainly something that students and the public take into account when considering teachers and the profession.
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WATCH OUT FOR TRENDINESS

Education is exciting, often because of the chance to innovate and try out new ideas. However, it is important to consider and study the merit of new ideas. ‘Reform’ and ‘initiative’ are words often overdone.

Education that bounces from one new idea to the next, to the next in rapid succession, can present a destabilising and hard to follow classroom experience for children. There seems no end to the plethora of ideas, approaches and priorities that come along.

It is important that schools and teachers apply a filter to suggestions of change. The pros and cons of issues need to be considered. To grasp at something new for the sake of its novelty is unwise.

Schools and staff who take and consider ideas and change suggestions are wise. This is where the value of collaboration and conversation comes to the fore.  Within every group, there are those who want to run with change, others who prefer dialogue and careful consideration and a third group who dig in and avoid change at all costs. from this delightful mix, school organisation evolves.

Some thoughts:

* Discuss issues with colleagues and also be a sounding board for them.
* Read and research new initiatives.
* Make a list of the pros and cons relative to change in teaching approaches.
* Discuss ideas with people who may have trialled them.
* Make the subject one for discussion at unit meetings and possibly whole staff
meetings.
* Consider whether changes will build on what has gone before, or whether
they will mean starting all over again in particular areas. There is a lot to be
said for ‘steady state’ or incremental development.
* Take into account budgetary implications of change. Programs that are resource           heavy can finish up costing schools a lot of money.
* Consider if change addresses major learning needs or if it is simply about        embellishment or ‘prettying the edges’ of learning; is it about superficiality or
substance?

Change ought not be resisted by habit. Neither should it be blindly accepted for change’s sake. Consider new ideas on their merit including thinking, reading and discussion with others.

Importantly, consider that change builds on what has gone before. To throw out everything that has been developed, using change as an excuse to ‘start all over’ would be the extreme of foolishness.

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THE NUMBER ONE PRIORITY

Teachers and educators should always consider how their contributions and efforts can benefit and enrich student learning outcomes. What they can do to build the school collegiate is also important.
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COMPUTER FOCUSSED LEARNING HAS ITS LIMITATIONS

It seems that the thrust of education is toward developing opportunities for students to progress  through  the practise of technology supported learning . Devices from electronic smart boards to computers, iPads and other devices are front and centre. More and more schools are developing a “bring your open device” policy when it comes to technology. It seems that the children are increasingly immersed in technologically focused learning.

There is a place for technology in our schools. However if devices replace teachers  it will be to the detriment of education. The best learning outcomes are achieved through direct interaction.  When using computers and iPads, children can easily log out of learning and go onto some amusement or games application.

Approach to lessons and learning needs to be based on time and organisation. There needs to be a patterned and ordered approach to  learning.  Taking teachers out of the equation and replacing them with computer controlled programs, detracts from education.

The emphasis in the NT is toward Direct Instruction (DI).  Concern about poor educational outcomes has lead to a revival of this instructional method.  “The Direct instruction strategy is highly teacher-directed and is among the most commonly used. This strategy is effective for providing information or developing step-by-step skills. It also works well for introducing other teaching methods, or actively involving students in knowledge construction.” (Instructional strategies online, Saskatoon Public Schools)

Explicit teaching, lectures, drills, specific questioning, demonstration and the guiding of listening, reading, viewing and thinking are direct instructional practices. DI is about close interaction of teachers with students to enhance teaching and learning opportunities.  Computers and iPads by their very nature can put distance between students and teachers. If their use is not carefully managed they can become a distraction.

A very important part of teaching and learning is the way body language and facial expression impact on classroom outcomes. Teachers can sense confidence about what if being taught through student responses. Similarly, students can sense how their teachers feel about work being completed. Shared personal contact within classrooms is a very important part of learning. Computer based education does not allow students or teachers to appreciate body language or facial expressions.

Technology has its place in education as a support to learning. However classroom focus should be about interaction between teachers and students. Replacing teachers with computers will impact negatively on the quality of learning and educational outcomes.
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CLASSROOM MANAGMENT – PUTTING THE HORSE BEFORE THE CART

ESTABLISHING CLASSROOM PROTOCOLS

a .. CLASS RULES AND DISCIPLINE
A Precursor to Teaching and Learning

One of the issues that may confront teachers is a belief they must teach soon as they take responsibility for a class of children. This may apply at the beginning of a year. the beginning of a semester, the start of a term or whenever a teacher takes responsibility for a new class.

