ABC of Child Whispering T is for TESTING

Most kids hate tests and with good reason.

They hate the tension and judgements that accompant them. They hate the fact that teachers use tests to manipulate and bribe them to study.

I teach children from around 40 schools. The one common thread is the number of tests children do.

We are doing more and more of them.


Do we really think we can reduce kids to some kind of lowest common denominator? A score that really sums them up and pigeon-holes them?

Scores are regularly given to parents who often have no idea what they mean. “Michael is only reading at level 3!”



Parents need to know:

  • What do these levels mean?
  • How many levels are there?
  • What level should Michael be reading at?
  • How can he be helped?

It is not fair to just give out arbitrary data and use it to worry parents and make them feel uneducated and ignorant.

Many schools test weekly and this of course reduces the hours available for teaching.

Whatever happened to observations, samples of work, video obs and so on?

What does a test really measure?

What do we REALLY learn?

Quite often tests mainly measure ability to read instructions –  not necessarily a deep understanding of the test subject area.

To get that level of understanding we need to TALK to children.

This morning I assessed a child and I received FAR more information from my casual conversations with him rather than my battery of formal tests.

Even the subtexts- the body language, the yawns, the animation that occurred when we discussed his interests- all these  gave me SO much more information than my formal testing packages.

Let’s get back to REAL assessments where we take the time to get to know children, determine their specific needs, learning styles and therefore make education plans that really work!

Over-testing does nothing except waste valuable teaching and learning time!

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The ABC of Child Whispering: T is for Tension

Children are no strangers to stress and tension. Because they are ‘time-poor’ they have very little down time to process their feelings and concerns. The tension we feel as parents and teachers is unfortunately shared with children.

Our obsessions with their academic results and exams have caused children to question their self-worth, their intellectual ability and to doubt their ability to cope with school.

Stessed  children learn less so everyone loses!

I have assessed many new children over the last 3 months and a common thread runs through most of these sessions – tension.

So many kids are tense, worried, tell me they are failing and CAN’T DO their work. They describe themselves as “dumb” and “stupid” and really cannot perceive they could possibly be smart, successful or able to overcome their difficulties.

Sadly – something all these children share is average to high intelligence and incredible gifts in:

  • music
  • gymnastics/dance/sporting ability
  • the ability to generate amazing ideas for writing
  • really high artistic ability
  • high problem solving skills

Their creative thinking skills are off the scale and yet they know we don’t value these gifts!

Why don’t we?

The world needs these creative gifts like never before!

Why do we consign these brilliant kids to the educational trash heap?

Sure – they often DO learn differently.

This means I have to think differently when I plan their lessons and I have to teach differently. I get kids writing and spelling words in bright colours, tracing them in sand-pits, on a giant white board etc and I’m happy to provide all these learning tools because this is HOW they learn. So, if children learn differently we all need to teach differently. We can’t keep consigning these kids to the educational rubbish bin.

I LOVE working with these super-smart kids. and I have to help them let go of the tension and negative thoughts they have built up around their academic achievement. It is a privilege to work with them.

I teach them to physically relax using kinesiology exercises, learn to adopt a positive mind set and  I utilise art and journalling therapies to help with self-expression .

Its only after they can relax and drop the tension around academic matters that our children can truly start the remediation process. These kids need to be healed from the very education system that was supposed to help them!

We owe it to the future to roll back the tension levels kids feel. it just makes the learning process so much slower. ALL kids can be helped to see their own skills and to realise they ARE smart they DO matter and they CAN succeed.





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Take a pinch of ADHD and combine with 2 generous teaspoons of ODD and shake well………

We have almost done it. We have almost managed to test kids to death and construct a new model for the ideal designer child that fits our “factory” paradigm of education.

I teach many kids who now spend more time preparing for tests, getting tested, worrying about marks they received, studying for the next test and so on without any breaks to ENJOY learning and explore their interests.

Kids as young as 3 are routinely tested, labelled, drugged and made into education robots.

Parents obsess over terms such as ODD. ADHD, “the spectrum” and nobody seems to realise kids come in a myriad of varieties- just like adults.

Yes- surprising news- kids ARE humans and have rights.

They deserve to be allowed to be who they are- not who we want them to become!

