Sunday, July 14, 2019

Named a Paul Harris Fellow!

This week was shaping up to be a shocker.. 6 fillings, four hours in the chair, another hour getting my ears cleaned out, 4 plumbers trying to find a leaky hot tap under the house, stood on a nail, kicked in the knee, hours writing 52 pages of content creating a course beyond my level of expertise (I really am clueless below year 7). Trying to get back some mojo after returning to my substantive role as 11/12 coordinator.

Well.. that turned around fast and came out of the blue.

Last year I was asked to attend one of the changeover nights with the Rotary club that partners with the school.  We've worked together over the past 5 or so years and they have done wonderful things with our kids.  I've sat in the background and helped where I can.  They're more friends that colleagues now.

The changeover night came around again and I was asked to go.  It's a small thing to attend and a fun and jovial evening.  They're genuinely nice people and it is always great to associate with them.

They asked that I speak about our Interact club with some students and the outgoing Principal (which I did with pleasure as it is a great thing) and about the other things that Rotary has done in the school.  The kids spoke well as they always do. When I had finished, they asked that I stay on stage and then the club president proceeded to name me a Paul Harris fellow for doing what I do at school.  I was presented with a badge and a medallion.

To say I was shocked was a bit of an understatement as I enable stuff, typically I don't have a lot of time to actually do stuff.  To nominate a fellow they have to donate $1000 US to their Rotary charity (which is no mean feat) for someone that turns up to their events twice a year. The people in the club that have been nominated, generally have a lifetime of service behind them.  Those wearing their medallions were generally club past presidents. I'm not even a member!

I felt a little bit of a fraud but very thankful for their thoughts and best wishes.

So there you go.. recognised for what I do with the kids.  A very cool thing and thank you Heirisson Rotary.  You have certainly put wind in my sails.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

One person can make a difference

I've had "One person can make a difference" written on my door for the last nine months.  It's a reminder that much that is done in a school starts with one person.  It's a statement supported by Hattie in his indication that teacher impact has the largest effect on student learning. My latest project shows the power of one person running with an idea.

With my current period as Deputy, returning to my role as 11/12 coordinator and with the start of a new Principal, it's important to find the next thing that keeps you motivated.  Schools aren't a place where you can rely on your line manager to identify what that might be, so it's important to be on the lookout for it.

For me, the main thing that will change is the return to the classroom for four periods a week, as I haven't taught whilst being Deputy, other than the odd bit of tutoring students that come to my office.  I've been given  a dysfunctional Maths class, the most challenging class in the school and one that needed further assistance.  I've had some practicum students who have been observing them for me and we have a great team generated and some defined outcomes that we seek to achieve.

It's something that I would suggest to any educator that has more than three years of experience.  Find a project, if one comes to an end, find another project - something that will drive your motivation and keep you engaged.  It's a great way to be noticed in the school and can create some great collaborative activities that keeps the mind working and prevents you becoming stale in your role.

Better still, if you can make something that has a lasting effect beyond your involvement.  I've been lucky to have had a few of these, maths summer school, mathematics academy, ICT committee, this blog, after school music classes, the boys group, the interact club - but I've also had my set of failures to go with them, projects that have died a slow death.   Don't become disheartened if your project does not have the take-up that you thought it would.  Be supportive of others if they are trying to get their project up and running.

This current project is a doozy though.  To think I could go in as a teacher and just fix things based on my teaching experience would be fairly egotistical and prone to failure - after all they have had an experienced teacher all year.  To succeed we need to try something different.  I've had a bee in my bonnet about "imputed disabilities" and reporting to "year level achievement standards all year".  Ann eMarie Benson at SCSA made the comment to me that if 2/3 of the students at your school cannot meet year level achievement standards, then your school is doing something wrong, and it is something that has stuck with me.  We have some intervention work to do.