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

That is areal worry. By c. CHILDREN NEED TRAINING

Without diminishing or in any way tarnishing the intelligence of ‘homo sapiens’, I sometimes think about the development of children in the same way I’d consider dog obedience classes.

I think of a delightful dog with a happy disposition and carefree nature. It is a lolloping, happy, unrequitedly playful yet totsally uncontrolled, undisciplined and range-free canine. in dog-like terms, and basing past the puppy stage, it is now adolescent and possibly past the age of recovery. Untrained as a puppy, its road to rectification of manners, deportment and attitude will be long and tortuous with only minimal change to ingrained behaviour being possible. The dog is set in its ways.

Children go through a period of formulation and formation. During their formative years they are impressionable, responsive to training and development. They are receptive.

Just as young dogs need to be taught dog obedience when they are puppies, children need to be developed while young. very young.It is never too early to start with these necessary developments. But it is easy to leave the commencement of this moulding until it is altogether too late.

One of the things that really rankles, is to hear people say that the nurture of young children can be left at the moment because they are so young. the message put about is there is plenty of time to develop them as they grow older. What sad, ignorant and arrant nonsense. The Catholic Church used to say that the age of impression was up to and including seven years of age. if children were trained in the art of catholic devotion prior to the age of seven, they remained with the church in a steadfast and generally unwavering way for the whole of life. They might drift off from time to time, but inevitably come back to their belief platform.

In educational terms, we would do well to think in the same way. Frazer Mustard made the point that brain malleability – its capacity for development and absorption – declines precipitously from birth to three years of age, continuing in sharp decline until the age of ten. Brain malleability then plateaus and continues a gentle descent that parallels the increasing chronological enhancement of the individual. He makes the point that young and impressionable individuals have less resource put into their development that for those who are older. This I feel follows in educational terms – to the detriment of children.

Educationally speaking, resources tend to be prioritised toward tertiary, senior secondary and junior secondary students in that order. Then come upper middle and finally lower primary children. (There is some recent focus on primary age children but the longevity of this focus is yet to be confirmed.) There seems to be a belief that the older children and students are, the more that has to be devoted to their education because of accountability factors.It often seems the only thing taken into account in measuring educational development, is how well children do in Literacy and Maths.

I worry about the short-sightedness of measurement tools that consider only one developmental domain.

The holistic (I sometimes use the term ‘wholelistic’ for impact) notion notion of development is a much more rational and logical alternative. It takes account of the social, emotional and moral/spiritual development of children.

There is a sad juxtaposition attaching to this issue. On the one hand, we reawd of the desirtes of educxastors vto develop chgildren in a complete, rounded and fulfilled manner. On the other we have acquiescence to ‘narrow gauge’ rather than ‘broadband’ measurement. We focus on academics forgetting or minimising our appreciation of the other elements that should be part of the developmental framework.

Routines and procedures are the linchpins on which sound classroom development is predicated. While much of the reutilisations does not directly impact on academics, processes and procedures help in the development of children as whole people. the process of developing maturing personality has benefits in terms of enhanced attitudes to work and learning. The environment and atmospheric ‘set’ is critical to focussing children and students on work and learning. outcomes are enhanced of procedures are in place to help make things work better.

This training needs to precede learning. Rules outlined in an earlier article translate into positive attitudes, quality routines and a wholesome classroom operational manner. This is on a day-to-day not an ‘occasional’ or ‘sometimes’ basis. Procedures in place become operational precepts which in turn become ingrained as practised habits. Good habits. Children’s attitudes in terms of classroom care, property management and respect for resources, builds atmosphere and promotes harmony within the learning environment.

Part of sound routine and procedure are the working habits developed with and for children. these habits (go) beyond classroom rules and procedures because they are about individual training. These habits and work attributes include the following.

1. desk habits including pencil hold, paper position and writing posture.
2. Use of loose sheets of paper including storage in books and files.
3. Gluing paper (right places) and fixing into work books.
4. Using cloth for wiping up spills. The teacher may rinse the cloth every so often with children trained to use it automatically to wipe up spills.
5. Correct school bag and lunch box storage with bags and boxes stowed by habit at the start of the school day or vat the end of lunch eating periods. Included is refrigerator opening and closing procedures, recess and lunch eating habits, rubbish and wrapper disposal.
6. Movement habits in and around school buildings including places for walking, running and playing. Hats on and off depending on the area of play. Lining up and readying procedures at the end of recess and lunchtime are part of the ‘movement and motion’ strategy.

