Teaching Practicum and lots of crafting

So far over the last three weeks I have come home covered in glitter, glue, fabric dye, food dye and flour. I have certainly had a blast at this kindergarten teaching practicum and I have been lucky enough to be working with an amazing mentor teacher and co-educators. Life has been full on this week with completing an essay for a fourth year uni subject and having to go to work plus keep up with my other two subjects – I have to say I am feeling pretty tired. But tomorrow night I get to go out and have a drink or two with my work mates – yay!!

Oh and the cute bear on the glitter chair is one of the completed bears from the Year 5/6 cohort at my daughters school that I volunteer for, it came out so well.

So the kids have been so busy crafting and the windows are covered in so many Chrissy themed items, I am a bit of a fan of these stained cellophane windows which I had to cut out the other day with a scalpel, one of the joys of teaching! There has been so much glitter everywhere I go that I have had to dust it up and recycle it for another project, the kids go crazy with it!

Also the time we have in the arvo together to reset the class has been fun too. Recently we have been putting on music and getting everything prepped for the next class! I cannot believe I have been on my prac for 3 weeks already and it is nearly over. We were very lucky to have a dragonfly visit our classroom the other day when we were prepping the class, there are so many critters that come be as the creek surrounds the kinder. Across the road from my work, at the lake, is this amazing tree in bloom. It is a Silky Oak and I just love the flowers it produces as the colour is incredible. I had to look it up as I had no idea what it was and the flower reminded me of a grevillea so I did a internet search and finally found its name. Going for lunch by the lake, it is full of life with so many water birds and a perfect place to recharge when I am at the kinder for a full day.

Last Friday I met my friend in the city for a couple of drinks at an old favourite water hole in the city – Hells Kitchen. We used to head over there every week, when we worked in publishing and hang out and drink the night away before heading on the train – feeling quite happy! After our drinks we went across the way to have some delicious dumplings before checking out Federation Square and the Xmas tree and all the cool decorations. Its so good to be back in Australia for a hot Chrissy, though it is not feeling like summer at all with 18 degree celsius days.

And an update on our house, the carpenters have been super busy and have framed most of the house and now the scaffolding is up for the roof. Also there are a couple of windows in place with the curved walls downstairs, it is so close yet so far!! We are so keen to move in πŸ˜€

The Entitled

This morning on the way to school I was chatting to my son about quitting my Education degree due to the frustration of the education system in place that is following the style of the United States. Australia looks up to Mother America and loves to follow in their footsteps and this included standardised testing and reporting to ACARA – based on NAPLAN (the literacy and numeracy multiple choice test). I read this book on the weekend about a teachers struggle with the changes in the education system and it left a horrible feeling in regards to motivating myself to finish this teaching degree. The book is directly from a teachers perspective, things I have also experienced in the classroom but on a grander scale – the kids behaviour and the lack of responsibility from the parents with regard to modelling good behaviour to their children. I aways like to weigh in the positive and negative, but this book really had an effect on me that had me reeling with disappointment with the Australian education system to a point where I felt it was pointless to complete my degree, as the changing tides point to standardised testing and more reporting where the time devoted to actually teaching is pretty minimal. Though this teacher put her heart and soul into the profession she was burnt out mentally and physically after 16 years. Within the book, her teaching experience spanned classrooms in the beginning with the UK, Canada and different schools in Australia.

My son said to me, “Mum why do you want to throw away all the hard work that you have done for the last 3 years?”
I told him, “I read this book last week and I am very disappointed with the state of education in Australia, plus my friend shared with me an article about parents bullying teachers because their kid got in trouble.”
He said to me, “You mean parents who are entitled?”
To which I responded, “Yes, these parents who do not take responsibility to discipline/give consequences to their own children but who love to complain if their kid gets in strife.”

As a strange twist of fate there was an article in the Good Weekend last week that was given to me by a teacher friend of mine. After reading the article and examining it from an educators perspective who are trying their best to work with the class of around 24 children, where each child has their own needs as individual learners there needs to be consequences/firm discussions regarding behaviour. As a parent you just have to take the responsibility and act appropriately – I mean, the parents behaviour in this article is just ridiculous, what kind of modelling is that to their children? To me it screams I am a squeaky wheel and if I chuck a tantrum I can get what I want. Sure you can, fool, but not without the litigious consequences and these parents are getting sued for their bad behaviour and they deserve it. If you cannot raise your child to be a responsible human being in society than why bother having children, seriously!

After reading this I had to do research online to see what is in the media about teaching in Australia and it is so depressing, a few searches online just leads to negativity. There is a teacher shortage in Victoria and they are hoping to enhance the reputation of teaching through raising the ATAR (score required to enter the degree program) to entice school leavers. I have to agree with the article above that the approach to employ mature age students within teaching is the way to go as I think if I had attempted to teach when I was just out of school it would have knocked my socks off and I would have been in hospital.

Now with some experience in the classroom (albeit within a class where the students want to be there working as an art teacher) and my full time job in 2017-2018 as a Teacher Assistant has helped me analyse where I wanted to be. Ideally, I would love to be in an environment very similar to our school in California within a child led environment with a focus on project based learning and inquiry. I am trying to find these places in Melbourne but they are few and far between. I have to say we are lucky my daughters inner city primary school embraces the model of creativity, collaboration and communication within their projects and I was happy to see this when the students shared their work πŸ˜€

When studying at Uni, it seems you are looking through the profession with rose coloured glasses and the focus is on the learner. Whereas in reality the teaching environment is a tough one with issues of bullying from both parents and students. This is something that our society needs to get over and we need more shining examples in society like Jacinta Arden. We need parents to have the guts to be responsible for their kids behaviour and model good behaviour. Before researching behaviour and psychology, I would look at kids at the park and wonder why the behaviour was so off, then I would meet the parents think to myself, “I get it now, you are a bit off yourself.” This translates to the classroom and the behaviour resonates from parent to child and from child to child, and I have seen some interactions that have me wondering, “Where on earth made you so entitled to behave like this?” And then I meet their parents! This ongoing feedback loop and the expectations from teachers is just so unreasonable. In a professional environment, would parents behave this way? Maybe?

Writing this has helped me gather my thoughts and think about my future with 12 subjects and 4 practicums to go which means I am less than half way through my degree program, so maybe I can continue and work as a social experiment? Though really there needs to be a heart in teaching and you need to love it – and yes I do love being with the children and seeing them learn, it makes me happy to see them smile and share their learning with enthusiasm. In amongst all this stuff in the media there is no real mention of the most important factor – the learners in a classroom. Which at the end of the day is what matters the most about teaching, the children. As a takeaway at the end the book Teacher by Gabbie Stroud, it says:

The best answer I can give when I’m asked to suggest solution is that Australia needs a dramatic re-imagining of what education could be in this great country. Fundamental to that re-imagining is time spent dreaming and considering what is possible. We need to contemplate not only what we should teach our children, but also how we should teach them. And we must start valuing our teachers.

I have decided I will carry on and get through it – if only to encourage students to be lifelong learners and appreciate that learning is a process which can be fun. To Australia, let’s break out of the mould and the failed education systems around the world (who focus on data and test scores) and innovate learning in the classrooms using school models such as High Tech High, take notes from real life education visionaries such as Ted Dintersmith and watch his film Most Likely to Succeed and follow exemplary education examples such as Finland and New Zealand. Oh and I found a secret to the optimal learning environment is where the teachers, parents and the students stand together as as a community of learners, at our last school in California – where everyone is involved and respected. These are the exemplars I will call upon to propel me forward and complete this degree program to eventually exercise these approaches with students in 21st century learning environments.