3 min read

Short response to Ms Tolley - and her 'National Standards in Literacy & Numeracy'

But schools are doing this already.  At the very least the one's I've taught in are doing it. The teachers I work with are passionate about what they do and constantly evaluating how we can be doing our jobs better and more effectively.

We're well aware of the students that are failing, in our own classes, in our schools and across the country. It's not as if Anne Tolley has somehow uncovered some amazing fact of life in her briefing papers.

It's the arrogance of this bill - rushed through under urgency - and the fact that as stated, it's got NOTHING of substance, that will better or ensure improvement - that make me see it as nothing more than a cynical political movie.

Education has become more and more evidence-based in the last 15 years, and it is rigorous and becoming more constant. I'd expect that same rigour from the Minister of Education.

We already constantly test and assess your students.  I spend most of Term 1 sorting through testing results and making informed choices as to what my individual students need. In Term 2 - I have midyear conferences with all parents.  In Term 4 I write reports, oddly enough in English, that explains what students are doing well - and what they need to focus on. Throughout the year I have an open door policy and am happy to meet parents as and when necessary. As a teacher I will ask my students to write down what they know about a subject before we begin, with the express purpose of not boring them by covering what they already know.

I teach them grammar and punctuation. Students silent read regularly, they partake in literature circles, I teach specific reading strategies to small groups. I love to read aloud - this year it was Neil Gaiman's 'Coraline', Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men' and now having just finished "To Kill a Mockingbird" - we will be watching Gregory Peck portray Atticus tomorrow. We listen to speeches by Reagan, Bush, FDR and compare their oral and written effectiveness.  I use Joni Mitchell lyrics, when discussing poetry. I introduce Rudyard Kipling's "If" by showing Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal reading the poem.

I give them time to practise basic facts. I do regular speed tests of those basic facts. I spent 4 weeks covering the metric system and how to use it - purely so that my students would head to college with an understanding of one of the core concepts of how we define the world around us. We discuss various mental math strategies, we share ideas in groups and as a class. We attempt to solve problems, such as "How we make a cantilever out of ice-block sticks and blue-tack - and who can make the longest one?" We play maths games.  We look at what the standard written form actually means - you know, "what does that little 'carried one' actually mean?"

I give my students time for fitness, for PE, for art, for topic studies.  I have allowed my students to teach for a day - giving them full control of the room, their classmates, and the activities therein. We have tipped our desks over and rebuilt the room into a series of trenches, and worked in them during ANZAC Day studies. I ask my students to write reports on me and tell me what I need to do to be a better teacher - and to be brutally honest, just as I am with theirs. I play New Order and Marvin Gaye and Pavarotti. We argue at times, I throw up my hands in despair at times, we laugh a lot and occasionally we cry.

Don't tell me I have to teach TO a set standard - because I don't want that standard. I will not teach to some Tolley standard - I want my students to be so much better than that. I want them to be better than me in every way.

I want the space and time to work with and prepare my students so that they are able to set their own standards - so that they are wanting to be better, in all areas.  They need to recognize where they need to improve, understand the effort that will ensure that improvement, and have the self-discipline to make those changes.

They need to be thinkers - not test takers.  They need to be able to solve the mundane and insanely huge problems of the planet and apply wacky ways of fixing mistakes, because god knows, we're leaving the place in a shit-storm.  They need to be not afraid to have a go - and have the support to go beyond what they've done before. We need to believe in their potential to be so, so much better than us - and give them tools and the time to discover that potential.

Peachy was right last night - our children do deserve better. They deserve better than this arrogant dross, that's passing for policy.

One of my students came up to me after the election results - and said simply, "Does this mean we have to do more tests now? I don't want to do more tests." I had to smile, albeit a little bitterly.

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