They deserve to have their gifts and difficulties accepted- we are not perfect either.

It’s OK. It was meant to be like that!

Rejoice in their differences and explore these kids. Very likely they will teach us things we have forgotten like-

  • the value of play in learning
  • how to think creatively
  • the fact that we have a cocktail of multiple intelligences and that is OK
  • why it’s important to have some spare time for dreaming, doing nothing or whatever? time. We all need a slice of WHATEVER? time in our planners!

Do we truly want the world to be dull, boring and colourless with cloned child – human lemmings walking straight over the cliff edge into a world without creativity, dreaming, ideas or simply the space to think?

We ALL need to wake up and treat every child as a gift to the world.

Over the past week I have had so many creative, brilliant children do amazing things! Keep in mind that most of these students have had at least one if not 4 negative labels slapped on them. The label they really need is  BRILLIANT!

In 7 days I have witnessed kids:

Make up a fantasy narrative stories in 5 ninutes based on a tower of glue sticks, they made while I spoke to his parents

Take some packets of stickers and use them to write a really interesting book.

Talk to me entirely in antonyms for a whole hour just for fun.

Notice mathematical patterns way beyond their years.

Beg for more time to write and write pages and pages of coherent text. I have a few kids like this – their creative writing is amazing and they fall deeply into their narratives and accept criticism and craft their writing. Sadly we have almost killed the love for writing with our genre driven madness!

Generate innovative ways to save bees, recycle, save endangered species, care for trees and avoid interfering with the echolocation process many animals depend on.

Write the sort of poetry you would be unlikely to even see from a third year English honours student- the sort that takes you from joy to tears in a flash!

Sketch a building accurately on a tissue in 5 mins flat! (From a Grade 2)

Take popular learning games, change the rules and make entirely new games better than the original!

Make huge leaps in thinking about maths and show the levels of maths understanding you would not expect in a graduating high-school kid.

I have students who question EVERYTHING, kids who beg for spare time, kids who (dare I say this out loud?) want to be kids!

The number of labels we can now apply is endless – in fact they read like a recipe book! Take a pinch of ADHD, add in two teaspoons of Oppositional Defiance Disorder and shake them well and place them in a giant “spectrum” cake tin. Cook the mixture in a special oven called “school” for at least 10 years or at least until all the lumps, bumps of individual differences have vanished.

The innovative Sir Ken Robinson has been proposing radical changes for many years. Education is the only thing in this world that doesn’t really change much. If you could bring back your great, great, great granny she would walk around in a daze looking at planes in the sky, computers, Ipads and so on but if you took her to the local school she would relax and feel at home.

We are trying to control kids rather than feed their curiosity, fuel their enthusiasm and nurture their skills and creativity. What are we scared of? Most likely we are scared of the kids themselves. But why?

Sort it out before our kids all grow up with the mindset I see so often- hating school, feeling like an abject failure before 8 years and with an understanding that they will never ever have any spare time to just be, dream, think and wonder.

It never had to be like this and it is truly time for a new paradigm.

Sir Ken is right- watch this along with  1,952,822 others and let’s start a learning revolution today!


“every student deserves to be treated like the miracle that they are—with personalized, individualized education that addresses that “world within.” Sir Ken Robinson


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The ABC of Child Whispering: T is for Telling Tales

Telling tales is considered to be a very “un-Australian” behaviour but let’s face it- as adults we often call it “whistle blowing” and often admire the truth tellers!

Children tell us “tales” for many reasons.

For sure they might be seeking to get their siblings or classmates into trouble. They also might be trying to become more popular with a teacher or to in some way weild personal power.

However- over my career I have often found these 2 reasons to be more evident-

  • Risky behaviour has been witnessed – behaviours we would DEFINITELY want to be told about.
  • A child has been bullied and is frightened and definitely want the behaviour to stop.

So- the message is- listen carefully and don’t just send children away before listening to them. At least listen and if their tale telling is inappropriate tell them why BUT do not tell them they cannot come back if something is important and needs to be communicated.

Children must ALWAYS know they can depend on parents and teachers to be there and to listen in troubling and problematic situations.

