Monday, November 24

You know I'm strict, but I'll run over the exam rules again, for the record.

Let us continue with the exam theme in this gloriously slow revolving door that is Novemeber in teacherland.

Today Sir had the pleasure of supervising younger ones in smaller exam rooms. Better? Nup. Stuck with one of Sir's fave mysogynist hairys' in the morning and a surprising lack of supervising teachers in the afternoon. Mysogynist hairy will often broach the topic of sexuality with Sir. Cool and trendy perhaps in the small world of Nick Cave groupie art teacher and poker playing mathematical grumps in the corner of the staffroom. But Sir is happy to be boxed at work and is, frankly, sick of the conversation.

Picture that teacher that doesn't teach. Every school and every school department has one... everyone knows who this is. The one that makes a connection with the kiddies by relating to them on their own level by talking to them about sex and taking drugs. Being open minded about things like interpreting the meaning of Uniform do black shoes include 12 up Docs? and the actual origins of language why it is not really degrading to call someone 'retarded' or 'gay' because of the evolution of slang in popular culture, especially rap music. No pedagodical critique, no structure, no lesson plan.

Teaching is an intrinsicly private practice. Yes, we are immersed in a classroom with 26 young people that we hope will be engaged in open learning activities in the earlier part of the day and structured student centred activities after lunch lunch? I use the term loosley and the positive correlation between poor food and poor behaviour is already well known. Yet, as adults and professionals, we are alone in this enviornment. The snatched glimpses into classroom control, lesson planning and the appearance of a student engaged is often a facade that covers up poor teaching practice and bored students.

Today Sir had a private chuckle at the sincere and earnest effort that mysogynist hairy did put into his exam rule speech. So did the students. None of us were fooled.

Saturday, November 22

This is not a complex instruction to follow.

This last week has seen Sir taking on the role of exam supervisor at the Senior Campus of the Salt Mine. Loading 700 plus Yr 10 students into a gymnasium stuffed with single tables and single chairs in 30 by 20 rows is a mean feat, a toughie in any one's books. Up goes the starters gun.

We provide out students with a quality education that gives them experience of examinations from Yr 7 to Yr 12. The theory being that the young ones will grow accustomed to sitting exams and therefore perform better in their Senior Year. Poppycock. The practice shows that instead, most students but especially boys, experience a mental meltdown twice a year. This is their experience of educational preparation. Desperate stubbly young faces searching mine for any sign of contact with humanity in the sterile conditions of tertiary examination practice.

The the exam begins. Certain teachers are rostered on for exam duty. Certain teachers patrol the exam hall like hawks, looking for any sigh of movement outside the expected behavioural sphere... which is, well... small. Sir feels a little like a grown up child, wanting to scream "stop moving about, for god's sake! Can't you see the child is already having an out of body experience?''. Ten heavy pairs of teacher feet clump up and down long rows, watching pencils dart across paper, eyes seeking confirmation, questions being asked driven by the need for a vocal conversation removed from the intense looping panic dialoge inside 700 heads.

It ends. Papers are collected and collated. 1400 weary eyes exit the hall and scurry off... somewhere. Home, the local shopping hole, to parents waiting in cars, back home to the X Box. 700 audible sighs of releif. One shakey Sir. Anger engulfs her for the injustice of this phoney experience. Sir never liked exams and was a good student. Sigh.

Injustice in this system refers to the exam experience as just that. An experience. Students at the Salt Mine are not required to pass said examinations to pass a subject sucessfully, yet they are required to sit the exam to meet the requirements of the school year. Promotion panel discussions revolved around preparation for the said event... an excrutiating cross examination of a failing student's ability to show their engagement with the school community and curriculum. Or no engagement as the case often will be. The pain for the true educator is why such an emphasis on a false positive experience? Sir struggles to see the point of trying to mould new generation sparkies, plumbers and hairdressors into examination machines... and will struggle for many years to come.

Monday, November 17

Advanced General Mathematics

Advanced General Mathematics was introduced at the Salt Mine two years ago. Coming from schools where Sir had the pleasure of teaching at the Senior levels, Sir volunteered to run this subject as an extension Mathematics course available to the select bright ones. It has run, Sir has certainly enjoyed the eclectic curriculum of Semester One and the beauty of Trigonometric ratios in the Second Semester. Trading beloved Chemistry, Organic compounds and Ionic bonding for Sine, Cosine and Tangent curves, discussions around pieces of pi and modelling the movements of the tide, the sun across the sky in Antartica, temperature over a day. A fair exchange? Sir thought so.

The powers that be, heading working parties around implementing college wide strategies to raise the literacy levels College Wide decide that there is no longer a market for the Yr 11 Mathematics in Yr 10. It seems that Nationwide PAT test data has shown that our students have a lower than expected literacy levels. In fact, more specifically, literacy levels seem to
fall from Yr 7 to Yr 9. Solution: introduce a Literacy program that has been shown to improve literacy in the most illiterate children in our Western Schools... proven to work in Queensland!

Setting the context, stepping aside from the politics of creating a Leading teacher position
from an aspirant AP week's holiday, aside from developing an understanding of the classification of schools in the Western suburbs of Victoria someone has to be the lowest in order for a system of comparison to work the junior classes of the Salt Mine lost Mathematics lessons to make way for the Literacy program. Wonder why the Yr 9 kiddies can't get their head around playing with pro-numerals and slicing up pieces of the unit circle.

Despite the loss of the subject, Sir enjoyed the last exam for the class of 2008, wondering how long it will take to accrue enough apathy to chat all the way through the exam... or is it the elusive prerequisite for a Leading Teacher?

Sunday, November 16

Nothing is stopping me from doing the wrong thing except the consequences.

The ideas behind statements like this when spoken from the mouth of a 16 year old to an adult can be many. When spoken from the mouth of a Yr 10 Mathematics student to me after seven years of teaching, there are only two.  

It could be the start of a philosophical negotiation about the behavioral and work contract we have in place for our shared space during class time. Or it is a statement designed to elicit a conversation about the space and time namely time, that we share together and how it is used.

Thousands of comments that are part of conversations have flown past these ears that have practiced the art of selective hearing for years. Being submerged in the filth of language, thoughts, lack of empathy and physical presence of teenagers numbs the senses and files off any sharp responses to words and phrases that would turn our head in a flash outside the fence of this social construction... the school. 

Deconstruction is healthy and laughing is magic.