Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Australia: 'The education system is broken': Teacher who quit her job after 30 years reveals why she intends to home-school her grandchildren

Rather unclear what she wants changed.  More staff and less assessment is part of it but the rest is unclear. 

I think she fails to understand that continuous assessment is designed to circumvent reliance on a "sudden-death" examination at the end of the year.  That was once the system but was often protested against as being an unfair measure of a pupil's ability.  Lots of students who did poorly were said just to be having a "bad day".

And teachers "taught to the test" back then too.  It would be irresponsible to do otherwise.

And she ignores the function of the NAPLAN (national) exams in detecting and hopefully improving failing schools.  There are many quite bad schools in the government sector.  That is why 40% of Australian teenagers go to private schools.

It is of course possible to have a school environment where students feel relaxed and learn in their own way.  I once taught in such a "progressive" school myself. It had a great staff/student ratio and friendly teachers  but, even so, one half of my pupils did well and the other half learnt nothing.  And the school did not survive that.  It closed down after a few years.  A school system meant to serve all just cannot be run that way.

The classic example of such a school, "Summerhill", still struggles on but it still has only 60-70 pupils and is too expensive for most parents -- meaning that most pupils come from rich homes -- and they are above-average pupils anyhow.  The school is also said to be "surprisingly strict" these days. The school has been around since the '20s but has few imitators today.  It is clearly not a viable model for government schools

She set the internet alight last year, after she penned a damning essay about the state of the Australian education system and why she was quitting after 30 years in the profession.

And now the Queensland-based teacher, Kathy Margolis, has said she has absolutely no intention of letting her grandchildren into the school system either: 'The education system is broken,' she said.

'I have said to my three sons, "If you guys one day have kids, and I haven't managed to get the system changed, then I’m going to home-school every last one of them",' she told Mamamia on Monday.

In her latest statement, Ms Margolis has said that one of her biggest concerns about the school system is the fact that kids are being expected to read and write in their first formal year of schooling.

'There are kids who are saying, "I'm stupid, I can't do this,"' Ms Margolis said.

'They can see their friends who know all the sight words. Not only that, we're giving them report cards that are telling these parents, "Your child hasn't met this standard," when really, what we should be saying to the parent is, "It's okay, they're just not ready yet, don't stress." But they're not hearing that and they're going out and getting tutors.'

Ms Margolis added that she would have 'lost her job' if she had told parents that their child merely needed an 'extra year'.

'Parents want their kids to do well and to be okay, so they're coming from a place of helping their kids. Really, the kids just need extra time,' she said.

Since Ms Margolis quit teaching, she has started working for the organisation, Protecting Childhood. 

This stands for play-based learning till the age of six, no set formal homework until the age of eight, and no standardised testing which is used to 'pass or fail' kids.


Education in Australian schools is in crisis and someone has to listen to those who are game enough to speak up. I have been a primary school teacher in Brisbane schools for over 30 years. This year, after much thought, I have decided to look for another job, not easy for a woman in her 50s. I cannot continue to do a job that requires me to do what is fundamentally against my philosophy of how it should be done. I love my students and they love me. I know how to engage children in learning and how to make it fun. It’s what I do best.

Teachers have very little professional autonomy anymore. We are told what to do, how to do it and when it has to be done by. Never have I experienced a time in my profession where teachers are this stressed and in real fear for the mental health of not only themselves, but the children that they teach. The pressures are enormous. And before we get the people who rabbit on about our 9 to 3 day and all the holidays we get, let’s get some things straight. No teacher works from 9 until 3. We are with the students during those hours. We go on camps, we man stalls at fetes, we conduct parents/teacher interviews, we coach sporting teams and we supervise discos. And of course there is the lesson preparation, the marking, the report cards. Full time teachers are paid 25 hours a week. Yes you read that correctly, 25 paid hours a week. In any other job that would be considered part time. So now that I have justified our holidays, many of which are spent doing the above, let’s talk about what is going on in classrooms across this great nation of ours.

Classrooms are overcrowded, filled with individuals with all sorts of needs both educational and social. Teachers are told we must differentiate and cater to each individual. Good teachers try desperately to do that but it is near impossible and we feel guilty that we are not doing enough to help the children in our care.

