Showing posts with label high school. Show all posts
Showing posts with label high school. Show all posts

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Being proud of those making a difference

I'm the first one to say, teachers have a pretty good wicket to play on. The pay is getting better, the holidays aren't bad and when you have a supportive administration, teaching is a lot of fun. There are a lot of teachers taking advantage of this, it's true.. but there are also many going way past what is required, doing what is necessary.

I'm one of those that is very proud of what my school is and does; and I refuse to be negative about what we achieve. Our kids do not come to high school ready with all the skills they require. They have parents that work 2 jobs, many are abused or neglected, have poor nutrition and health, have few positive role models outside of school, have strong negative peer influences, have access to little help outside of the classroom, have few aspirations, no career guidance, already work long hours to help families make ends meet, have low expectations of their own ability and performance, limited access to resources, few options for subject selection.

Yet every year, up to half of our year twelve cohort goes to university. Not just goes, but are ready and skilled to perform at the highest level. Another group enters TAFE, starts apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships. Another enters the workforce and starts the gradual climb to owning their own home and financial independence.

There's also the hidden statistics, the kids that are the first in their families to get to year 10 for the first time. The kids that raise their attendance from sporadic to regular. The parents that gain an interest in their children's performance. The kids that succeed despite low expectations (or ability) through the intervention of a teacher or two. The kids that get that positive work ethic and attitude that will carry them through hard times. Those that conquer substance abuse in their homes and turn their backs on criminal activities. Those that succeed despite physical and mental handicaps.

As a teacher, I look at the results of year 12 and take pleasure being a part of an education equation. If my kids get opportunities as a result of finishing school, staff at all levels of the organisation should take pleasure, no one teacher made the difference. We as a school have achieved something.

The Aussie battler is not just a person in the bush, it's kids and organisations that do things despite the odds, with limited resources and where others are trying to take advantage of them (yes I'm looking at you IPS staffing!). Our principal, administration and teaching staff are giving it a good go, and for my mind last year succeeded in many areas. If we keep our eye on the ball and support each other, we'll do it again.. and again...

Cheers to that!

Oh, and DoE take note.. support your low socio-economic schools or you will end up with these kids unsupported in large mid socio-economic schools with teachers that cannot cope nor want them. If you create a permanent underclass be prepared to be named as the cause when it happens.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What mathematics do students need before high school?

I was at my master's summer school unit and caught up with my high school mathematics teacher. We started talking about what was needed before starting high school in mathematics.

I knew the year 7 teachers from her feeder schools (albeit a few years ago I had done my practicums at both schools). The year 7 teachers were proactive teachers, and had started topics like volume and Pythagoras' theorem. In my naievity, I had thought this a good thing.

She quickly set me straight and said that these were easy things to teach if the basics were in place. Without the basics they were quickly forgotten.

So I started thinking to myself, what were the basics?

1. Did they have one-to-one number correspondence (could the children identify 1 with one of something, 2 as two of something so on and so forth)?
2. Could the children read the time?
3. Did children understand their four operations?
4. Did they know their tables?
5. Could they add and subtract one and two digits without a calculator?
6. Could they recognise basic units of measure?
7. Could they manage small amounts of money?
8. Did they understand place value?
9. Were students aware of order of operations?
10. Can they recognise basic shapes?
11. Can they identify uses of maths in their environment?

By the time I arrived at 8, I quickly understood her meaning. If students were able to do pythagoras, but were unable to recognise 4 lots of something was a multiplication sum then time was probably better spent sorting out operations.

These topics are easily tested by parents and school instruction can be complemented by a number of readily available books and websites.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Re-branding a school

So... here's a scenario.. a school is delivering great results, has a dedicated bunch of teachers, a strong management structure but a poor reputation in the general public. It is the butt of low socio-economic jokes. When you tell someone that you work there, they quietly question whether you are crazy or too stupid to get a job elsewhere.

I discussed this with an ex-principal of the school and they said that they did not re brand the school because too much work had gone into repairing the name of the school in the community. He conceded that the biggest detrimental factor to growth of the school was it's postcode. It sounded ok at the time, but when I thought about it the immediate came to mind..

a) we attract few academic students
b) the general public associates the suburb with low ability students and behavioural issues
c) there is very little positive media coverage (translated: none that I can remember) of the school

So as a marketing problem - we have the product but not the customers and are poorly positioned to attract new students. I went to school at Mercy College - the sisters of Mercy are a reputable organisation and nobody knows that the school is in Koondoola. They have 1500 students now and have conquered the postcode issue.

Why should we feel pride in names such as Balga, Girrawheen, Koondoola, Lockridge, Kwinana, Clarkson that have social issues attached to them, when the focus could be taken away from the suburb name and the school can stand on its own name and reputation in the community without the stigma of suburb names? Yes, a lot of work has been done in the school to improve its image and performance, and we do feel pride in the school itself - but a name is not a school, it is but one facet of its public image.

State schools as they gain more independance will need to face the reality of no students - no school. If state schools are to compete fairly with private schools for students (and not face issues like that has been exacerbated by the half cohort) then they must be able to attract students based on academic programmes and have methods to ensure that students under forced intake (ie. live in the area and no other school will take them) have a programme suitable for them that does not disrupt students attracted to promised academic programmes. Changing the name to distance schools from its location (where the location is seen as a negative marketing factor) seems to make a lot of sense.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Leadership and teaching

There's a big focus on leadership in teaching - and the use of power in leadership is an interesting problem for any teacher especially those entering teaching. I draw here from the book Leadership an Australasian focus, a standard university text.

Legitimate power is the power granted by the lawful right to make a decision. This is the power granted by a mandate from DET - such as the mandate for the Curriculum Framework and the underlying principles of OBE. Coercive power is the power stemming from this, leading to punishment for non-compliance. These are typically the powers used by autocratic leaders.

Reward power is something in disfavour at the moment, especially extrinsic rewards. Things like the Jelly baby for the good work, the sticker and the reward event at the end of term. The more meaningful or desirable the extrinsic reward the more effective it is. At the minor end of the scale a reward can also mean being available at a more personable level or providing more intrinsic rewards such as the 'well done' or the quiet word after class. Charismatic leaders tend to use this most effectively as their major source of influence as negative reinforcers deplete their charismatic aura.

Information power or expert power is the power of having knowledge that is needed by others. It's the power most used in upper school classes. You have the information and control the flow - they need it and your ability to provide it will gear their motivation. Typically this is assigned to an administrative expert or a leader based on expert power such as a lead researcher. Expert power is undervalued today as there is no effective measure of performance of a teacher.

Prestige power is another power that can be used to influence students. Personal achievement provides students with confidence that you know what you are doing and will not lead them astray. This is the sort of power commonly used by teachers entering from another profession.

And here's the rub.. try and apply DET behaviour management strategies ("BMIS") and apply these powers. BMIS lends itself well to the administrative expert with strong autocratic administrative backing. If you lack administrative backing or struggle with administrative expertise (but instead are using charismatic leadership styles), questions arise about your skill before you effectively reach your zone of working effectively after true expert power is established. These teachers feel threatened/feel unsupported/feel like they are letting their students down/leave and we are left with an impoverished teaching pool.