I maintain that training, the establishment of routines and procedures MUST be the NUMBER ONE PRIORITY in any classroom at the start of
the school year. Once these processes are in place, then learning can occur. Habits are important. I have read that it takes twenty-two days for a habit, good or bad, to establish. Once established, practice and adherence ensures they stay in place.

While it takes time to set these strategies in place, it is time well spent. Good classroom habits and practices, that sit aside and in a complimentary way to class rules and procedures, ensure through their practice that things go smoothly. The time initially spent on this ordering returns tenfold in benefit terms because interruptions and disruptions are avoided. Boundaries are established. Expectations that have been discussed and programmed, unfold in a practical day-by-day manner in support of the class, teaching, learning and development.

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

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

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

Set the Scene with the Children

A losing strategy for any teacher can be an attempt to set the classroom scene without involving the children. ironclad rules and tight procedures will quickly lose their impact of they are set without the involvement of the class. It is essential that class rules and procedures are established by teacher and children in concert. The class needs to own its governance. Rules won’t work if they are dictatorially set then maritally announced. collectivity, the group contributing to and therefore owning governance is the smart way to formulate procedures.

‘Us shaping’ rather than ‘me saying’ and ‘you doing’ is essential. Groupship is empowering. Without having the right approach to classroom management, a teacher can become an awfully isolated and almost unappreciated individual. No teacher wants to be overbearing to the point of being ‘sent to Coventry’ by her or his class.

First and Second Level Ownership

The way classroom procedures are developed confers first or second level ownership. Children who feel a fart of the ownership stratagem are more likely to be compliant and act in accord with agreed procedures than otherwise would be the case.(There will be exceptions but aberrance may not be tolerated and therefore quickly corrected in a ‘recalcitrant’ by the collective.) Rules break down and lose impact when there is little commitment and scant adherence on the part of children.

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

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

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

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

Rules, organisation, routines and procedures are important. They need to be established by teachers working in away that sees the first days and weeks being spent on getting to know and understand children and students in classrooms. Students and their teacher need to get to know each other. This is ever so important and ought not to be overlooked.

Once this has happened and once ground rules are in place, teachers will be able to teach with the confidence that underpins successful teaching and learning strategies.

Teachers who go full on from day one and ignore the need to establish management strategies with children may well set themselves up for along period of tiring and frustrating teaching effort.

b. CLASS RULES AND PROCEDURES

I have pointed out that teaching is more effective once controlling devices are locked into place. It’s not a case of irrevocable ‘locking’ because circumstances may dictate the necessity of change. Fluidity is essential. However the general precept stands. If there are controlling and managing measures place to underpin classroom operations, teaching will be more effective and learning more meaningful than would otherwise be the case.

Rules and procedures are best developed via memorandums of understanding. That happens when those with stake and interest in a learning domain contribute to their formulation. Creating is but the beginning. Outcome and consequence, the way in which those involved adhere to statements and precepts, will be based largely on the shape and wording of documents. all need to feel ownership of the process.

To indulge in lots of ‘dont’s’ and ‘cant’s’ is negative overkill. Children will look. They may shudder but one can bet they won’t comply, at least not willingly, with forceful and aggressively worded edicts. ‘Softly, softly catchee monkey’ is the smart way to go.

I have pointed out that to establish procedures facilitating class management and control needs to come before teaching. That process is best developed when the whole class feels ownership what is put in place. Dictatorship is definitely not the best way forward. Classroom teachers should never be educational Idi Amin’s.

EXAMPLES OF EXCELLENCE IN SHAPING CLASS PROCESSES

In developing this article I have drawn on some very good examples of teaching practitionership. I want to highlight some educators who had and have the goods when it comes to setting up procedures and routines upon which classroom organisation is excellently underpinned.

Louise Wright and the Golden Rule

Louise wright was a teacher at Leanyer school for a period during my principalship. As an ex-Milingimbi educator she had gained insights into classroom management in away that portrayed her class as one within which democracy reigned. That was truly obvious.