I was lucky enough to do the SEN reporting at the start of the year and discovered a tool that might be able to provide the glue for the project.  Coupled with the SCSA K-10 scope and sequence document, it provided the broad brush to create IEPs for the 25 students in the class. By using PAT tests and NAPLAN results I was able to identify where the class was and with help from the Semester 1 teacher I laid out a programme of work for term three that complemented work done in Semester 1.  My practicum students observed the class over the past three weeks and collated their predominant behaviours and attention spans across different learning areas and noted in which classes they were most dysfunctional.  The school Psychologist is working closely with me for the first week to identify desired classroom behaviours.  We created seating plans and a list of desired behaviours.

Now, as I said - it is not about just going into the class and doing good teaching, they have had that.  It's about intervention, which by definition is something different.  The next step was to identify resources that were available to assist driving learning.  The school has no new resources available at this time of year (thus I'm being deployed to the class as the best available resource), I have the semester 1 teacher remaining with me, but have identified a couple of ex-students studying teaching that have agreed to come in and work.  The local university has also pledged teaching students to pop in and assist as my skills in k-7 teaching are limited and I will need to do some heavy lifting to get up to speed and assist them assist the kids.

In any success driven class we need strong feedback loops indicating the level of success achieved.  For this I have gone old school and printed A1 posters for the wall indicating each student has 14 tasks to overcome this term and bought gold circles to paste up.  Some would see this as public shaming, but the 14 tasks are individualised and noted in the IEPs - if we have set the outcomes correctly, then this could drive a little competition and could be a strong success indicator to kids.  We also used the observations done to drive classroom behaviours through a four point behaviour poster which controversially uses some negative language (the PBIS language is missing, but has been ineffectual in semester 1 anyway), it's something I will need to monitor to see if it works.  If the posters don't work - it's ok! We just rip them down.  I've put the IEP in student portfolios so that they know what we are trying to achieve - and each assessment goes in there so that it can be looked back at as a path from what they knew to what they know now.  NCCD quality teaching ideas can easily be embedded in the interventions for each student attempted by myself or associated teaching staff.  Staff from outside the class that have seen that these kids are at risk have pledged their support.  We have pens, books and other resources to limit avoidant behaviours.  They have watched me suspend students all semester - so I come in with authority, now I need to develop a caring rapport to match.

I have worked with the English HOLA and Principal to indicate that this is a model that does not have an overhead, uses resources that are available, lives with the student (SEN reports can be used and progress from 8-10) - it is a low risk project that can be supported.  I'm not sure if this is destined to be a failed project or a success - but I'm keen to attempt something that has not been successful in the past and create a new string for the school that parents and the school can crow about.  It's important that communication to parents from the beginning is strong and continuous - especially as much of the contact to date has been behaviour related and class reports were for the most part indicating limited progress and students that are behind.  Here is the potential for the school response to be vigorous and effective (and maybe even recognised as a good solution for others to model).

.. and if you have a chance to work with practicum students, do it.  Yes you will get the occasional plonker, but on the whole they can fire you up and help you achieve work you cannot do on your own.  The current pair have certainly done that and can run with an idea (and generate some great ones through observation) once it is seeded and hopefully get a good appreciation of what is possible.  Without them, we wouldn't be this far down the track without teaching a lesson. Yay!

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Vocational vs career teachers

With teacher pay improving over the years, teaching is a competitive career with other professions.  A teacher can rapidly be on a six figure salary and be trained on an ongoing basis with career options going ahead.

The profession is changing from one which was fundamentally filled with vocational teachers, who entered teaching because they had a love of teaching and a desire to teach, to a profession with a mix of vocational teachers and those who enter it as a long term career, one of the few that are predicted to last for the next 20 years through technological change.

This is a not necessarily a bad thing, but it does raise a challenge for vocational teachers as they are vulnerable in the system.  By vocational teachers not targeting advancement, school run the risk of dissatisfied vocational teachers who are unaware of the gauntlet required for advancement - they will advance slower than career teachers.

