Monday, May 7, 2012

A + B = ?

There's so much talk about education at the moment (there always has been and there always will be). What's the best school? How much is too much when it comes to 'quality' education? What is 'quality' education? Is the school obsessed with HSC results at the expense of developing my child? Will my kid's talents be lost in a huge school of 1500 pupils? Are teachers just in it for the holidays? Are teachers keeping themselves versed in new teaching trends? So many questions. So much discussion. A lot of frustration from parents who pay big bucks for big name independent schools and don't get what they dreamed of. Students dazed and confused. Teachers doing everything they can to keep up with demands from all angles.

A hell of a lot goes into a child's education. This isn't just the responsibility of teachers. Parents and family members have a huge role to play. It's not up to teachers to save a young man/woman from instability and insecurity (though they do everything they can). Education is more than just reading a poem, completing algebra homework and colouring in a map of South America (apologies to any geography teachers reading this - I know you give your kids more than colouring exercises!).

When it comes to selecting a school for your son or daughter's future, I feel the discipline policy of the school is paramount. You need to know your child will be in a safe learning environment and that matters of bullying etc. will be dealt with speedily. All schools say they will look after your kid's welfare through the mind and body (the education of the 'whole' person), all of them have mottos that run along the lines of 'creating a better future'... you need to know the discipline policy will be adhered to and teachers will follow up on problems not long after they surface. Whether you're spending over $20 000 a year on your child's education, or less than $10 000, it's the discipline policy that makes a difference. Who cares if there's a new rowing shed or basketball stadium or umpteen laptops or cool projectors? If Teddy's still smacking Marcus and causing his life to be miserable, no money into new infrastructure or technology is going to help.
This is my eighteenth year in full-time teaching, so I feel I can give an insider's POV here. I'm an English specialist, although I've taught History, Drama and General Studies (now defunct) over the years. I've taught in several secondary schools in Sydney and the Southern Highlands of NSW. Most were Catholic schools run by religious orders. The humour and energy of students, as well as the stimulation of literature, has kept me in the job for such a long time. I enjoy each day of my job. I feel lucky to be a teacher. You do feel like you can make a difference in the lives of young people. So many people in so many jobs feel they are insignificant.

This morning I read Where The Wild Things Are to all of Yr 12 (with appropriate voices) as some sort of parable - the message was tame your inner wild things (fear, doubt, insecurity etc). I also led three Yr 10 girls on a fifteen minute birding trip within school grounds. I tried to get reluctant students interested in print media with patience and thorough explanation. I deconstructed character relationships in Louis Nowra's Cosi. After lunch, a Yr 12 student told me I was a 'fun' teacher.

That one remark keeps you going.

LJ, May 8 2012.

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