Ms Wright,s class had the following as its mission statement :

” Remember the Golden Rule and choose to help each other.
1. Choose to help each other.
2. Choose to respect each other.
3. Choose to be kind and caring.
4. Choose to work and learn ‘together as one’.
5. Choose to be happy.”

Curious, I asked Ms Wright for a small text explaining the class and its operational precepts. She responded to me in the following terms.

” I asked the children what sort of classroom they would like to have. They all said, “a happy one”. Then the question ‘how do we make a happy classroom’ was brainstormed. We talked about choices and being responsible for the choices we make.

I told the children The Golden Rule. “Do unto others, or treat them as you would like to be treated.” They reckoned that was pretty fair so we decided to make the choice to be a happy bunch be developing the above attitudes. They saw that those attitudes and behaviours were embracing of the school motto (Together as One) and so it all just came together. It is working.”

Fran’s Wisdom Rubs Off

Mrs Fran Selvadurai was (and is) the Early Childhood Senior Teacher at Leanyer School. With her Year Three class she developed the following Belief statement. The group saw it as their Statement of Purpose.

” In Year 3 Selvadurai, we choose to be
RESPECTFUL
SAFE
POLITE AND ENCOURAGING

And to complete ALL our work to
THE BEST OF OUR ABILITY.”

The class has a posting of positive consequences and outcomes that flow naturally from adherence to this statement of purpose:
1. Praise
2. Good comments
3. Stickers, stamps and visible rewards
4. Merit awards
5. Invitation to share good work with other teachers and (then) Mr Gray.
6. Free activities.

Evidence revealed that these statements of purpose and anticipation of cooperating, caring and sharing process were working very well.

Mrs Quinn’s precepts

Mrs Bev Quinn was a teacher at Nakara School. A practitioner for many years, she displayed the following precepts and principles in her classroom. These simple, effective and ever so wise statements were on display as reminders to children of agreed class principles.

1. Everyone in this class is special.
2. Everyone in this class is important.
3. Everyone in this class is valued
4. A smile is free.

(And in the ‘time out area’, a timely reminder)
5. Everyone has the right to learn and to be safe and happy.

Application

For each and every class there is a new beginning. These teachers and others do not carry forward exhortorary statements from year to year as a matter of passage. Each year they work with their ‘new’. class in a way that causes these precepts to be developed in a fresh, meaningful and ‘owned’ way. Although the wording may vary from year to year the principles are the same. Children and teacher work together to develop their class platforms. owning these principles and precepts as they go forward into the excitement that learning underpins their forty weeks of togetherness.

The Best Rules

The best class rules – invoked as precepts and procedures – are those co-created by teacher and students. cooperation in creation confirms this co-ownership and guarantees an adherence that does not come with imposition. if children are involved in the development of class rules, this shared ownership will validate their relevance and meaning to all class members.

The best expectations are those designed to add to classroom comfort because of the consideration children have for each other. Quality classroom environments have a powerfully positive impact on children’s learning.

Flexibility in application should be inherent in the rules that are put into place. To make everything absolute and inviolate can be too unbending because on occasions there may be exceptions that should be considered. An example might be a child who has to leave the room suddenly and without gaining permission because he or she is about to vomit, has diarrhoea and so on.

Rules apply in normal circumstances. If there are special circumstances affecting some class members, empathy and understanding should imbue the thinking of the group as a whole. Children accept special circumstances as part of the accord embracing the group as a whole.

Conclusion

Rules, regulations and procedures c are not ‘nailed onto’ classrooms as restrictive devices. they need to be considered and embraced as cv part of the operational and cooperative thesis upon which good classrooms are predicated.

Appreciation:

Thanks to Ms Louise Wright, Mrs Fran Selvadurai, Ms Bev Quinn and my wife Margo Gray for source material, thoughts and ideas.

c. CHILDREN NEED TRAINING

Without diminishing or in any way tarnishing the intelligence of ‘homo sapiens’, I sometimes think about the development of children in the same way I’d consider dog obedience classes.

I think of a delightful dog with a happy disposition and carefree nature. It is a lolloping, happy, unrequitedly playful yet totsally uncontrolled, undisciplined and range-free canine. in dog-like terms, and basing past the puppy stage, it is now adolescent and possibly past the age of recovery. Untrained as a puppy, its road to rectification of manners, deportment and attitude will be long and tortuous with only minimal change to ingrained behaviour being possible. The dog is set in its ways.