For instance, a teacher focuses on their student cohorts and their craft.  Over many years they become a passionate and great classroom teacher.  They see a career teacher that is not as good a teacher, does not understand the craft required to become truly great at what they do but that has targeted the KPIs that are required for advancement.  The career teacher can talk eduspeak, self promote actively, are involved in projects that meet STAR objectives, actively seek promotional positions, understand how to write a CV and answer interview questions, have been at multiple schools over a short period - burn bright but over short periods.  Once the balance tips towards career teachers (are we there now? Panel training indicates we are!), this becomes the model for advancement.

The question I ask myself is does this help kids get better in classes?  Does this promote better mentoring of young teachers?

There's a little voice in the back of my head that says - "yep, but vocational teachers, the passionate ones can also be the flaky, argumentative, the most painful teachers to manage as they are needy and require constant guidance compared to the focused teachers on career progression."  And I hear you little voice, but when I look at exceptional student outcomes, being 50% in doesn't cut it compared to what some of these teachers can achieve.  An evidence base shows this over and over again.

Are we, by encouraging a career based approach, turning our vocational teachers away from their passionate, "this is my life", approach towards a more career based (I do this for the wage and the six hour day) sustainable and minimal intervention approach because it is easier to manage and less likely to cause management pain, even if the evidence shows that it has lower student outcomes?

If this is the case, and to a lesser or greater degree I believe it is,  we need to re-evaluate how we remunerate teachers and the merit system that in its current form is encouraging a change to a career workforce rather than a vocational one and that where career satisfaction is through advancement, not through student achievement.  A teacher for life, cared for by the system, developing their skills, recognised by the community for what they can do, moving passionately with changes in pedagogy required and realising that they are blessed for being involved with a system that guides our youth not for the career progression that they are not getting.

How to get teaching to that point is an interesting intellectual question.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Resourcing in a small school

Many organisations have worthwhile programmes that are offered to the school.  They want to work hand in hand to deliver a project that they have developed. They have value and for larger schools are easy to roll out and have a target audience.  The temptation is to take them all on for the good of the kids.

In a smaller school like ours, that is offered many projects during the year, the need to manage them becomes a resourcing issue.  Excursions require a file of documentation, staff willing to participate, students willing to give it a go, a spot on the planner that won't cause disruption to learning and ensuring it's not the same six kids going on each excursion.  We need to liaise with partner organisations, work with them and ensure that there is a win-win situation available.

What I have found is that we have had more success with organisations that ask our needs and then seek to help us reduce the issues caused by them.  UWA Aspire and Rotary are two good examples of where this can work.

UWA Aspire had a clear goal to raise low socioeconomic student engagement with university and to raise their aspiration levels.  We needed support for our Math/Science students and assistance with career activities. They listened and assisted us establish our Mathematics Academy by providing university students that worked with our kids and supported us with resourcing and food to keep them coming.  They take our kids on a Leadership camp. They support our summer school with a venue and ambassadors at UWA. They come to the school for each year group and work with developing a career focus from year 7 onwards.  We assisted them with developing activities that would fit our students.  They assisted raising awareness of modern teaching pedagogy through their education faculty.

Rotary offered to help as a community minded group.  They had leadership programmes and science programmes but waited to establish a connection and asked what our requirements were.  We needed assistance in developing a strategic plan for the school.  They worked with our board and now help lead it through our chairman with our Principal.  Our kids wanted to be more involved in the community and formed a Rotary Interact Club.  Rotary programmes could be run independently of the school, reducing administrative overhead, increased student involvment - resulting in community events and even trips to Singapore and London for our students.

Both of these are relationships that I have had involvement with.  There are others, such as with the Smith Family, ABCN, with organisations within DOE such as SEND:BE and the engagement team which have similar impact.

I'm currently starting a music club after school (as we have no offering for music at the school), running some maths extension classes and building our Achievers club (students that have 4As and no Ds).  A good model for external agencies is to pilot a project, have it running for a year or so and then have a model for a partner agency to develop.  I hope these develop into something that the school can use for some time, like the Summer school, Interact club and Mathematics academy - each that involve 20-50 students (10-20% of the school).

