World Teachers' Day

UNESCO World Teachers' Day is being marked in New Zealand on Friday. To quote the UNESCO website;

"The theme of this year's event is 'Recovery begins with teachers'. On World Teachers’ Day 2010 hundreds of thousands of students, parents... around the world will pay homage to all teachers who have been directly or indirectly affected by a major crisis. Be it a humanitarian crisis, such as the earthquake in Haiti and China, or the global economic crisis that has devastated many developed economies over the past year, the role of teachers and other education personnel is vital to social, economic and intellectual rebuilding. All those who are fighting to provide quality education to children of the world can join teachers and their representative organisations to celebrate the profession and show them their support"

While not suggesting that our Christchurch earthquake has in any way been a humanitarian disaster on a comparable scale to those mentioned above I think it is appropriate that we all take a moment on Friday to thank our teaching team for the emotional support they have given our children over the last month or so. 

Our wonderful staff are themselves a cross section of the Christchurch community and have been so professional in putting their own on-going feelings, worries, and losses aside to be on duty and upbeat so that our children recover well. World Teachers' Day is a great time to show our teachers how much we appreciate their humanity and professionalism. 

This song sent by Bluestone School in Timaru to Christchurch schools is a good indication of the spirit of our staff and our children.

Thanks team.

An agency doing great things - for their own cause and for education in general

Almost every government and local body agency has a good message for school children.

-how to pat dogs safely
-be safe around railway tracks
-eat well
-don't get sunburn
-start a saving habit early
-don't smoke
-be nice to whales
-be nice to Wales (perhaps)
-increase use of Te Reo
-don't touch power lines

The list goes on and on. Sadly the bulk of these sort of messages are delivered in the form of 'resource kits' and workbooks.

These resource kits and workbooks cost millions of dollars to produce, package and distribute and frankly do not truly address the challenges and opportunities offered by and outlined in the New Zealand Curriculum document.

Code the depth of thinking demanded or depth of learning experience offered in so many of these school resources and information campaigns using any taxonomy of learning, and you will find yourself swimming at the shallow end of the pool. Word-finds,  black-line masters, colouring activities, multichoice quizes, mazes, stickers and fact-boxes. Sadly watering sound messages down to superficial learning.

Swimming against this tide of 'good message but mediocre learning resource' is the innovative, useful and challenging work being done by the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) in conjunction with Hooked On Thinking. It is not only an outstanding contribution to the cause of road safety, fitness and sustainable transport, it is a great contribution to the cause of quality learning in New Zealand schools.

The high quality learning resources, which have been developed and continue to flow, more than serve their purpose for the NZTA. They also offer an illustration of the depth of learning on offer when the SOLO Taxonomy is employed in school curriculum design.

If these sets of resources achieve nothing else, they show schools great examples of the sort planning, thinking and learning possible when the NZ Curriculum is fully implemented and well interpreted.

Several teachers at our school have already used the resource to strengthen their planning and practice in other curriculum areas. Not something you often get from other 'resource kits'.

Well done Raewyn Baldwin from NZTA and Pam Hook & Julie Mills from Hooked on Thinking.

The tipping point

Updated 31/10/2010. The link in this posting has gone. Removed by the MoE and put behind password access. Although it makes this post hard to understand because readers can't see the document I am talking about it does show some reflection going on in Wellington..I hope?

Up until now I have held onto my own values and beliefs about primary education and quietly watched while the debate over national standards unfolded (apart from this previous blog post)

I like plain language reporting to parents about where their children are at.
I like schools being accountable for progress of children.
I like constant improvement and always aiming for an aspirational goal.
I like teachers knowing where their children are and what they need to do next to move the children on.

So what problem would I have with National Standards?

But having just read this ...

...I am left stunned. Is this really what our teachers, our BOT, and I need to spend our time understanding and doing?

This is not the 'plain language' reporting heralded by the onset of National Standards. I am seriously thinking about offering cash prizes to parents who can understand the "plain language" of the above web page.

I am pondering - what is wrong with simply using tools like the Literacy Learning Progressions and the progress expectations from the National Numeracy Project to give plain language reports to parents about how their children are progressing?

Do we need this level of technocratic reporting to give a plain language report to parents and to set targets for raising achievement?

Or are we going back to standards? Standard 1, Standard 2, Standard 3 and Standard 4 - what classes used to be called in the bad old days when kids were held back until they reached the mark? Yes, that is how those old names for year groups came about. Do we really want to go back to that? Talk to the elderly ex-Waimairi pupil (who is now a published author) about how that system made him feel in the 1940s. I discussed this with recently. You can guess his answer to that question. It took him 1/2 his adult life to get over being held back in Standard 2.