Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lost hope

Two years ago I spoke to one of my colleagues whilst I was teaching at another school. He spoke of the amazing progress his students were making. It was a deciding factor in moving to his school later that year.

Moving to a government school was something that I had contemplated but after a woeful experience trying to enter the system, I had not anticipated trying again until I had more experience to offer. Once I was given an opportunity and a taste of it, I didn't look back.

The feeling that I have received from others in the government system though (whilst on PD or in the community) is that of lost hope. If I hear one more teacher saying "we haven't the clientele to do it" or "we are going to do the course through SIDE (via remote access) because we lack numbers" I'll jam a pick axe under their fingernails.

Can I make something very clear - in some schools, teachers have had to work very hard to get students to a high standard. Students in low socio-economic areas typically have the ability but lack environmental support. Students are nurtured into performing well above their weight level. I suppose, coming through a low socio-economic system I remember what teachers did for me, without some of them taking a personal interest I would have slipped through the cracks.

In high performing schools (the "leafy greens"), teachers have to work very hard to get students to perform to a high level - public or private. If they don't succeed, parents complain and they get turfed out or nerfed to a lesser course. If we get complacent in challenging students within public schools and let excuses get in the way of trying and not do at least as much as private schools... then these kids have little hope. That means the before/after school classes, the extension work, the calls home, extra homework, the lecture for poor performance, doing corrections, study skills, ensuring test preparation is done and fostering of an academic environment is not optional in our schools. Who pays for the extra work is a different issue. I leave that to academics, advocates and DET.

Parity between public and private needs to be found or public schooling will become more of a sub-par alternative. I don't know many teachers that would send their child to a government school (behaviour not academic standards is the most common reason given) and that is a sad inditement on the system. We need to recognise this as an indicator and institute change.

I hope we have achieved something special this year in our academic programme and in 2009 we hope to be able to demonstrate our model as an example of what can be done. Something needed to be done to rescue our TEE programme (DET teachers are getting worn down by the fight). We could have become another school without a TEE programme.

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