A well meaning project can take up resources that may be better utilised elsewhere.  These usually involve 3-4 students (such as the solar car challenge or a number of local leadership programmes), over an extended period, are expensive, are during school time, require transport (a bus is $300 per day), want access to upper school students and require teacher involvement for duty of care (at $600 per day, a "free" project becomes expensive).  If a project can't be accessible to 20-30 students (which is a difficult brief), I think often kids are better off in school, somewhere geared to teaching large groups of students.

Where this is untrue is in the VET space, where small (1-4 students) projects have lasting impact on students but that is for another day.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Role models and dreams of the future

It was posed to me who I looked up to as a role model.  The example given to me was the queen of England and I was asked to think of one better.

Scary to think that I couldn't come up with one.

Scary to think that we, as a generation can offer no-one up that is both as well known as the queen and as publicly selfless.

We've given this generation narcissism and fame hunger.  Sarah Hanson Young and the Leyonhold guy.  "Me too", sexual harassment, anxiety, loss of hope, an emptiness hard to fill.

I think about the cold, emotionless education system we've created where a few people doing horrific things to children have destroyed what could be a loving and nurturing environment and turned it into something sterile and with the sole purpose of providing skills and knowledge to survive post schooling.   ... and not even doing that particularly well.

As a male teacher, being hugged by a student, places you at risk of a standards and integrity investigation and criminal charges.  Being a female teacher now is changing to do the same thing.  To protect ourselves we cannot be a role model to students - the barrier of societal trust is not there.  Where we once at least had gender appropriate roles that protected the emotional self of a student, strong male and female role models that fulfilled different roles that were ok, now neither can help fill the void created by a society where two parents work and the relationships that help build a whole person are not being supplemented by a society that forgets that nurturing its young is its prime imperitive.

When children need emotional support, there is nowhere for them to turn.  There are times when I see distressed students that are seeking emotional support and the best we can offer them is counselling, when they really just want a hug and to believe it will be ok.  Those two things are powerful are missing from our education system.  It wasn't always this way. 

Ten years in teaching and I have not seen this issue addressed in other than band aid modes.  Will we look back and think how the hell did we miss this.

I watch year groups robotic in their approch to schooling, lacking a love of learning, of each other or the school system.  Seeking to get by to their next step as citizens.

It's wrong.

I don't know how to fix it.  It will take brighter minds than mine.   Maybe its a call to our generation beyond the teaching fraternity to stand up and be good role models - do great things and become examples for our youth that teachers can point to.  Something to aspire to and give belief and love back to a generation feeling lost.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Violence in the workplace

My father was a prison officer, so I have a polarised viewpoint when it comes to the judicial system.  His viewpoint was biased as he noted recidivism in the system.  This has also biased my outlook as once a child enters the judicial system, they become exposed to others in the same system which can normalise behaviours that wouldn't occur otherwise.

So when I was faced with violence in the workplace for the first time in my career where I believed a student intended physical harm to myself, I had to consider what my philosophical viewpoint is regarding children coming to grips with their physicality and using it to influence their environment.  Did this need to be reported to police?

I considered that students have maturing brains, are impulsive and will have limited empathy for others.  I considered that my actions, as administrative staff, sets the tone for the school and my personal philosophy needed to take into account the norms that the school wished to purvey.  I considered societal expectations of what teaching staff were expected to deal with.

Student influences / Context

There are many reasons students become violent.  Frustration, domestic violence, physical abuse, peer interactions, sexual abuse, physical development, trauma, self image, helplessness, modelling/culture, attachment, gender confusion, sexuality, mental health, drug abuse are just a few reasons that spring to mind.  Any one can make a student respond in a violent manner given particular situations.  Schools today are expected to identify issues, manage risk, provide options for counseling and deal with situations that arise when plans put in place fail to adequately cover a violent series of incidents.

School influences

Maintaining a safe workplace is a necessity as a school becomes a melting pot of these issues.  How a school responds to the threat of violence, dictates how safe children and staff feel when in the school.  The ability of a school to predict where a problem may occur and develop a rapport that prevents violent outbursts is critical to the managing of low socio-economic schools experiencing many of the issues identified above. Staff that can do this effectively are rare as each issue tends to demand a different response and the responses can be personally draining and require high levels of support for students and support staff.

