A Matter of Merit

My daughter doesn’t know it but apparently she will be receiving a merit award tomorrow at the assembly. My lovely wife commented that teachers make sure that every student in the class gets at least one each year.

That wasn’t my experience at school! I sat through nearly 500 assemblies at school and I never received a merit award, a congratulatory sticker, a trophy or a word of public acknowledgement. I even remember buying my year three teacher a present (I think it was soap) two days before an assembly to ensure I was “on the radar”; unfortunately, it didn’t work 😦 … I hope I didn’t spend much on the soap.

I was involved in a few sports, I cleaned out the pigeon holes, attended after-school recitals, was part of the drama team, debate team, chess team, I stacked chairs, did my homework and helped the canteen ladies carry heavy boxes … BUT………NOTHING!

Those who know me will muse that I am more than compensating for this lack of foundational attention. I could launch into a diatribe about how mediocrity is celebrated and awarded but I don’t want to do that in the context of MY GIRL getting her merit award tomorrow for (clearly) exceptional excellence.

I’m only sad that the young people of today will miss out on the opportunity to be bitter and resentful about their schooling the way that I am.  🙂


The OTHER Balance of Power, Australian Youth!

I love hearing of ‘firsts’, especially from our young people. Lately we have heard a few! Jessica Watson and Wyatt Roy are the latest to hit our screens and it is exciting to truly celebrate their accomplishments. Over the last decade, youth success has been hijacked by (what I call) ”celebritism”; making celebrity out of random opportunity rather than accomplishment. 

I hate to think that there had been a void of prior talent but I was constantly frustrated at the examples presented to our kids as ‘successful’ by popular culture. “Big Brother” contestants who extend their 15 minutes of fame to years of fruitless folly or the Paris Hilton set who inherited their fame and generated on-going publicity by seeing how low they could set the bar.

As teachers, we often hear from students who are seeking to achieve at the “lowest possible PASS point”. When teaching a class I recoil when I hear students ask “Have I written enough?”, “Do we have to read the book, can’t we just watch the movie?” or “What do we have to do this for?”  But, I take motivation seriously. I want my students to WANT to read, to WANT to do THEIR work, to aim BEYOND a mere PASS.

Of course, my lessons have to be engaging and captivating and motivating – which of course THEY ALWAYS ARE! But I also want to tap into this newer, richer, current (perhaps temporary?) fame that young Australians are generating.

We need to talk up THIS kind of success as a PRODUCT of big thinking and big dreams BUT ALSO of Big cost, Big risk, Big discipline, Big routines, Big skills, Big help and Big perseverance!

I want Wyatt and Jessica to ”speak” to my class so that my classes PRODUCE Wyatts and Jessicas.

E-Portfolios OR Why I Wish I Was a School Student Again!

I have a great interest in this area and have been examining a wide range of online facilities that students are able to utilise. Mahara.org certainly seems to have the best scope for our needs (from the ones I have looked at – Moodle ready). I like the idea of a student being able to carry their accomplishments, results and samples with them across their learning years / lives. It ‘feels’ more like going to school to ‘write your life book’.

We talk of the notion of ‘life-long learning’ and this is a true opportunity to capture it all’. I can see many benefits;

  • Strong sense of ‘audience’/ ‘readership’ through online publication (secured distribution)
  • Record of ‘progress’
  • Organisational maintenance of portfolio
  • Students look for opportunities to capture their achievement
  • Ongoing access to assessment items that can influence new learning
  • Functional – students should be able to use their e-portfolio as a project that ‘moves with them’ both from year to year, but also, school to school.
  • Mum’s LOVE it!

A particularly useful resource for teachers who may want to investigate this further has been produced at http://wiki.rscwmsystems.org.uk/index.php/Eportfolios if you have no intention of visiting the site – no worries – here’s a video!

The Next Agenda Item

Australian Coat of Arms (adopted 1912)

Image via Wikipedia

This small article caught my eye today. I’m sure this will be one of the next Agenda items for the Australian Government should a Gillard Labour government ‘secure’ the balance of power. 

We’re moving to National Curriculum, National Testing is well under way and mutings of paying incentives and bonuses for ‘top performing teachers’. This would have to be in pipeline…. right? 


Getting Hawaii’s best teachers and principals to work at the state’s lowest-performing schools is a key element of the Race to the Top plan to lift student achievement that won approval yesterday. 

Nearly $19 million in federal funds, a quarter of the $75 million Hawaii won in the nationwide contest, will go toward turning around the lowest-achieving schools. The plan includes pay incentives to attract top educators, professional development to enhance teaching, and more learning time for students, including summer school. 

 by Susan Essoyan, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser 

  Tell us what you think by clicking on the national emblem (above)

The Virtual Staffroom

Have been surfing some educational links and found Chris Betcher‘s blog. He is an Australian based tech-classroom blogger and has developed a further ”arm” to his offerings with the ‘Virtual Staffroom’. This is a valuable addition to the EdPod that I promoted earlier.

For those in Perth, I note that Chris has an interview with Stephen Heppell who will be in Perth in mid-September. Worth attending – see you there?

World Teacher’s Day – 29 Oct 2010

World Teacher’s Day is just around the corner. Tell us what you are going to do at your school on our FACEBOOK discussion board! Joine the WA Teacher’s Lounge while you are there by hitting LIKE! http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/pages/WA-Teachers-Lounge/154210691257798?ref=sgm

These are GREAT projects for WA Staff and Kids alike – note the FREE STICKERS and COMPETITION!  Here’s the latest!

The Western Australian College of Teaching is proud to promote World Teachers’ Day on behalf of all teachers in Western Australia.

