Posts Tagged With: Education

The (Rudderless) Boat

A friend recently sent me a song that he had written about education – partly his own education 50 odd years ago but more pointedly also about education today. The reality is that today education is even more perilous because it has moved into a post-modern era where the present social views are determined by numbers and political correctness rather than an objective norm e.g. a Judaeo Christian ethic. The song refers to this as a “rudderless boat”.

mousehole

Mousehole Cornwall UK

Currently in our state this has come to a head under the guise of “Safe Schools”. On the surface this is a noble idea. Our children need to be safe from predators and bullying – every one of them. Yet within the program there is also (not too subtle) social engineering about sexuality – an engineering that is shaped by the latest (most vocal) views.

Another phrase in the song that struck me was, “the system can’t tell me what all this is for.” The implication is that so many ideas have been compressed into what has become an overcrowded education/curriculum which, I believe, is striving to compensate for a chaotic social fabric. The result is that we have lost sight of, or have become unsure of, the purposes of education because there are just so many competing ideas in this can of worms.

The school in which I teach states in its Vision Statement “[Our] College strives to be a vibrant Christ-Centred community where parents and teachers serve in partnership to nurture in each child a passion for learning and an uncompromising desire to live according to God’s word.”

Three things stand out in contrast to much of our current education in this statement. One, education is the equipping of a child to love God and their neighbour, two, this is on a foundation not created by our own whims but one that is distilled from the Word of God and three, this is surrounded by a community shaped by a common ethos.

My friend’s song also asks, where will the current societal trends in education lead us? It is a question that disturbs me too and for which the only answer I have is, more chaos.

 

 

Categories: christian education, Education, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

As Time Goes By

A few weeks ago while teaching a year 10 class it suddenly hit me that it was exactly 50 years earlier that I had been in Year 10. I expressed this to the students and they responded by saying that it was amazing that someone could be so old and still talk and stand at the same time.

We discussed the changes that occurred over this period. Then the unemployment rate was well under 2%. A student could leave in year 11 and do a two year primary teaching certificate and be back in the classroom before turning 20. Lots of students left by year 9 and 10 and went straight into jobs and apprenticeships. At Queenscliff High all my fellow students would remember Robbo who was the first to escape and became a postman. Even in the early 1970s I could still walk into the Ford factory and find myself on the afternoon shift the next day earning some money so I could afford to get married the following year.

At my school girls still did the “girls’ subjects (Home Economics, Commerce and Shorthand and Typing) and boys did the “boys’” subjects (Mechanical Drawing, Woodwork and the sciences).  Some schools were beginning to experiment by allowing a more democratic choice of subjects.

There was the cold war, nuclear fears and the growing rumbles of the Vietnam war. Colonialism was coming to an end and we had just introduced decimal currency.

The divorce rate was still low and de facto relationships hardly heard of.  Although later I found out that many of these families suffered at the hands abusive husbands and fathers.

Technology has of course been the one of the most massive changes. In 1966 the teacher would hand out sheets which had been duplicated on a spirit duplicator. Every student would sniff their sheet of paper for its faint smell of the spirit/alcohol.

For those of you who are a certain age, what changes have you noticed?

Categories: Education, History, Uncategorized | Tags: , | 4 Comments

The Practice Exam

 

The room is nervously quiet.

A heater gently hums.img_1053

There is the rustling of twitching pages.

Then the reading time finishes

and the starting gun booms  in explosive silence.

The click and scratch of pens flinch in earnest.

Unseen but real

nervous energy tensions the air.

Minds ponder,

details are rummaged for in far recesses

while palms sweat.

 

Only to know that this is “practice”

and it needs to be done all over again.

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Unlocking and Enabling

Nothing thrills an English teacher more than seeing students become excited about words.

Recently a poet visited the school and held a workshop with a group of students. I sat at the back of the room and observed the class. Cameron, the poet, slowly removed the restraints on the students’ imagination through a variety of sensing and imagining exercises and then they wrote, explored, refined and developed their ideas.

The results were astounding. Some of the students, usually retiring and shy, read their marvelous poems and received praise from their fellow students.

What impressed me was the depth and complexity of thought that some of these poems revealed: reflections on life, living and creation that went beyond the mundane. It reminded me again of the teacher’s task to “unlock” and “enable” – to unlock the talents that that are there and to pass on the skills that enable the those gifts and talents to be developed.

It is humbling to watch a good teacher applying their skills and it is exhilarating to see the results.