The maximum immediate penalty that can be imposed is 10 days of suspension, a period intended to allow time to improve risk plans, allow time to consider actions, organise support for families and support staff and work with students impacted upon by the violence.  Diversion of a student to another location may be attempted, but if different solutions cannot be used, this may only move the violence from one school to another. When a school cannot devise a solution that is likely to succeed (and has likely failed many times with attempted solutions) then, and only then can exclusion be considered - it is a long and arduous process, as it should be, as there is no real solution at the end of it, other than saying school is not for that student.

Philosophical issues

Teachers do not report students to the police often or probably often enough.  There are a few reasons for this, the main one being is that (good) teachers see students for who and what they are, not for their aberrant behaviours.  In most cases these children are the most needy and require our assistance not our condemnation.  I didn't start in education to be a pathway to the judicial system.

The counter is that as a deputy I have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment, with limited resources to deal with violent offenders.  Nothing in the EBA indicates that it is ok for a teacher (as a worker for the Education department) to feel unsafe in their environment.  Physical aggression, intimidation and assault are not ok and need to be seen to be dealt with for the mental health and confidence of staff, students and parents in the school.  In a no tolerance for violence environment, 10 day suspensions for breaches are one part of a two part solution.  Consequence for behaviour together with assistance to prevent similar behaviour in the future is key to success.

Societal Expectations

Schools are being asked to be a one size fits all solution to youth issues, increasingly working with agencies to fill gaps where there are no resources to deal with them.  Finding alternate agencies with capacity in itself requires resources and deviates from the core business of teaching students the curriculum.  In a high care, high expectation environment, schools are required to deal with context and deliver results.

What then?

I still have not in my career referred a student to police for threatening me physically (although I have for student welfare concerns and have restrained students on a number of occasions), I do hope that it remains this way.  I must say though in the past five years, I have gone from feeling that students understand that threatening a teacher is unthinkable to now being a threat becoming relatively commonplace. I am more reliant on personal rapport with students than respect for my position to keep me safe.  Both in junior and senior school  there have been times when I have felt there has been risk I would be assaulted and that dealing with the student situation had a level of risk of physical assault, I may end in being physically hurt.  Although schools are supportive when police reports are made over assaults, teachers like myself remain reluctant to ignore the factors that cause the assault in the first place (listed under student influences above) and fail to make a report - our knowledge of why students behave violently is part of why we are teachers in schools like ours.

Mandatory reporting of assault against staff together as suggested by the union (did I just agree with the union??) with protection from freedom of information may be one solution to measuring the issue and to target higher levels of resourcing to support students with anger management issues.  Blanket FOI would be problematic (as with NAPLAN) as it would target schools attempting to deal with spikes in violence that occur with particular cohorts.  Identifying accurately epicentres of issues, their causes, teachers struggling and then providing schools targeted assistance through existing processes would be a good start.

Violence in schools remains an area of potential conflict between parents, administration and teaching staff, where any action may be viewed as too little or too much, with clear differences in opinion in what is necessary to protect staff in their workplace and students in their high school depending on the perspective of the situation.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

CMS Training

I've just finished CMS training (a little humourous as I rarely teach, more to train others using consistent terms) and although I question the effectiveness of some strategies for teachers that might be struggling to gain control of their classrooms, there is some good information in there.

Today though was the first time I had to question the delivery of the session and the assertion made during the session.  The statement made was that every escalation that led to a student-teacher power struggle was instigated by the teacher.  The explanation given (and predicted before it was given) was that it takes two to have a power struggle and that the adult had the ability not to raise it to that level.

I think the simple counter to that was that there are instances where it is in the interest of the school to ensure that certain standards are publicly kept to, especially around safety, intimidating behaviour and agression towards female staff.  It's not a PC view, and I know that but I'm willing to defend it.