Children go through a period of formulation and formation. During their formative years they are impressionable, responsive to training and development. They are receptive.

Just as young dogs need to be taught dog obedience when they are puppies, children need to be developed while young. very young.It is never too early to start with these necessary developments. But it is easy to leave the commencement of this moulding until it is altogether too late.

One of the things that really rankles, is to hear people say that the nurture of young children can be left at the moment because they are so young. the message put about is there is plenty of time to develop them as they grow older. What sad, ignorant and arrant nonsense. The Catholic Church used to say that the age of impression was up to and including seven years of age. if children were trained in the art of catholic devotion prior to the age of seven, they remained with the church in a steadfast and generally unwavering way for the whole of life. They might drift off from time to time, but inevitably come back to their belief platform.

In educational terms, we would do well to think in the same way. Frazer Mustard made the point that brain malleability – its capacity for development and absorption – declines precipitously from birth to three years of age, continuing in sharp decline until the age of ten. Brain malleability then plateaus and continues a gentle descent that parallels the increasing chronological enhancement of the individual. He makes the point that young and impressionable individuals have less resource put into their development that for those who are older. This I feel follows in educational terms – to the detriment of children.

Educationally speaking, resources tend to be prioritised toward tertiary, senior secondary and junior secondary students in that order. Then come upper middle and finally lower primary children. (There is some recent focus on primary age children but the longevity of this focus is yet to be confirmed.) There seems to be a belief that the older children and students are, the more that has to be devoted to their education because of accountability factors.It often seems the only thing taken into account in measuring educational development, is how well children do in Literacy and Maths.

I worry about the short-sightedness of measurement tools that consider only one developmental domain.

The holistic (I sometimes use the term ‘wholelistic’ for impact) notion notion of development is a much more rational and logical alternative. It takes account of the social, emotional and moral/spiritual development of children.

There is a sad juxtaposition attaching to this issue. On the one hand, we reawd of the desirtes of educxastors vto develop chgildren in a complete, rounded and fulfilled manner. On the other we have acquiescence to ‘narrow gauge’ rather than ‘broadband’ measurement. We focus on academics forgetting or minimising our appreciation of the other elements that should be part of the developmental framework.

Routines and procedures are the linchpins on which sound classroom development is predicated. While much of the reutilisations does not directly impact on academics, processes and procedures help in the development of children as whole people. the process of developing maturing personality has benefits in terms of enhanced attitudes to work and learning. The environment and atmospheric ‘set’ is critical to focussing children and students on work and learning. outcomes are enhanced of procedures are in place to help make things work better.

This training needs to precede learning. Rules outlined in an earlier article translate into positive attitudes, quality routines and a wholesome classroom operational manner. This is on a day-to-day not an ‘occasional’ or ‘sometimes’ basis. Procedures in place become operational precepts which in turn become ingrained as practised habits. Good habits. Children’s attitudes in terms of classroom care, property management and respect for resources, builds atmosphere and promotes harmony within the learning environment.

Part of sound routine and procedure are the working habits developed with and for children. these habits (go) beyond classroom rules and procedures because they are about individual training. These habits and work attributes include the following.

1. desk habits including pencil hold, paper position and writing posture.
2. Use of loose sheets of paper including storage in books and files.
3. Gluing paper (right places) and fixing into work books.
4. Using cloth for wiping up spills. The teacher may rinse the cloth every so often with children trained to use it automatically to wipe up spills.
5. Correct school bag and lunch box storage with bags and boxes stowed by habit at the start of the school day or vat the end of lunch eating periods. Included is refrigerator opening and closing procedures, recess and lunch eating habits, rubbish and wrapper disposal.
6. Movement habits in and around school buildings including places for walking, running and playing. Hats on and off depending on the area of play. Lining up and readying procedures at the end of recess and lunchtime are part of the ‘movement and motion’ strategy.

I maintain that training, the establishment of routines and procedures MUST be the NUMBER ONE PRIORITY in any classroom at the start of
the school year. Once these processes are in place, then learning can occur. Habits are important. I have read that it takes twenty-two days for a habit, good or bad, to establish. Once established, practice and adherence ensures they stay in place.

