Sunday, May 31, 2015

Still teaching, because I believe the children are the future.

So easy to bitch about what's going on at school. Seems it's all I do these days when I write, in my journal or or any handy scrap of paper. Writing notes during meetings helps me to keep my focus, to retain some of the information bombardment. Who am I kidding? The notes I made during a recent presentation on the adolescent brain descended quickly into me writing out the lyrics to The Greatest Love of All. (BTW enjoyed belling that out to the computer screen just now. Extraordinarily therapeutic. Recommend highly.) But at least writing out those lyrics prevented me from falling asleep, or being sick on the floor at hearing the same old stuff for an hour that I could have spent getting through my marking. (The adolescent brain is still developing. Who knew?)

I spend lots of time doing positive affirmations during meetings to keep my spirits up. You can do this, I tell myself. I was sitting at a little plastic table in the library. About 80 of us were seated in exam formation given the meeting was held during NAPLAN week. The meeting was about completing our Professional Development Plans. Very prescriptive little beggars, these PDPs. It was all about accountability. Don't get me wrong. We should be accountable. But GANAG. Ugh, there's that hint of chunder in the back of my throat.

I've just had a flick through my school provided copy of Classroom Instruction That Works and my heart rate increased, but not in a good way. This book is our school's bible; guaranteed to turn me into Super Teacher as I follow the principles of GANAG and teach according to High Yield Strategies. I will teach in this research based formulaic way and then after some 'pre and post-testing' I will check my Effect Size - whether I've 'value added' to my students' learning - on a couple of Bell Curve graphs.

What the hell have I been doing for the last 35 years?

I take comfort from the research that says that if I don't do anything other than write notes on the board and give out a few handouts I will still make a .4 percent difference to my students' learning.

Enough already with my cynicism given that, as I've said before, my school admin genuinely wants to improve student learning outcomes.

So apart from being GANAG-ed, this year I've been very challenged by being forced back into teaching VCE English, albeit Units 1 and 2. I haven't taught VCE at our school since 2011. That year I decided to pack it in after having taught Year 12 for thirty years straight.

Couldn't really refuse to teach VCE when I saw it on my timetable. I assumed that given I didn't request to teach it, the fact that I'd been given it was because I'm an experienced, competent teacher. Sorry, back to cynicism for a sentence or two. It suited the time table to give me VCE English. Nothing more than that.

Trouble is, I'd let the entire VCE Study Design drop out of my brain, thinking I wouldn't be dealing with it again. Suddenly I'm jolted back into Outcomes 1, 2 and 3 and Identity and Belonging as an unfamiliar Context. Work Requirements, SACs - School Assessed Coursework - Pending Ns - notifications to parents that their kid is on the verge of failing - pressure, shit-loads of marking and twenty-six needy students. Twenty-six students, five of whom began the year by challenging every remark I made because, to them, I had no VCE teaching credibility, not having been on that team since these kids started at the school.

There's a culture amongst our students of comparing teachers and classes. It's possibly endemic in schools but I haven't fallen victim to it before. Ms X gave this to her students, they lament; Ms Y did it this way; Ms Z's class have already finished their questions. You can perhaps imagine how much I love being compared to teachers who weren't even born until I'd clocked my tenth year of teaching. (That's a whole other post waiting to be written, possibly entitled What Will I Be If I'm No Longer A Teacher. I'm getting on, dear reader.)

Some of these students have been toxic in their undermining of the class. It's better now, because I am actually an experienced, competent teacher. But I've been tested, and GANAG's not much help until one's class dynamic is sorted. Bottom line is class management.

Apart from dealing with disruptive, passive aggressive students though I've really resented the extra ten or so hours marking I have to do on my own time; on those precious days off. When I'm not being paid. Suppose it were ever thus. I've just had three blissful years not doing it.

Ends rant. For now.