A no tolerance policy towards intimidation and aggression has to be public.  Students cannot be seen to be able to intimidate, physically threaten or assault staff.  Students need to know that there is a line they cannot cross.  Early in my career, maybe ten years ago, I could stand between two fighting out of control students and know that I was safe with punches being thrown over my shoulders.  Today, this simply is not true.   Some of this is to do with the mental health issues now processed by schools rather than other agencies, some due to serious drug use, some have experienced war trauma, some due to fewer role models, parenting by screen and lack of care in homes.  Students are now 18 years+ when they leave school, some refugee students are older than this, are strong enough to challenge multiple members of the male staff at once.

The maximum practical consequence a school has is the 10 day suspension.  Expulsion from a public school is a rare and difficult process.  If students are comfortable with threatening staff this is not a deterrent.  The ramping of consequences in today's high school teacher -> Year leader/Student Services -> Deputy -> Principal can happen in a single incident.

So back to the original problem.  Student verbally abuses a teacher (reprimand by year leader after the child has calmed down). Student verbally abuses a year leader (reprimand by deputy after the child has calmed down).  Student abuses a deputy - there is only one step left before Principal and  the entire bluff that underpins the system is gone.  The student can't be expelled.  Here's the line where the processes of de-escalation have failed - the student has had the opportunity to learn how to identify the triggers leading to being out of control.  Now a harder line needs to be followed and the power struggle needs to be addressed and is fraught with issues.  If the student abuses the deputy, the situation needs to be dealt with there and then. In most cases the deputy has to diffuse or win the power struggle, in many cases with parent assistance.  If this fails, like in real life, police become involved.  After all, it is not ok for anyone to verbally or physically abuse or threaten to physically intimidate anyone, anywhere.  Sometimes it is a very difficult lesson for students to learn.  In life someone is always the boss of you unless you live alone on an island or up a tree somewhere!

Otherwise the child is out of control.  We are teaching the child it is ok to be out of control, if after best efforts to educate the student otherwise, they continue to be out of control.  The deputy in a school stands like police do in the community to ensure safety of the public, staff and students. To suggest that a deputy is wrong to stand for the school in a public exchange where power is involved threatens the fabric of discipline in a school.  A deputy is typically a highly trained and experienced member of staff.  These are people that understand the role they play and do not seek to become involved in behaviour incidents wherever possible as challenging a deputy is clearly different in scope than challenging another member of staff.  It's not advisable to have them dealing with day-to-day incidents as the punishments they hand out are significantly more serious (to deter challenging of deputies) than to other member of staff.  Discipline in a school requires them to be a last resort.  Deputies are better used developing rapport with students before incidents so that they can assist in post incident support of teachers and year leaders than during incidents themselves.

I've spent a fair bit of time explaining incident management to kids, a) that it is appropriate to surrender control to staff members when in school b) that it is important that students understand that they need to follow instructions without question for safety reasons.  a) can take a fair bit of convincing especially for kids that have a level of financial independence or are living independently.  b) is more easily understood by students.  After an incident, explaining to a student why I acted as I did, and appropriate future actions for a student is more important than the incident itself.  A student with limited control of themselves needs to understand where the boundary is, that it must be respected and alternative behaviours that can be learned to deal with undesirable situations.  My limited experience indicates that this approach works with most students.

The line that the teacher is a student's 'boss' is a learned behaviour.  The line that a student has to follow a teacher instruction is a learned behaviour.  The line that a student is respectful to a teacher is a learned behaviour.  The line that physical violence and intimidation is not ok is a learned behaviour.  The line that consequences escalate if student/teacher/Year Leader/Deputy/Principal relationships are not maintained is a learned behaviour.  These need to be taught, we can no longer rely on parents and the community to teach these behaviours to a small proportion of a school.

Getting the Principal involved in a behind the scenes capacity is great as they have a wealth of experience and have met most circumstances before.  Keeping them informed so that there are no surprises is a good idea.  If they have to get involved in a practical sense it is problematic.  They are the last arbiter in a school, if all else fails and they get personally involved, the situation has the potential to escalate, reach media and impact on the public image of the school - especially if they are forced to defend poor staff actions.  If they are placed in a situation where they make the wrong decision, it never looks good.