While it takes time to set these strategies in place, it is time well spent. Good classroom habits and practices, that sit aside and in a complimentary way to class rules and procedures, ensure through their practice that things go smoothly. The time initially spent on this ordering returns tenfold in benefit terms because interruptions and disruptions are avoided. Boundaries are established. Expectations that have been discussed and programmed, unfold in a practical day-by-day manner in support of the class, teaching, learning and development.

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

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

Process, procedure, rules and regulations can be reinforcing and satisfying. That satisfaction embraces students, teachers, the class as a community of learners and the school as a whole.

TEAM TEACHING AT ITS BEST The Cole – Bernardino Partnership

Gray – Team Teaching in the Northern Territory
Mr Henry Gray, Australia

This paper was published in February 2003.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mr Henry Gray is Principal of Leanyer School, in Darwin, in the Northern Territory, Australia. He can be contacted by email at: henrygray@bigpond.com

I have been around education since 1970 and a school principal in two Australian States and Territories for 30 of those years. During that time, I have worked in remote, rural, town and urban schools. It has been my privilege to have known thousands of students and to have worked with hundreds of teachers. No two students and no two teachers are identical. It’s the individuality of people that makes teaching and educational leadership so special.

For me, there have been plenty of high points and some that were low. There has been much to celebrate and heaps of challenges to contemplate. There have been countless educational initiatives to evaluate and teaching strategies to consider for possible benefit and potential pitfall. Part of the joy – and sometimes the frustration – of education, is that nothing ever stands still.

Team Teaching 
Over the years I have been presented, from time to time, with requests that I endorse a team teaching approach to educational delivery. Shared teaching strategies have both high and low points to consider. I’ve generally agreed to requests that teachers be allowed to team together for the purpose of educational delivery. This agreement has always been on condition that the teachers fully consult together on the notion within their units, with their senior teacher, and importantly, with parents of the children who are going to be taught by a teaching twosome.

It’s important to confess both a suspicion and a finding. In looking at teachers who team teach, it has always seemed that there is a disparity in terms of load sharing. It has always been apparent that one teacher puts in more of the underpinning foundational ‘hard yards’ than the other. And it has always seemed that the teacher who is ‘building’ the group, gets less credit and earns less recognition than his or her teaching partner. One seems to have the profile while the other more invisible, but ultimately more effective, teacher misses out on the recognition. Yet without the input of the less visible partner, the whole effort would crumble to nothingness.

In thinking about at least fifteen such arrangements over the years, it seems that this pattern has always fitted. Now, I’m not suggesting that one teaching partner has set out to earn the accolades and the praise for team teaching ventures, while setting the other to naught. Far from it. But in the eyes of the parents of the children and others observing from a little further back, it has often seemed that way. Maybe that has to do with some sort of preordained chemistry on which team teaching bonds are predicated and maybe it grows from the team ethos. But it has certainly happened in terms of my perceptions … until now, that is.

This Team is Different

 

 
 

Melanie Cole and Ana Bernardino are unlike teachers. Melanie Cole came to our school from Western Australia. She trained there and worked in regional remote areas, becoming a ‘top end’ West Australian pre-school coordinator.

She did lots of work in Aboriginal communities and was a ‘periodic visiting teacher’ developer of Assistant Teachers, as well as being an adviser to them and the members of the communities. Between visits to settlement pre-schools, she’d leave work for the on-site permanent assistants to undertake with children until her next visit. Melanie was both a teacher and a developer of teachers. She was a front runner in offering Aboriginal members of communities, a chance to become more responsible for the provision of educational services to their own people.

 

 

Melanie worked for a period with middle primary school students at Leanyer but then found her niche in Early Childhood.

Ana Bernardino trained as a teacher at the Northern Territory University. On graduation, she was appointed to Leanyer School, making a major contribution to our Early Childhood program. Ana has a lot of initiative. She absorbs new ideas and is able to develop them, in a wholly practical way, to meet the educational needs of our children. At one point in time, we asked Ana to work with teachers who had longer years of educational experience, in a developmental and mentorship role. Ana undertook this task so unobtrusively, yet so effectively, that those with whom she involved made significant advances. Together with Ana, they have become invaluable members of our school’s teaching team.

 

 

Ana is a teacher whose depth and breadth of educational experience attests hugely to the fact that she has worked in a quite extraordinary fashion toward self-betterment. Yet personal aggrandisement has been the least of her motivations. Her ‘getting on’ has been the outgrowth of her being there for others – children, parents and fellow teachers.

