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 😀

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.

A week full of farewells

What a week it has been, there has been so much happening and it is only the first week of December. I have ridden the emotional rollercoaster of saying goodbye to the friends I have met here. Thinking about my time here when I knew no one at the beginning of our time here to now where I have had celebrations from Saturday with friends. To saying farewell to a week of many lasts – I did my last sewing workshop at the local library to the hardest being my last class of teaching sewing to the kiddos at our amazing school community. The picture above is artwork gifted to me from a friend in my dance class saying we are just a straight line away! 

Last week I did a tote bag workshop at the library with my friend G who will be taking over the class from me. I am so happy to have her taking over as she is so creative and will have some fabulous projects in the future. We also did the felt ornaments workshop last Monday and that was a fun one with all of these beautiful ornaments the library community made. 

It was so hard to keep it together for my final Arts Focus class yesterday as I have been involved with the program for the 9 years we have been at our school. It is such an incredible program run by parent volunteers who teach different classes of 27 Kinder to 5th-grade kids. I feel this program is what motivated me to start my teaching degree which I totally love. Our community project of the quilt is super cool and the kids are given the opportunity to buy it at the silent auction. The LED cuff in the centre was made by a Kinder with thanks to a new teacher and volunteer who helped make it happen. Yesterday with the last class I made a video of the pipe cleaner dolls with a cool projector and tablet straight to the massive LCD TV in the classroom so the kids could see what was happening – I just love the technology. It works so well as I am about to hand in two video resources for my assignment that I made for the Australian Curriculum for digital technology and design and technology for the subject Teaching Science and Technology. I am always amazed at what the kids make and how creative they are, with this experience I have a feeling that this is something that I will want to do once I graduate. 

I also said goodbye to my friends at Top Hair and Nail – a sanctuary where I go to for some pampering and relaxation. Here is my cool hairdresser Toy and there I am out with my new do at a bar on Thursday night celebrating our first session of Arts Focus for the school year and my final session for Arts Focus, so sad but I am also happy for the kids who had sewing with me and how much fun we had together. 

The bittersweet emotion that is manifesting from the move home to Australia is intense but I feel that we are connected to each other by our little machines and we can always see what we are all up to. My good friend in Melbourne mentioned that I will keep in touch with my peeps even though we will be so far away and with some luck, we will have visitors coming to Melbourne to say hello! I have been crying so much and feel a deep love for the community I have built here and saying farewell is way better than saying goodbye. I have received so many beautiful comments from my friends here and it will be strange not to be living in the Valley but now it is time to write a new chapter of our life with our family. 

What does this yellow bench represent? Well, the remodel of our yellow and blue house in Melbourne. It is getting there as we spoke to our architect and the structural engineer is working on the plans and then tendering for a builder will happen in February and here’s to a smooth transition to build phase and the building can start in March/April. For now, the interior scheme is wonderful with a garden that reflects our being with fluffy native grasses and an entertainment area. So with all that planning underway I will wait patiently and be ready for the next phase of the building – yippee!

But first, the big move to Australia and a rental property for the next 12 months, then get the kids settled into the school (which I am sure they will love) and for me studying in the background and recreating a network. It is quite overwhelming but I am breaking the to do list down and this weekend I need to start packing for the summer and the next 4 months until our stuff arrives. Currently, the Melbourne weather is 36 degrees Celsius (96.8 degrees F), its gonna be hot – I cannot forget the swimsuit!!