Monday, February 09, 2015

Confidence Crisis.

Happy new school year. The anxiety dreams of the final days of the long vacation are over and now I'm waking up in the small hours trying to remember the names of my 75 new students. That will stop soon enough. Doesn't take long. I'm almost there.

However, I have been suffering a confidence crisis, in this, my thirty-fifth year of secondary English teaching. I blame the education department. but more than that I blame my school admin for assiduously sucking up to it; trying to get the most ticks in those bureaucratic boxes. 

Yes, I know it's complex and that schools must adhere to standards and aim to educate students in the best possible way. But really?

My first day back, a pupil free day and I was sitting towards the rear of our auditorium. Ninety or so teachers and support staff had been listening attentively - or feigning attention - for ninety minutes of acronym heavy drivel. And then we got onto data, sorry, dada. It was at that point that tears sprouted in my eyes, the hairs stood up on the backs of my arms and I felt the urge to scream. 

The theme was the importance of NAPLAN, how the 'dada' - NAPLAN and AusVELS - would reveal who had been a 'bad' teacher.

I thought of the individual students I'd taught in previous years and the progress they'd made, immeasurable in a series of NAPLAN tests. The tests would reveal some students had very low literacy and numeracy skills. As for the AusVELS data, teachers are responsible for keying that in and it's easy enough to just move the students up through the levels based on where they're supposed to be ranked.

And then there was the holiday reading. Not the reading and revising of the texts I'll be teaching in my English classes. No, this was a theoretical research based text written by a team of erudite education leaders high in the academic ranks who are clearly no longer actually teaching real kids, if their CVs are anything to go by. This turgid text was going to tell me how to be a better teacher. More fool me, I actually read the first half of it before I could take no more. My conclusion: yep, all fine in theory.

Despite my cynicism, I try to be good; try to implement the initiatives insisted upon by our school admin who are genuinely concerned about improving teaching and learning. Lesson plans must be written according to a particular methodology, learning objectives and learning activities must be written on the board in each lesson, blah blah blah blah blah.

This theoretical framework becomes the focus, befuddles my brain, without 'value adding' - oh they love that expression - to my teaching. It infuriates me; robs me of confidence. Not sure that I'd have lasted in this profession if it had been like this when I began my career. Surprisingly, most of us were effective teachers without all the GANAG

My best lessons are those when the students and I are so engaged in the discussion and learning that the bell rings and everyone is startled wondering how the lesson could have flown by so effortlessly.