The following link raises some important points. Sure- especially as teachers, we get sick and tired of tales but we need to look closely at the reasons for the tales and consider if some action needs to be taken- even if it is just to be a receptive listener or to encourage a child in a situation that is bothering them.

Children Bullying and Telling Tales: The Link

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High-School Worries for Year 7 students.

Recently I have had a spate of year seven students who are suffering extreme anxiety and are obsessively worried about getting assignments done, homework up to date and studying for what seems to be a  never ending round of tests!

The problem as I see it, is that while it does benefit children of year 7 age to have specialist teachers and to begin learning subjects in greater depth; these kids ARE still kids and do not all cope well with the pressures of high-school life.

I know there are many primary teachers employed in highschools to help the transition to be smooth and this is GREAT but the kids I am seeing are being treated like year 8 kids and-

  • are expected to do at least 2 hours homework each night
  • forget where the toilets are
  • are terrified of the “big kids” and suffer lots of teasing and bullying
  • have to carry around all their books and files on their backs like human snails because they can’t find their lockers or want to have EVERYTHING with them in case they’ve forgotten something and so on!

They are not being nurtured and helped to cope and in many cases schools are not paying enough attention to the needs of these younger students.

The transition should be made as seamless as possible but these children who were only just coping at primary school are now absolutely sure they are failures! How sad!

Whether or not there are sufficient staff or funds, schools CAN-

  • Be kind and welcoming to all their kids and ensure ALL teaching and non-teaching staff are aware of potential problems that might occur for these younger children.
  • Ensure teachers from different subject areas have an effective  communication system in place so that kids do not have too many assignments to do each evening
  • Be very aware that children in year 7 may have more need for home-room contact and access to counselling
  • Understand All year 7 children need regular help to develop the positive growth and mindset skills that will help them with their studies and high-school life.

This IS serious. These kids are not just presenting with academic issues. These difficulties can lead to potentially very serious mental health problems.

We all need to think back to our own childhoods and remember that daunting, terrifying day we went to high-school.

I remember the year 12s at Albany high-school looked like GIANTS.

I can still recall the smell of donuts cooking in the school canteen but being terrified of lining up with the giants to buy one! It all sounds funny and silly now but at the time was TERRIFYING!

Taking our year 7 students to highschool was never going to be easy- let’s use our emotional intelligence and just plain commonsense to ensure we don’t shred their self-confidence and kill their enthusiasm and enjoyment of education!

Please call me on 92777596 or 0409911135 or email me on if you would like extra help for your child.

Here is some extra information and interesting thoughts on successful transition to highschool.






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Reading aloud DOES matter! Important research!

Reading aloud to children MATTERS!
Important for ALL teachers and ALL parents!This is an excellent article and shows what many of us suspected about animated stories- we DO need to read to children as often as possible! I have some excellent lists of books for reading aloud-if you would like access please email me separately on


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Subitising is a super-important maths skill but is been sadly missing in many children we assess.

Subitising was coined by Piaget and refers to the ability to instantaneously recognise the number of objects in a small group without having to count them. We do this when we play dominoes or regognise the dots on the dice.

Increasingly we are seeing children who cannot recognise small groups of items and therefore they have to count every items each time.


Early maths skills need time to develop. Not spending enough time on “hands-on” manipulatives and lack of experience with making and remaking groups is contributing to shaky basic number concepts.

Subitising skills are essential to basic maths. There is no fast way to accelerate these skills- the kids actually HAVE to see and manipulate materials in groups. or the understanding of concepts such as “five” simply does not develop.

This of course leads to serious problems with all 4 basic maths processes and a marked lack of understanding of number patterns. As PATTERNS are at the heart of all maths understanding, we need to help children who are lacking with these skills.

Here is some excellent extra information:

Many inexpensive ways to teach subitising skills are highlighted in this link. the importance of subitising.

Just a few minutes practice each day will lead to a much deeper understanding of our number system and help children to build a firm foundation for this important area.

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There is an alarming trend to describe kids, reading levels, mathematical attainment in numerical terms. We are assigning a number or grade next to each student in some vain attempt to make teaching and learning “safe” and easier. This will NEVER work. We are missing the point of education and we are not allowing children to use their creativity and grow- we are literally stifling their learning.