Intimidation of female staff by male students is also a particular bugbear of mine.  In the way female teachers are generally better at dealing with emotionally fragile students (the ones that need a hug and affection), male students using their physicality to intimidate female staff is an area that male staff can and (I think) should be used where appropriate.  Reinforcement of Australian values towards women, like everything else, is a learned behaviour that is not always modelled in the home.  Where culturally women are not valued - this message can sometimes be delivered by male staff and reinforced by caring female staff.  Not PC I know, but practical.  Some female staff don't want the help or need it, and that needs to be respected to.

I don't think I've explained myself very well, which probably indicates that this requires more thought to work through issues.  I think it is probably influenced by my involvement in corporate life where decisions cost money and failure to follow instructions costs jobs.  I needed staff that could question and develop ideas whilst being able to follow instructions immediately when required.  This made for a healthy and robust environment - something I hope I encourage with processes of escalation and the teaching of respect for authority in our school. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Mental Health - The unwritten story in WA Education

Mental Health (particularly depression and anxiety) is one of those things that cannot be written about or discussed freely in the staffroom.  It adds a level of complexity to teaching children and a level of complexity to the role of a teacher.  Being labelled with a mental health issue is not something that is easily moved on.  It is an underground issue that can change how a child is perceived and limit the progression and career of a teacher.

2016 was the year of challenges for boys in education.  The fear of leaving school was palpable with little in the way of career opportunities for boys, both in the mining sciences through tertiary study, through building and construction or through manufacturing industries.  The path to a wage or salary position was unclear, as were pathways to white or blue collar work.  Students saw parents in long term unemployment.  The number of mental health raised issues rose in schools, as did neglect and behavioural issues in classes.  The meaning of why students should seek education as a path to employment was blurred as increasingly specialised schooling did not provide the promise of first jobs and the value of a generalised education for the future was not being sold to students that knew better through observations of society and the freedom of information available.  Everyone is an expert in the Facebook and Google age.  The validity of information and truth itself became increasingly questionable and fake everything became the norm, fame the object rather than the result of success and narcissism the new black.  Add to that students that have achieved D/Es in math for their entire schooling that are progressing at a high level but know that they are not at level though mandatory use of Australian Curriculum grading really did not help.  Worryingly recreational drug use appeared to be rising again leading to further mental health issues.

2017 was the year where mental health in teaching staff reached the limit of what could be supported.  The question was not who had mental health challenges, but who didn't, who was still able to cope regardless and who had to be nursed through until they could cope again.  The demands of an education system with limited discipline support, where engagement was the only real answer, where curriculum was alienating large parts of the student cohort, where curriculum modification required teaching three to four years on either side of the curriculum set, where the teacher had to have the answers or be deemed incapable placed additional pressure on teaching and administrative staff.  Tie this together with budget measures increasing class sizes, reducing access to behavioural programmes and diminishing external support (the loss of headspace and other programmes had an effect) was a bit of a tsunami in terms of stress in the classroom.  Supporting and managing staff with emerging or with diagnosed mental health issues is often a thankless task.

The positive is that private and charitable organisations are starting to fill the need but it adds an additional level of management required on an already stressed administrative system.  Where three to four people in a school now manage staffing, timetabling, behaviour, analysis, strategic planning, marketing, performance management, finance, community standing - it is not always clear how they can also focus on academic performance, course counseling and wellbeing of staff and students - leading to a feeling of a tokenistic approach at times.  This was always going to be the challenge of de-centralisation and the independent school system - the same resources to achieve local agendas, a grand but difficult plan to implement.

Engagement of students is always the ultimate aim, in a world where schools drive the wellbeing of the local community, I'm not sure schools are sufficiently resourced, either with adequate trained manpower or financially to achieve societal aims.  With the influx of career teachers and the diminishing number of vocational teachers (who are burning out trying to achieve what previously could be done with a little effort), next year could be a tough one both in dealing with the inevitable turnover that comes from time to time and some tough cohorts that are travelling through the system.