The curriculum is so overcrowded. Prep teachers who used to run lovely play based programs (which might I add work beautifully) are teaching children sight words and how to read and write alongside subjects like history and geography. As a teacher and a mother of 3 sons, this scares the proverbial out of me. We all know that boys this age need to be moving around doing things that interest them, not sitting at desks. And what about the notion of readiness? I fear those little ones who are not ready are going to be left behind. And here’s the problem with our crowded curriculum. There is not enough time to consolidate the basics. Every teacher on this earth will tell you that the early years should be about the 3 R’s. My own children went off to year one after having had a lovely, enriching play based year of learning back in the days of pre-school. They didn’t know any sight words; they could write maybe a few letters and guess what? They learnt to read and write without being pushed at such an early age.

In my teaching career I have never seen so many children suffering from stress and anxiety. It saddens me greatly. Teaching at the moment is data driven. We are testing them and assessing them and pushing them so hard. I get that teachers need to be accountable and of course we need assessment but teachers have an innate ability to know what kids need. A lot of it is data for data’s sake. Don’t even get me started on NAPLAN. Teachers wouldn’t have a problem with NAPLAN if it wasn’t made out to be such a big deal by the powers that be, the press and parents. It has turned into something bigger than Ben Hur.

So why am I writing this? I’m writing this because teachers need to speak up but we are often afraid of retribution. We need to claim back our profession but we are powerless. Teachers teach because we love children and are passionate about education. Our young teaching graduates enter the profession bright eyed and bushy tailed, energetic and enthusiastic, ready to make a difference. So why I ask are they only staying for an average of 5 years? Of course that question is rhetorical. I know the answer. They are burnt out and disillusioned. Older teachers like me have seen better days in the classroom so in a way it’s harder for us to see all the joy slowly being sucked out of learning. But we also have a wealth of experience to draw from and we know which hoops you don’t necessarily need to jump through. We occasionally speak out. We are not as easy to “control”. But we are tired and also burning out with disillusionment.

I write this in the hope that we can spark a public discussion. We need the support of parents, who I know agree with us. I write this because I love children and I can’t bear to see what we are doing to them. Last year, as I apologised once again to my class for pushing them so hard and for the constant barrage of assessment, one child asked me “if you don’t like the things you have to do then why are you still a teacher?” That question got me to thinking long and hard. I had no answer except that I truly loved kids and it was with a heavy heart that I realised that wasn’t enough anymore.

The teacher's original 976-word essay was published on her Facebook page last year. In it, she said the system was in 'crisis' and added that she wrote the post in the hope of sparking public debate.

'Classrooms are overcrowded, filled with individuals with all sorts of needs both educational and social. Teachers are told we must differentiate and cater to each individual. Good teachers try desperately to do that but it is near impossible and we feel guilty that we are not doing enough to help the children in our care,' she wrote at the time.

'Teaching at the moment is data driven. We are testing them and assessing them and pushing them so hard. I get that teachers need to be accountable and of course we need assessment but teachers have an innate ability to know what kids need. A lot of it is data for data's sake.'

The post swiftly went viral and was shared thousands of times online.

Daily Mail Australia has reached out to the Queensland Department of Education for comment.

In a recent statement issued by the state's education minister, Kate Jones, to ABC Radio, she said: 'I have to ensure that early year teachers feel that they have the flexibility to do the appropriate age learning for students in their class.

'Also in the recent budget we announced that there will be a fully funded prep teacher aide in every classroom in Queensland.

'The statements will identify any issues they believe the prep teacher should have and we will provide that directly, and this is something prep teachers have asked for.'


Bloomberg Wrongly Cites 'Wealth Inequality' to Vilify School Choice

Bloomberg this week published a new article fostering the Left’s “private school is evil” canard. The author cuts to the chase in the first sentence, where he bemoans, “These days, private school really is just for rich kids.” Citing National Bureau of Economic Research data, the author reports a significant decline among middle-income participation in private schools over the last 50 years, whereas the participation rate among high-income families is essentially flat. This, the author surmises, “could come to perpetuate the nation’s growing wealth divide.”