George Monbiot, writing in the Guardian argues that,

“Children earn best when teaching aligns with their natural exuberance, energy and curiosity. So why are they dragooned into rows and made to sit still while they are stuffed with facts?

We succeed in adulthood through collaboration. So why is collaboration in tests and exams called cheating?

Governments claim to want to reduce the number of children being excluded from school. So why are their curriculums and tests so narrow that they alienate any child whose mind does not work in a particular way?

The best teachers use their character, creativity and inspiration to trigger children’s instinct to learn. So why are character, creativity and inspiration suppressed by a stifling regime of micromanagement?”

Publishers are making a fortune writing formulaic programs that reduce teachers to little more than robots and put children into learning strait jackets! Schools buy these programs as they think they will force standards up and make sure teachers don’t make mistakes.

Teachers are being reduced to program administrators and not encouraged to use their valuable insights and judgement.

The whole explicit teaching movement was meant to raise teaching standards and ensure children were taught effectively so all could learn. It was never meant to crush children’s creativity and force children to learn in ways that don’t work for them.

Our unhappy children are paying the price. Everyday I work with children who are trying to fit this outmoded factory mode of education and giving up.

For the sake of our children, we need to utilise pedagogically sound teaching practices and encourage teachers to teach and not become program robots.

To read the whole article by George Monbiot:

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Thank goodness the holidays are nearly here.

Teachers look tired, children are grouchy and we all need sleep!

As a group, teachers are not great at self-care. They are so used to putting students first they forget that when the well is empty the water cannot flow.

No matter how talented and passionate- when a teacher runs on empty they CANNOT function, their health suffers and children do not learn effectively.

Most teachers spend a substantial amount of their holidays planning, making teaching materials and catching up on reference material.

Some of this is normal in any profession but due to the high stress levels of teaching, better self-care is a MUST for teachers.

An excellent website “Mindful teachers” points out:

 “Self-care is far from self-indulgent, especially among those of us who are committed to serving others. It isn’t about being selfish or shirking our responsibilities. It’s about figuring out what aspects of our work and schedules we have control over and making choices about how to most effectively spend our time and energy.”

It then goes on to offer tips, links, reflections, and mindfulness practices to help teachers cope with some common challenges. This link is well worth exploring to help all teachers retain their sense of balance and be able to give 100% within their careers.

I wish all my colleagues a wonderful break with plenty of sleep, fun and a good dollop of self-indulgence!

If all this fails- try chocolate!










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The A-Z of Child Whispering: S is for STRANGE

I have been trying to make myself read some books from the Dog-Man series and it is like negotiating an alien landscape.

The comic book genre does not resonate with me AT ALL! Graphic novels are not my thing. My daughter bought me one many years ago and it still lays abandoned and lonely in the bedside cabinet!

However, the idea of a dog’s head joined to a man’s body for a policeman appeals to thousands of young readers. Each week I am asked, “Vicky, have you read the Dog Man books?” and each week I sat, “No!”

This week I can honestly say I tried and there WERE funny, weird moments that sort of appealed but no- I am just too staid!

Kids LOVE the weird, kooky, strange and bizarre. They want to borrow books about gruesome facts and scary animals. They LOVE Any Griffith with his crazy Tree-house books and devour ALL of them.

They love science, aliens and space and have absolutely no problem imagining what Heaven might look like! Their brains are like the stretchiest most flexible slinky you could ever imagine!

This will never change.

Think back. If I can, you can too!

I loved books about the supernatural, scary horror stories and movies like that too. I wanted weird. I was once a kid too!

So were you!

It our job to know what kids want but it also our job to gently lead them to engaging fiction that will make them think deeply and problem solve. By knowing what they WANT to read, I can lead them to certain areas.

I want kids to read about the strangeness of Narnia and feel the delicious fear in The Dark is Rising series but I must also enter kids’ weird worlds and meet strange characters like Dog Man.

Thank you to the writers of weird such as Dav Pilkey and Andy Griffiths and even JK Rowling. They keep the kids reading and inspire the ones with problems to WANT to read!

Below is a list of very quirky kids’ books. Some don’t appeal to me at all but they DO to kids! “Go the F*** to sleep” is obviously for adults!

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