More than 100 countries celebrate World Teachers’ Day on 5 October each year but because there are school holidays at around this time in Australia, we celebrate World Teachers’ Day on the last Friday in October.

This year, World Teachers’ Day is 29 October 2010.

The College is supporting World Teachers’ Day by providing ideas for activities before or on the day, and coordinating the World Teachers’ Day competition. See below for competition details and prizes.

Posters – The World Teachers’ Day 2010 poster is currently being designed. Once finalised, all schools will receive a copy.
Stickers – The popular WTD stickers can be requested by email with your school’s address and requested number of stickers. They will be posted out when ready. 
Student competitions – The College is encouraging students to use either artwork or a piece of writing to show how their teacher ‘makes a world of difference’. Exciting prizes are on offer for the four competitions that are being run for varying age students.
Ideas and activitiesClick here for ideas and activities to help you celebrate and thank teachers on World Teachers’ Day 2010.

Mock Trial – To Kill A Mockingbird

Today my Year 11 English class presented a mock trial of Tom Robinson from “To Kill A Mockingbird” (Harper Lee). It was not designed to be a ‘dramatic’ production but rather an investigation of the text we had been studying. I had only allowed a double period for preparation, one rehearsal and then they worked toward a “LIVE” presentation to a couple of other classes. Their showcase demonstrated depth and a solid ownership of their characters, especially given the short amount of time they had to prepare. 

It took about 45 minutes to complete with court proceedings. bailiff, Judge Taylor, Prosecution (and assistant), Defence (our beloved Atticus and assistant) and testimony from Link Deas, Heck Tate, Robert Ewell, Mayella Ewell and Thomas Robinson (the accused). On reflection, students always rise to a sense of PERFORMANCE and AUDIENCE and having the visiting classes and additional staff attend was a great bonus. 

We decided to have two juries for this case; a 1930′s Jury (who of course found Robinson guilty) and a 2010 Jury of Year 8 students who found him not guilty. I think the real value of these activities is the discussion afterwards. Students tended to demonise the attitudes of 1930′s/1960′s Americans but a discussion of indigenous attitudes or ‘boat people’ certainly raises some interesting comparisons – just a little scratch below the surface so to speak.

 I haven’t experimented with a Mock Trial before but would definitely do so again. Would strongly consider something similar for a camp activity – the students were  committed to their roles and have displayed a strong sense of ownership of the text in their discussions.  If anyone wants the Mock Trial Pack I generated – please just ask, I am happy to know it may be a duplicated activity.

Teacher’s TV

GREAT! Now our Teacher’s Lounge has a Teacher’s TV as well.

I jest.

This site goes LIVE on the 1st September, 2010. It is resourced worldwide with plenty of professional videos that have been categorised by topic/subject, etc. Well worth a good look around. The resources provisions are also excellent with plenty of “HOW TO”… and spots for newer teachers.  GO TO: www.teacher.tv and don’t forget to add it to your favourites.

Tell us what you think at: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=152204244792561&v=wall  but at least wait until after the launch!

Welcome to the WA Teacher’s Lounge

I have caught a dangerous new bug! Blogging! For those of you who have been watching my FACEBOOK page – I am so sorry!

WORDPRESS and FACEBOOK GROUPS have provided me with an outlet for two projects I have longed to see thrive in Perth.  

It’s always risky to put ideas ‘out there’ in case others don’t share your enthusiasm or interest (and let’s be frank – some people may just not like ME). But, I’ve decided to follow my convictions and (with a limited knowledge of the technical side or ‘best structure’ for an online approach) – “give it a good shot’.

Although the blogging TROJAN has fully taken hold, I have determined that two projects will be the limit of my online focus. The NSTR has already been widely circulated so I promise not to mention it again… for now 🙂 Although the link appears on this site.

The second project is this site, the ‘WA Teacher’s Lounge’.  In my own educational experience, I was primarily mentored, inspired, encouraged and influenced by the staff within the community in which I worked. Obviously, this is a perfectly ‘normal’ arrangement. But… I have also noticed the ‘Ah-Ha’ factor of having attended a Professional Development Day and having ‘rubbed shoulders’ with our educational elders are some of the most inspirational moments a teacher can have – even if the PD itself was of little value.

It is these moments over coffee and a bland biscuit that we can discuss ideas, approaches, beliefs, strategies that encourage us to consider ‘other’ alternative systems or resources that we have not previously been exposed to. 

Visiting other schools to ‘observe best practise’ or questioning like-subject professionals is often only the domain of the school’s  core leadership team which can lead to teachers having access to a limited range of system and procedural resources. This lack of connection is not only the ‘fault’ of schools. Professional Teacher Journal and Subscription readerships are noticeably down; we can only hope that educators (both new and old) take their vocation seriously enough to be accessing online developmental information. The sad truth is that many (the majority?) do not.

I muse with a colleague often that, “Clearly my agenda is showing”. Believe me, I am under no illusion that the ‘WA Teacher’s Lounge’ will offer any kind of landmark in reshaping our mentorship of Perth educators, clearly it a small drop in the ‘participation’ bucket. But, it’s the many small contributions that start a trickle. I hope that it will generate a few relationships, contacts and meaningful conversation but my greater hope is that it may contribute to the greater pool of educational mentorship.

The WA Teacher’s Lounge Teacher group to connect and talk about current educational trends, topics, concerns, groups, tactics, strategies, management, political decisions and technologies. Grab a seat and share your ideas! Tell us about other links, projects and events that involve connecting WA educators.  If you have a post that you think others would find interesting, please send it to me and I will add it to this Blog Roll on your behalf.

Look forward to hearing from you!

Paul Whitehead – Secondary Educator

Author Site:  www.panwhitehead.wordpress.com