While the article doesn’t specifically mention school choice, there’s clearly a grudge. The irony, of course, is that conservatives have long advocated for school choice — for example, by vastly expanding school vouchers. This would provide opportunities for more lower and middle class children to attend private schooling. The Bloomberg report rationally points out that “the average tuition at nonsectarian private elementary schools ― where the percentage of students from high-income families has risen substantially ― surged from $4,120 in 1979 to $22,611 in 2011.” Yet this misses a key point: Government per-pupil spending has skyrocketed as well, with quite literally nothing to show for it.

More school choice would create more competition, which naturally helps to keep rising tuition rates in check with the added benefit of boosting performance. That’s more than we can say of public schools. The fact is, statist policies are eating away at the middle class. And to Bloomberg’s point, statism affects the entire economy — including, incidentally, private school tuition. This more than anything is contributing to the so-called wealth gap. Leftists pretend it’s the other way around. And if bolstering this narrative means exploiting “wealth inequality” — a scapegoat used with virtually every topic — to demonize school choice, so be it. For them, it’s a win-win.


Minnesota Schools Adopt Transgender Toolkit for Kindergartners
Teachers told to ask children their 'preferred pronouns'

A "transgender toolkit" for public schools in Minnesota advises teachers to call children "scholars" instead of boys and girls.

The guidelines were approved Wednesday by the "School Safety Technical Assistance Council" and will be distributed to Kindergarten through 12th grade public schools and charter schools throughout the state. The toolkit attempts to "ensure a safe and supportive transition" for children becoming a different gender at school.

The toolkit allows for boys who identify as girls to use the girls' bathroom, and tells teachers to ask kids what their "preferred pronouns" are.

The Minnesota Department of Education encourages parents to have "acceptance and support of their child's gender identity" if they want their child to perform well at school.

"Schools should not assume a student's name or pronoun," the toolkit states. "School officials should ask the student and use the requested name and pronouns."

The department says no legal documents are needed to change a student's name or gender in school records. The department also said that teachers must call students by whatever name they choose to ensure that bullying does not occur.

"When students are referred to by the wrong pronoun by peers or school staff, students may feel intimidated, threatened, harassed or bullied," the toolkit states. "School staff can ensure a more respectful environment for all students when efforts are made to correct the misuse of pronouns, as well as names, in student records."

If a teacher calls a child by the wrong pronoun, he could violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, according to the guide.

Teachers also should avoid calling grade school children "boys and girls," because the phrase is not "inclusive."

"Teachers could address students as ‘students' and ‘scholars' to be inclusive as opposed to ‘boys and girls,'" the guide states.

Other tips include not picking a homecoming or prom king and queen—instead students should nominate "prom ambassadors," "homecoming court," or "homecoming royalty."

The department explains, "Language around gender is evolving."

"In some communities, the term ‘Two-Spirit' is used for an American Indian person possessing a blend of male and female spirits," the toolkit states. "The term honors people of native heritage. Two-spirit students traditionally do not seek out medical transition nor use the language of transgender nor gender nonconforming to describe their gender."

The toolkit links to several outside resource guides, including the group Gender Spectrum's "Student Gender Transition Plan," where a child can fill out their "preferred name," gender, and assigned sex at birth.

The form asks, "What does the student wish to communicate about their gender?" and what "requests" the student will make, such as a new name, pronouns, or using a different locker room or bathroom.

The plan also includes a schedule for sharing a child's new gender with the school and other parents, and a time for a "parent information night about gender diversity."

The department also references a "Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools," developed by left-wing organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, the ACLU, the National Education Association, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. This guide states that a child's "age and maturity" should "never be a basis for denying a transgender student an opportunity to transition in a safe and supportive environment."

The guidebook also advises that students can use the restroom of their choice. The department suggests that school officials should segregate students who feel uncomfortable by a biological boy who identifies as a girl joining the girls' locker room.

"Privacy objections raised by a student in interacting with a transgender or gender nonconforming student may be addressed by segregating the student raising the objection provided that the action of the school officials does not result in stigmatizing the transgender and gender nonconforming student," the toolkit states.


No comments: