Archive for the ‘teaching’ Category

This letter appeared in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. It is a frank letter to the NSW Treasurer about the true worth of a teacher. Great stuff!

Hello Mike,

I write to you in despair as a result of the 2.5 per cent public sector wage freeze policy announced by the government.

Teaching these last two terms has been particularly difficult. I arrive at school at 7.15am and prepare my resources for the day. Once the bell goes at 8.55am there is literally no break until 3pm. Recess and lunch are usually spent with students to catch up on work missed, detentions, reports on classroom incidents, committee meetings or supervision duty. Monday afternoons I spend with students at ”homework club”. The rest of the week, between 3pm-5pm, I write lesson plans and prepare resources. If I have any marking, I generally take it home with me.

Last term, I spent four weeks in my own time with my head teacher applying for a $20,000 grant from the federal government to introduce Asian Studies into our curriculum. We would often leave the staffroom at 7pm and go home to complete the rest.

If I take a ”sick” day it is usually to complete marking at the end of exam periods as I physically do not have any time left in my day.

I am not special. I am not asking for a pat on the back. This is my job and I enjoy doing it but I do not know how much longer I can continue like this. I have worked in the private sector, in human resources at Bayer and in hotel management, so I have experience in other industries but I have never worked harder than I do now. I am 36 and have been teaching for seven years. I can either go for promotion or move back into the private sector and get paid twice as much for a job which is half as hard, but half as fulfilling.

I do not know any area of my job where I could improve my productivity or achieve ”cost savings”. I am proficient in all areas of information technology, I run video workshops for students, I help them design websites, I train a girls’ touch football team at lunchtimes, I am involved in the school’s upcoming drama production, I attend all school fund-raiser evenings to raise pathetically small amounts of money, I am undertaking a degree by correspondence and I complete all of the tasks mentioned earlier.

The NSW government loses millions of dollars each year through a corrupted tender system that uses ”preferred suppliers”. Once listed, these suppliers increase their prices and schools have no choice but to purchase equipment at inflated costs. When builders or plumbers do a job for a school, there is no foreman or competent workplace supervisor on site and they often over-quote and complete unnecessary work.

Tradespeople arrive in the morning at a school then leave, complete other work, and charge for a whole day. I recently applied to buy three data projectors and three personal computers. The quote from the preferred supplier was $1400 more than market value. These are small anecdotes but if you multiply them by every state school in NSW these costs start to add up.

There are savings to be made but you are looking to make them in the place where you will lose the most value; your teachers. The wage freeze you have announced is really going to hurt our ability to attract and, more importantly, retain good, hardworking employees in state education. The removal of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission as an independent umpire in wage negotiations is also extremely disappointing.

By taking away the independent arbitrator in a dispute, you leave public sector workers with no alternative but to strike. I have not been a fan of all of the decisions made by the NSW Teachers Federation, but these announcements have forced me to rethink my attitude towards collective action.

What are the cost savings of an inspirational teacher who captures the imagination of a troubled student and steers them in the right direction, equipping them with the knowledge to make a positive contribution instead of ending up in the criminal justice system? These little ”miracles” happen daily in NSW state schools, far more than in any other educational system – simply because we educate all of society, rich and poor.

I do not deserve a wage freeze, nor do my colleagues. The students of NSW public schools do not deserve to see their best teachers moving to the private sector as a result of these wage freezes and the inevitable industrial action that will follow.

I am asking you to please reconsider this destructive policy and find cost savings elsewhere in the budget. Thank you for reading my letter and considering my views.

Kind regards,

Dany Alarab


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Yesterday I visited two Catholic Education Office, Sydney schools, Immaculate Heart of Mary Sefton and St Brendan’s Bankstown. As  schools located in low socio-economic areas, they are participating in the National Partnership Agreement program. 

We have designed an implemented a teacher educator model in response to this program. This allows an “expert” teacher to work in each of the NPA schools (there are 20 such schools, some being system not government funded) to focus on building teacher capacity. After only two terms, I can already see the huge impact this model has had in building teacher and school capacity to improve student learning.

My visit to the schools was primarily to collect film and photo footage for our upcoming elearning professional development program, ESL Matters. What a great experience this proved to be!! Here are some of the fabulous learning experiences I witnessed.

  • a highly differentiated Yr 5 maths lesson with the students using a variety of elearning tools in small groups
  • an engaging multisensory exploration of a Yr 2 HSIE unit, Past and Present, with children directing and negotiating their own learning through structured investigations
  • a group of students participating in a hands-on intensive ESL lesson that was linked to the mainstream program about Australia’s history (their understanding of how language works, at their stage of second language acquisition, was phenomenal!!)
  • a Teacher Educator modelling a shared reading lesson in Yr 3 with students engaging in richly designed, academically challenging learning tasks
  • a vivacious group of kindergarten students, new to English, who were happily participating in a variety of songs and language games
  • a primary group of students having great fun negotiating a moving parachute – so much fun!!

So thanks you to the teachers and students of both schools. Brilliant!!!!!

To the TEs I have worked with this year – congratulations on a job well done. We have more to do next term so rest up!

To Monica at Sefton, thanks for your generosity yesterday during my visit. If your keyboard is anything to go by, you surely deserve a good holiday!!!!

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Quote of the day!

Teachers were…  the only profession that can save us from our deep, dumb future.

But wait. There’s more!

…imagine….a totally literate society where teachers are paid as much as investment bankers or corporate lawyers.