 

Categories: christian education, Education, poetry, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

A Desire for Justice

Over the last two weeks while studying Anh Do’s book “The Happiest Refugee” we have also been looking at two TED clips on the refugee crisis in Europe. One talk reflected on the sinking of a refugee boat with 500 people from which only a handful of people survived. The second talk outlined the story of two young men who tried to swim the English channel starting at Dunkirk. Sadly, one body was found on the coast of Norway and the other on the coast of Holland.

refugees-are-human-beings

source: forbes.com

The students have been discussing the book and these two talks as a preparation to write a series of blogs. I have had the privilege of sitting back and listening to the class because a student teacher has been leading the discussions. While listening in I have been impressed  and encouraged by a number of things:

  1. Overwhelmingly the students are incensed at the injustice and inhumanity of this crisis. I am impressed because they have not been inured to the relentless bad news that the world springs on them everyday. They realise that the numbers have names and those names have families and other loved ones who are connected with them.
  2. The students are also eager to look for solutions. They don’t just throw their hands up helplessly. Within the complex issues there is always a desire to seek answers.
  3. I have been impressed with the passion. Young people are often accused of being narcissistic and self obsessed. I have seen nothing of this.  In fact I see more of this in our politicians and political commentators than in the  young people in front of me.
  4. Even though the young people are proud to be Australian they are not blind to its weaknesses.
  5. The aspect of the discussions that have pleased me most has been the underlying question: “What does Jesus want us to do?” For a number of students this is the fundamental guiding principle.

So, despite the confusion found in our era and the perceived watering down of values the young people in front of me give me immense hope.

 

Categories: christian education, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Reports, Graduations and Thanksgiving

It is that time of year again.  The general populace is thinking of Christmas but teachers are busily finishing off reports and reflecting on creative ways of telling the truth without engendering the wrath of protective parents.  Do I write, “Johnny is an enthusiastic student whose energy knows no bounds” or “Johnny is uncontrollable and has no sense or discipline or self-control”?  Do I write, “Mary is unmotivated“ or “Mary reflects all the sloth of her parents”?  Um, I wonder?

Before the report writing there was the marking.   Exams, essays and other pieces that would provide evidence for the reports, all had to be assessed.  Writing and meaning had to be deciphered.  By this stage of the year the shoulders are hunched, the eyes bleary and the footstep slow.

The Thanksgiving and Graduation evening is special.  Students who have worked hard and achieved highly are acknowledged.  My favourite awards are for students who have worked hard and progressed but have not necessarily achieved high marks but need to be encouraged for their effort.  Also students graduate from one section of the school and move to the next and the Year 12 students are acknowledged as they leave the College.  This year, after being, homeroom teacher to the same group of students for the last three years I have that nagging parental conflict of hope and fear, and excitement and trepidation as another group of Year 12 students step out into the next stage of their lives.  May God go before them.

And then, next year, I can start all over again …

Categories: christian education, Education | Tags: , | 2 Comments

A New Start

photo (2)Now that my studies have finished for this semester I hope to have more time to write and read blogs. It is an activity I have come to love but being in the “non-essential” category it has been relegated down the list.

Returning to tertiary study has been a interesting activity.  I had forgotten how demanding it could be if one wanted to do it well.  The intensive reading, focussed researching, reviewing and writing extended essays were skills that had dulled more than a bit over time.  Hopefully all this brain activity will keep the neurons active.

I have regained some understanding of what my students go through.  For me however,  this study isn’t “future determining” so I don’t want to put it in the same category as my Year 12 students who are seeking opportunities for future directions.

Reflecting on my own Form 6 or Year 12 experiences I have come to understand that  2014 is a different world to 1968. Back then I was competing with other students in my town or state. Students today are, in effect, competing with the world. I have the utmost respect for my current students as they strive to keep the focus and passion in a tough environment.

Moreover, employment in 1968 was under 2% and that included young people. I remember driving past the Ford factory in my final year at Uni and getting work on the afternoon shift without a hiccough.  Now the Ford factory is closing and the unemployment rate for young people is astronomical.  To obtain work, Uni places and receive an income are no longer values we can blithely assume.  So before we start criticising our youth, an audit of how we would fared in today’s climate might be sobering.

Yes, the world is a different place.  But I haven’t changed … much.

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The Seven Up Series

7 upThe “7 Up” series is often described as the best documentary ever made. Starting with a one off program in 1964 it explored the future of British society through the lives of a group of 7 year old children.

Seven years later Michael Apted, who had been a researcher on the original program revisted the young people and continued exploring the direction of their lives. Last year 56 Up was released. Apted had returned to their lives with a film crew every 7 years for nearly 50 years.

