Thursday, 16 January 2014

My Son Is Amazing And Is Not Dumb!

There are many problems with National Standards, such as the potential narrowing of the curriculum, along with other negative impacts on schools and teachers. But one issue that I really think is critical is the impact on kids.

Last year I had a student who found school difficult. Sure, he had learning difficulties, which I and my school took measures to address, and by the end of the year he had made improvements. However, these improvements were not great enough to meet the standards in reading, writing or maths - he was below the standards, but not well below.

His parents are aware of his difficulties, and we have spoken about them together at two parent interviews and on some other occasions. They knew before they got his report at the end of the year that he was unlikely to meet the standards.

A colleague of mine is a friend of this student's mother. Today this colleague sent me this facebook status form the mother:

Ok teachers out there please give me an insight into the stupid idea of this national standard bull****. My kids reports came home at the end of year and clearly stated on the page of this report is a grid that ever so nicely puts yours kids national standard level in. My sons report states that he is below the national standard line. Now I struggle very hard to understand how a school can put something like that on a report that the child is of course going to read and now my son has spent the past 3 weeks and will spend the rest of his life telling me how dumb he is!!!! AWESOME for the confidence of the kid aye?? It is something that should be talked at, at parent interviews not for the kid to see. Im horrified and deeply upset as my sons morale is dead. He thinks he is dumb. Thanks New Zealand Education system you have ****ed up yet again! And for the record my son is amazing and is not dumb!!!
I hate being forced to give kids these labels that they will carry with them for years. This was one of the biggest problems I have with the National Standards, and I remember having this conversation with many people years ago.

I have been thinking about how to respond to this, or even if I should. And to be honest, I'm struggling. For the record, I do agree with her on most of these points. He is an awesome kid, but he does take things to heart easily, and needs to develop his resilience. There are lots of great things about this student, and I have told his parents that, and wrote about them in his report.

He does not deserve to spend next year, and possibly beyond that, thinking that he is dumb. No kid deserves that. I don't have all the answers and solutions, but the Nationals Standards in their current form are not it either.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Blogging Meme

This is my first blog post for 2014, and the first for this new blog - I have just discovered that my old blog has been removed. I guess that shows just how much I blog.... Thanks to Marnel @1MvdS for tagging me in her post.

The blogging task includes:

  • Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  • List 11 bloggers.
  • Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated.  Don't nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

11 random facts about me:
  1. I, also, am a very reserved person, an introvert of the highest degree.
  2. I was born in Ashburton but went to Otago University due to my father's blue-and-gold blood. I am a Mainlander living in Whangarei.
  3. I wrote an MA thesis called "Marriages and Inter-gender Realtions in Monogatari and Nikki Literature of the Mid-Heian Period" which is a known cure for insomnia.
  4. I strongly - very strongly - dislike spring onions and coconut. Especially if served together.
  5. I am married and have 3 kids - Phoebe (9), Oscar (7), and Rebecca (2).
  6. I played soccer since I was six up until last year when my right knee was injured.
  7. When I was 11, I lived on two Japanese islands called Miyake-jima and Hachijo-jima with my family while my father was on the JET Programme.
  8. I love my Apple toys.
  9. I don't like writing. There. I said it. I like maths, where "outcomes are right or wrong, not like in writing where everything is all fuzzy and fluffy." (not my own words...).
  10. You know the food pyramid? I believe that there is a forth layer below the fruit and vegetables called "ice cream".
  11. My spelling is terrible - see if you can find *all* the intentional mistakes in this blog post.

My answers to Marnel's questions:

1. What Inspires you?
Lots of things. In terms of teaching, I really value the relationships that my class and I build over the year, and love it when students have their 'a-ha' moments. I'm lucky to teach in a school with a fantastic staff and great students.

2. What are you reading now?
In all honesty, I'm not much of a reader. However, these holidays I have already read "The Book Whisperer" by Donalyn Miller and "Igniting a Passion for Reading" by Steven Layne. I'm currently in the middle of Jonah Lomu's Autobiography, and also "The Magic Thief" by Sarah Prineas

3. If you weren't a teacher, what would you do?
At high school I was going to be a cartographer, then a statistician, then at University I was going to be a translator. I taught English in Japan for 3 years which put my on to 'proper' teaching. However, I would probably have ended up as an accountant - I like numbers.

4. If you could change something about the education system, what would it be?
Just one thing? I think that if politicians and policy makers actually placed their trust in us teachers and other educators, our system would look very different. I really hope that education in NZ doesn't turn into the one-size-fits-all model that we seem to be heading for....

5. When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper and mailed it?
Um,.... That would have been just after the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami. I wrote to a family that I was worried about. I knew their postal address but nothing else.

6. Android or iPad tablets? Why?
At our school, we have neither. I have an ipad at home, and am a big Apple.

7. What do you find hardest to teach your students?
Writing. It is not a strength of mine at all, and I think my lack of confidence transfers into my teaching. Having said that, I know I am getting better all the time.

8. What will you be doing differently this year?
I am going to focus a lot on reading this year - after reading the books mentioned above - not teaching the skills of reading as such, but focusing on the joy of reading, and get kids hooked into reading as much as possible.

9. If you could be fluent in any other language, what would it be and why did you choose this language?
I already speak Japanese "fluently" but I am pretty rusty now, seeing as I don't use it very often anymore. Japan, its culture and language are full of contradictions and extremes. Learning and speaking Japanese has taught me a lot about myself.

10. What is your favourite way to waste time?
Mucking around on twitter is up there right now. I always check the latest news about my beloved Seattle Mariners baseball team. Spending time with my family is always something that takes me away form work and other thing I should be doing.

11. What is your life motto?
I like "Every marathon begins with a single step" but also "You can not wait to spontaneously combust - you must set yourself on fire."

And now my 11 questions:
1. What motivated you to become a teacher?
2. If you could invite anybody to dinner, living or dead, who would it be? Why?
3. What fictional character are you most like, or do you most relate to?
4. Where does the tomato sauce live - cupboard or fridge?
5. What would be the first thing you would do as the new Prime Minister of NZ?
6. What has been the coolest thing you have ever done in/with your class?
7. Crosswords or Sudokus?
8. If you could be a professional athlete, which sport would you play? Why?
9. What is one thing you want your students to remember about a year in your class?
10. Uniforms or Mufti? Why?
11. Choose a verb, a noun, and an adjective to describe you.

Thanks for reading.