Monday, November 3, 2008

Changing role of senior school

Senior school, years 10,11,12 have traditionally been the home of the most experienced teachers. These teachers generally have a vast amount of experience that is tapped from time to time by other teachers when need arises, either in behaviour management, content knowledge and generally are aware of how things work, what has been tried before and how to get things done. They have the experience to guide our students through to TEE, university entry or into VET pathways where necessary.

Now I say this as an observer (as I am neither experienced, nor the most capable in senior school). I have no ambitions for a HoD role and actively promote the idea that the HoD should teach the most capable class and other senior school teachers should do an apprenticeship of sorts with mid range classes to hone technique and pedagogy first. ... and I enjoy classroom teaching too much to get involved with the admin required to do the job properly.

Somewhere along the line I think we have lost track of what senior school teachers bring to the school. We have lost our heads of department in Mathematics/English/SoSE/Science to other areas such as literacy experts and careers guidance, L3 adminstrative roles. Responsibility now for the performance of learning areas has fallen to those incapable of measuring success or failure as they may not have ever taught the subject.

An issue that is currently rising is the lack of time to complete yr 12 COS in time for the TEE exams. With 1 term lost to the exam process, it leaves only 16 weeks per semester to complete the course. A possible way to increase the amount of teaching time for COS is to use term 4 year 10 to start the COS process and to start the year 12 course a term early.

Staffing of this is a real issue because if a unit starts in term four, few teachers are willing to take on an overloaded teaching schedule to make this happen. At this time of year the temptation arises to utilise senior school staff to fulfil this role as in many cases they will be teaching these students in the following years anyway.

I think we need to resist this happening especially for our HoD's. If our best and most capable are not given unallocated time to identify and remedy issues within learning areas it is only likely that over time things will get worse. The time that they put into improving staff ability and student output is clearly underestimated and is not being adequately nurtured. It would be good to see the complete opposite occur and HoD's given the time, recognition, responsibility and pay to make things happen.

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