Thank you Peter Carey. Critically acclaimed Australian author in his closing address at the Sydney Writer’s Festival (as reported in today’s Sydney Morning Herald).

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Ninety-one per cent of Australian teachers say their most talented colleagues do not receive the most recognition and a similar number says innovative teaching is not rewarded.

Pretty interesting according to what  ABC News online had to say about a report from a Melbourne Think Tank. Which teachers were surveyed? Did it include those from non-government sector?

Today’s Sydney Morning Herald had a different slant to this story with the headline screaming Principals Fail to Weed Out Worst Teachers! The SMH story used the same Melbourne Think Tank to report  that principals were generally viewed as ineffective in doing anything about poor performing teachers.

In the same paper, I read author Peter Carey’s comments about how underpaid and undervalued teachers are. He believes that teachers need greater renumeration as they are the last bastion of making today’s students enjoy and appreciate reading, an art which he believes is dying.

This is a nice change from the usual teacher bashing that gets regularly aired in various media outlets.

As for valuing teachers, I’d like to say that I work with some damn good teachers who are 110% dedicated to their profession and would do anything in their power to empower their students through learning.

To the Teacher Educators I work with across 20 Sydney CEO schools, can I say I think you are brilliant to have achieved so much in such a short passage of time!

To the teachers I work with as part of the CEO Early Years project – your struggles and insights about how young children learn, are energising and make me feel full of hope for the future.

To the young children I see when I visit classrooms …you are perhaps the most powerful teachers who have the greatest insights into learning.

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3122642792_d308a25dd9_mThanks Sue for pointing out the following  blog, 2cWorth. I always enjoy finding a new blog on education that has something interesting to say.

Today, being able to read and write and pass a test are not enough.  They are not nearly enough.  Today our students must become information artisans, able to learn, work, play, contribute, and prosper in a new and constantly changing and enriching information environment, and do so in a way that conserves the planet — rather than consum it.  We can not do this today by scratching and printing on pulp-based paper.  Teaching and learning must be digital.

And how’s this for a provocative comment! What do you think?

If you don’t want to do technology, if your not good at technology, then find another calling.

So says David Warlick on his blog, 2c Worth. Basically he is arguing that to be a good teacher in today’s educational community, you have to be able to use technology effectively. I can see his point as long as the pedagogy drives the use of technology and the choice of technology suits the purpose of learning.

He argues what I think as educators, we are all aware of, but are at different points in understanding and knowing about technology practices. David reiterates that literacy practices of students today, revolve around the use of technology in all forms.

105653250_fc11bdcd26_mTo be literate means being able to  use, create, communicate, respond to, manipulate and compose, along with many other skills, digitally.  This is what students do regularly outside the school environment, assuming they have equitable access to technology, and theoretically, should be also be applying as part of their literacy practices, in the school learning environment.

Interestingly he ran a poll asking readers to respond to two questions

  • “Can a teacher be a good teacher without using technology?”
  • “Is a teacher who is not using technology (computer, internet etc), doing his or her job?”

Check out the poll response for yourself by visiting his blog.

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125590964_e82c7118f6_mFrom the Shamelessly-nicking- this-idea -from- another- blogger department, I have adapted an idea from Mia Freedman’s  blog, Mamamia. Basically, it is a way of writing about a high and a low point of the week……..and the focus here for me – and hopefully you! –  is in education.

A HIGH point was engaging some very tired teachers in professional learning at the end of a big day of teaching their students and seeing how energised and engaged they became within a short period of time. Obviously both the material and the learning processes hit the right spot (thank god!) and importantly, they came away with some new key learnings which they are keen to apply to the classroom. Oh yeah, and we all laughed a lot, especially when MY mobile went off during the middle of the session. Doh!

A LOW point was observing that the early learning wiki I am using with some teachers is not being collaboratively written by as many teachers as I had hoped. So I need to work out how I can support those teachers and encourage them to write about their experiences. Any tips for me?

So what was the Best and Worst for you this week?

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Young teachers

2495957951_60223865da_mWhile browsing ABC News online, I came across a report about the number of young teachers leaving the profession within their first four years of teaching. It was obviously meant to sound alarming. Couldn’t quite make sense of the different figures quoted in the report though.

Made me think about the many young teachers I worked with this week. Some were visiting schools as part of their university undergraduate course, while others were practicing teachers participating in professional learning I was facilitating.

They were all idealistic, enthusiastic, bubbling with ideas and questions, but above all, committed to teaching as a profession. So if the report is right, some of the young  teachers I met this week, won’t be in the job in four years time. Why?

It’s certainly nothing new – teachers leaving to pursue other professions or life experiences. AND it is not just in teaching that this occurs. But it does ask the question, what can we do better in supporting our young teachers?

Quality mentoring and Induction programs are important in supporting young teachers. In my experience, this seems to be very ad hoc, at least in the system of schools I work in. It requires a lot of time, effort and patience on behalf of the more experienced teachers and school leadership teams who lead the mentoring/induction process. If there is one.

There’s also something to be said for increasing opportunities during undergraduate studies for these young teachers to actually work alongside teachers in a classroom for  extensive periods of time. Nothing brings the reality of teaching into focus like a “prac” (teaching practice block) does!! I think this apprenticeship model can be highly effective as long as mentoring and/or supervisory structures are in place to support it.

I have to say I was highly energised and stimulated by the young teachers I worked with this week. My view of myself as a learner and of teaching generally, is both challenged and affirmed when I  interact with them.

We have a lot to learn from them. Let’s hope we can encourage more to stay in the teaching profession.

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