I have always admired these people as they have had their lives audited and scrutinised by Apted and then the viewer. Yet because of their sacrifice in this process we have a record of changes, large and small, in British society over a 50 year period. From the class system, attitudes to marriage and children, through to the rise of technology and the changes in fashion, have all been recorded – both consciously and unconsciously. Their lives, and in some real sense, our Western lives have been etched into history.

As a teacher I have used this resource in a variety of ways. The series chronicles human decisions, character, history and society. However I have always been conscious that we are dealing with the lives of real people and that these lives have been filtered through the interviewing and editing by Michael Apted and his team. Whenever I use this series I remind my students to be respectful because the people are not Hollywood creations but fellow human beings with strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears just like the rest of us.

I have never been disappointed by my classes responses. Yes they may like one person more than another but we have that in life anyway. It also wonderful to see how students respond to decisions that the participants make and modify their views and responses. I will relate some of these in the future.

I admire all the people in this project simply because of their courage and openness. When we see their lives we get a glimpse of our own.

I hope to write more in the days ahead.

Categories: Education, Family, people i admire, Reflections, Teaching, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Parents and Education

Yesterday we had our first Parent Teacher interviews for the year. One of the outstanding characteristics of these interviews is that these parents are passionately concerned about their children’s success. They want to partner with the teachers to enable their son or daughter to achieve their best.

That school/family partnership is a crucial element for a child’s success. This liaison enables the discovery of learning styles and intelligence areas. Weaknesses can be worked on and strengths developed. For the student he or she is aware that there is a solid support team upholding their education.

The examples parents set for their children is also important. Do children see their parents as life long learners? Do they see mum and dad expanding their horizons through the books read, films watched and courses taken? Does this “learning” inform the family and meal time conversations? The family atmosphere can have a huge impact on whether a child has a positive or negative view of learning.

When I was teaching in the UK I came across the phrase, “Second generation disaffection with school.” It refers to parents who had a poor experience of school which in turn impacts  their lack of encouragement or negativity with regard to their own children’s education. For the teacher the consequences are obvious – unmotivated students who disrupt classes and the education of their peers. It can become a disastrous downward spiral.

The most prominent influence I have observed over the years is a dad’s influence on his son(s). As a general rule, if the dad doesn’t read, his son will not read. Or to put it positively, a dad who reads, gives his son(s) a powerful example that will radically influence his child’s education. All the encouragement from mum can be outweighed by dad’s attitude – positive or negative.

Our children are no longer competing for jobs with their peers in a school (I must stress that education is not just about jobs!), but in the global economy, with students in schools all across the world. The support, encouragement and example of parents is, consequently, also important. Many of the jobs that our children will enter into have not even been invented yet. So the best example a parent can give is an attitude of life long, on going learning. Personal growth becomes an attribute of how we live life.

This attitude also mitigates against boredom and complacency. It make life exciting and positive.  Learning and discovery becomes part of who we are as complete people.  It will also stop us from being passive consumers of entertainment, but that is a topic for another day.

Categories: Education, Teaching | Tags: | 6 Comments

Imagining More

It is difficult to imagine something of which you have no experience.

I was reflecting on my parents the other day. My father’s schooling ended at primary school and my mother’s in early high school. By the time it was my turn to go to school my family had immigrated to Australia. Both my parents, but especially my father, stressed the importance of doing well at school. Bringing home a report card was, for me at least, never a pleasant experience. In my father’s opinion I could always have done better.

My father at school in the 1920s

My father at school in the 1920s

However there was a breakthrough when I was in form three (year 9). My average had gone down from the term before and I was very apprehensive but dad wasn’t angry. I asked him why. And he replied that he had seen me work solidly all term and if that was the best I could do then he was happy with that.

It was in the next year that formal external assessment began. In years 10 through 12 we had to sit external exams at the end of each year. My parents couldn’t help me. They were not only migrants but this was beyond their experience. Yet still I was encouraged to do my best. I got through to Form 6 (Year 12) and then applied for and was accepted into university. This was lightyears away from anything my parents had ever experienced. No one in the immediate family had ever gone this far. In all this they continued to encourage me.

Looking back, this encouragement was extremely important because it was all new to me too. But I am so grateful that even though this type of education was beyond my parents’ imagination it didn’t stifle them as they pushed me beyond their own experience. It is a lesson I think we can all learn from, that is, to have the courage to hope and strive for objectives we can hardly imagine. This can be true in our daily life and spiritual life, in our homes and work.

What do you dream for your children, grandchildren or students? What can you barely imagine but still hope for?

Categories: Family, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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