Transition in the Northern Territory 
It is necessary to explain that ‘Transition’ is an educational year or part-year that fits between pre-school (kindergarten) and Year One (Grade One) in Northern Territory schools. It’s a period when the rudiments of formal learning, including the exploration and development of ‘readiness’ for graduation into higher level learning are explored.

Children turning five years of age are entitled to enter the program. For the sake of organisation, intakes are not continual (happening the day children turn five), although this used to be the case. It works like this:

children turning five on or before the first day of the school year, start in Transition on Day 1 of Term 1;

children turning five between the start of the school year and Day 1 of   Term Two (around Easter) are entitled to begin Transition at the beginning of the term. They commence in Transition at the start of the eleventh week of  our 40-week school year;

children turning five between Day 1 of Term 2 and the commencement of Term 3 begin Transition on Day 1 of Term 3. That’s in late July;

children spend the year, nine months or six months in Transition, before moving to Year 1 at the start of the next school year; and,

some schools set up integrated (Transition/ Year One) programs for children who are still ‘bridging’. That can be the case for children who only have six months in a dedicated Transition group.

This continual movement requires principals to ensure that Transition teachers have quite extraordinary management skills. For the sake of a group that is constantly evolving, they need to be excellent at accommodating change and developing flexible, yet predictable, programs that meet the needs of individuals and the class collective. At Leanyer School, Ana Bernardino and Melanie Cole are teachers who fit that mould.

Philosophy and Methodology 
Ana and Melanie believe team teaching is an approach that helps create a positive, cooperative and harmonious learning environment. Through team teaching, they aim to build the self confidence of individuals. In writing about their program they said ‘we believe happy and reassured individuals have a greater potential to positively contribute to the class environment and their learning’.

Basis teaching methodologies are simple yet highly effective. Melanie and Ana have developed two working teams. Ana teachers the children who are working at a higher Transition level, while Melanie’s focus is on the group of children who need continuing repetition and learning consolidation. When these children have reached a stage where they are ready to further extend their knowledge, they move to Ana Bernardino’s working team, with new intakes of children going into Melanie Cole’s group.

For new intakes of children, the rudiments of Transition learning are applied, with Melanie working to further develop children continuing with her and who are not yet ready to graduate into Ana’s group.

Rewarding Application and Effort 
Positive reinforcement is a strategy underpinning the work Melanie and Ana do with children. They wrote that in Transition, ‘We do what we call ‘Legs. Look and Listen’ to target correct behaviour. Children are rewarded with counters, which are placed in their group’s container (this lives under the teacher’s chair). At the end of the week, we tally the counters. Children in the group earning the most counters, receive stickers, felt tip pens, erasers or other small rewards.

During Semester One, we introduce raffle tickets for ‘Safe and Happy Play’ in the playground. After relaxation time children sit on the mat to discuss with any problems they may have had at lunch. If there are any, they are dealt with straight away. Children who contribute to the discussion are given a raffle ticket on which they write their names.  Tickets are then placed in a bag. At the end of every second week, two names are drawn from the bag. Two children each receive a small gift.’

For Melanie and Ana, educational basics are ever so important. They hold high but achievable expectations for Transition children. Their focus is on English and mathematical development.

Expectations in English/Language 
‘Oral Interaction’, ‘Reading and Viewing’, ‘Writing’ and, importantly, ‘Listening’ are all areas of special focus.

Oral Interaction (Talking).

It is expected children will be able to:

speak English in order to interact with others in a school setting; and,

observe procedures, including turn-taking, and not interrupting others.

Reading and Viewing.

It is expected children will be able to:

predict written text through picture cues;

recognise upper and lower case letters;

borrow and return home books and library books;

begin to recognise common sight words;

recognise familiar words in their classroom environment; and,

independently choose books to read.

Writing.

It is expected children will be able to:

hold a pencil to write;

understand the orientation of writing – top to bottom, left to right;

understand that words have spaces between them;

copy words; and,

recognise full stops, capital letters and spacing.

Listening.

It is expected that children will be able to:

sit still, face and listen to others;

listen and follow two and three-step directions; and,

listen in a variety of situations, including group discussions, assemblies and performances, etc. to stories, and so on.

