I was running JOLLY GRAMMAR training over the last 2 days and honoured to have very passionate dedicated Darwin teachers attending!
We were discussing expected levels children reach and ways to measure these levels. I was telling them about what I have done this term at our centre. Basically I took a deep breath and told ALL the children I expected them to jump up a level and reach for the stars this term! The amazing thing is the kids caught “the ball” and they are already running with it. Kids love challenges!
A young teacher (an acting Principal) told us she had doubled the levels her children were expected to reach. She told us she had come from a school in another state where the expected levels were exactly DOUBLE of the ones expected at her present school. So she looked around, thought, “these kids are just as capable” and set new levels. And- guess what? The kids got there! She has doubled the expected academic outcomes in her school by simply believing in her pupils and setting the bar at a higher level.
I was SO impressed. There are many stories about how expectations determine educational standards and we all know it is true but somehow we still accept less than kids can give. This insults children and I truly believe we need to insist on excellence.
I don’t believe, “Do it again,” is a soul destroying statement. Often it means we know they are capable of better work. I am not a fan of putting too much pressure on children but I do believe that we should ALL give of our best. Accepting less than their best is actually quite insulting for children. They WANT to go for gold. They are just not sure of the route and might need to be adjusted in their tracks!
There are emerging concerns about children’s stress levels during NAPLAN testing and of course this bothers educators and makes us wonder if we really need this type of imposed testing. Any system that uses testing as a major aid to check on levels of attainment is putting out a clear message- we don’t trust our teachers! Is the information generated from NAPLAN really that helpful of would continuous observation and testing at regular intervals provide more helpful data?
If the Government really does not trust teachers to be able to help children reach their potential we need to address this- why this lack of trust?? I cannot imagine this sort of checking and lack of trust existing in other professions.
Personally I feel that the teaching profession has never fully grown up, asserted themselves and taken the lead by refusing to have their daily work habits dictated to by people with less knowledge.
Stress for children is not good but most will recover. The REAL concern factor here is teacher stress and this is being largely ignored. Teachers are deliberately staying quiet and not commenting in the media for fear of their jobs. We conduct a great deal of professional development around Australia with thousands of teachers and I can assure readers they ARE experiencing severe stress. Their time is taken up with administering and marking many practice tests – especially in term one where they get kids ready for this testing. Traditionally this has been the term to thaw out Aussie kids’ brains from the long, hot summer baking and help them become receptive to the knowledge they will receive in the new school year. Naplan years are now practising test papers instead and even “off year Naplan testing” is happening as enterprising companies have devised test papers for children in other grades.
Of course this is educational insanity and takes time away from good teaching. We are likely to drive our education standards down further as we know that quality teaching is the one factor that can make a difference.
We need to honour our teachers, nurture them, show trust and provide the tools they need. A huge number of our attending teachers pay their own fees for our courses and report they have to buy their own JOLLY PHONICS and JOLLY GRAMMAR handbooks. Their salaries are not high- less than most professions and that sends a clear message- you are not worth it!
We can carry on down this destructive and negative pathway and increase teacher and student stress or we can look at truly successful educational models such as the one in Finland and start to trust our teachers, provide higher quality training for them and stop the massive waste of energy, time and money related to NAPLAN testing.
Time to think rationally and tell some truths!