Phonological Awareness
Melanie and Ana’s English/Language program places great emphasis on phonological awareness, ‘the knowledge that words are composed of individual sounds and sound patterns and the ability of children to manipulate sounds and sound patterns by rhyming, blending, alliteration, repetition and comparison’.

In terms of phonological awareness, it is expected that children will be able to:

identify and name each of the letters of the alphabet;

identify most of the sounds that letters represent;

recognise initial and ending sounds in words; and,

begin to understand and recognise rhyming words.

Mathematical Expectations 
Ana and Melanie recognise and develop the three strands of the Mathematics Curriculum, which are ‘Space and Shape’, ‘Measurement’, and ‘Number’.

Space and Shape. 
It is expected that children will be able to:

understand and demonstrate positions, for example ‘under’, ‘over’, in’, ‘out’;
make constructions, paint or draw representations of familiar objects;
recognise familiar shapes – squares. circles, rectangles, triangles;
begin to understand patterning; and,
begin to understand symmetry.
Measurement. 
It is expected that children will be able to:

use blocks or other materials to investigate length and width;

use arbitrary units (cups, spoons, drops, handfuls) to measure volume and capacity;

compare mass through lifting, hefting or balancing; and,

recognise the time of day, days of the week, events of the day/week and annual events.

Number 
It is expected that children will be able to:

begin recognising ordinal numbers (1st – 10th);

begin sorting, grouping, matching and sharing;

recognise and write numbers 1 to 20; and,

begin to recognise coins and the values they represent.

There is so much more to the teaching and learning program happening for our Transition children. Linked to and underpinning the work going on, is the fact that both Ana Bernardino and Melanie Cole recognise and subscribe to the fundamentals, the foundational planks the precepts, the basics, upon which all learning should be predicated.

Why So Special?
A visit to Ana and Melanie’s teaching area convinces visitors that they are developing a strategy that really works. The tone and atmosphere in their double classroom is second to none. All their 60 plus children are working, always working productively, happily, to capacity and in a self ordered and disciplined manner. Children follow the basic conventions of posture, pencil hold and paper positioning when writing. They are polite, happily explaining to visitors what they are doing and why. Above all, they have a love for learning.

The class is not cloned. There are over sixty individuals, whose capacities, idiosyncrasies and needs are recognised and catered for by their teachers. This group of young children is different in that they are taught to recognise each other. They are not self centered uncaring individuals. They are a group whose recognition of and care for each other, translates to the fact that they are children going places in life’s world.

Through their approach to teaching, Ana and Melanie are reinforcing one of life’s forgotten needs – others count. Their selfless approach to teaching and the professional care they have for each other, is ‘rubbing off’ on the children fortunate enough to be in their learning group.

What Makes This a Real ‘Team’ Effort
It was hard to know why Ana and Melanie are such a successful team teaching couple. Successful they are but it took me ages to work out why they were ‘one of a kind’. Then the penny dropped. They are there for each other and for the children in their class. Many professionals – and teachers are not excluded – do what they do in order to impress. They are out there building the ‘curriculum vitae’. Benefits for others deriving from their efforts are almost accidental.

For Melanie Cole and Ana Bernadino, ‘group’ comes first ‘they’ come second and ‘I’ comes last. As teachers, it is ‘us’ and ‘we’ who are there for ‘them’. The ‘thems’ in this equation, Melanie and Ana’s 60-plus students are blessed to be working with such fine teachers.

Three Corollaries 
There are three corollaries.

The first is that in many team teaching situations, it seems that one teacher does most of the work while the other gets all the kudos. In this case, ‘equality’ applies to every aspect of the initiative. Both Melanie and Ana do the legwork both do the teaching, both share all responsibilities and both earn praise for being excellent teachers.

The second is that some team teaching couples exist for a very short time, before the initiative, for multivariate reasons, collapses. Ana and Melanie have developed a ‘three year plan’, whereby ‘planning’ builds into ‘application’ and application into ‘consolidated outcomes’. They have teamed for two years and there is one to go. Few team teachers commit to long-term team planning.

There is a third corollary. Melanie Cole and Ana Bernardino were both nominated for NEiTA (National Excellence in Teacher Awards) this year. Their nominees were the parents of children who recognise and appreciate them as great teachers.

Ana and Melanie are great teachers. We need to recognise the excellent teachers we have in our schools. It has been a joy to uphold these fine teachers and wonderful people to the educational world.