Monday, March 29, 2004

last week of term - the rush is on

As first term winds up (or is that down?) things seems to get very busy. The marking seems to pile up and their seems to be less time than ever. Teachers are stressed and tired, students should be stressed and tired, and most people walk around in a semi-dazed state of mind.

I have been attempting to finish Y12 oral presentations this week; the original plan was to finish these last week! As always, 'things' get in the way and time just seems to run through that hourglass like water. The kids have prepared some fantastic stuff and I have been very impressed. Despite this we are having some problems getting each of them to each oral session. I should have been better organised (I mean I feel like I've done well, but I'm sure there is something I could have done differently!)

Parent-teacher interviews are being held on Wednesday afternoon and evening and it looks like being a total wipeout. I have scheduled too many interviews trying to accomodate everyone who wants an interview so that in the end they'll all have about 2min!

E and I went up to Benalla on the weekend - just had to get away - Clive had invited us anyway. So as per usual we both took copious amounts of work and didn't do a thing. It was great. Hanging out with the little boys - Clive and Shari have three little boys aged b/w 5 and 2. We spent some time in Wangaratta and also took a drive out to Mt Buller.

E seems to do doing well with the pregnancy - maybe I haven't mentioned it. We are pregnant (about 2 months) and excited about being parents - although I must say I am a little anxious, nervous and scared.

Anyway, I am still not spending much time in the VCE area and continue to feel very guilty about it - well sort of - guilty b/c I know TLL and CWO are cut as snakes, but still they avoid talking about it too me - in fact they avoid talking to me much at all. I'm beginning to care less and less, but it is still a source of pressure that I could happily live without.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Footy sex stuff

just a couple of quick links

Phil Cleary's very interesting take on the whole issue of sex and sport.

Liz Porter's article

Thursday, March 11, 2004

falling asleep in class?

I'm not sure if I've ever had a student fall asleep in my class, but today I fell asleep at my desk after school. It was about 4.30ish and I closed my eyes and was resting my head on my arm and ... the next thing I know Helen is calling across the room to me.

Another first.

KB made an interesting point today as we were discussing the Y12 issues work we were both doing. I have been teaching the issues analysis piece a certain way (What, How, Why) while she thought this might not adequately prepare students for the 'writing task' at the end of the year. The writing task is an interesting thing; a number of articles/texts that contain various information from various viewpoints about the same issue. Student are expected to synthesise the info and write a point of view piece. She may have a point as the method I have been teaching is really best suited to a single article/text response. I may need to look at this more closely - but when?

I have been getting a little stressed about timing and what seems to be the lack of time available to get all the work in. But I think that perhaps I was slightly overreacting and that things are not as desparate as they first appeared. I mean, we still don't have a lot of time to fluff around with, but it's not as tight as I thought it was going to be.

On a lighter, more positive note, I have been marking some interesting Y12 & 11 writing folio pieces. I have been fairly impressed with the quality and ideas coming out.

On a not so positive note - I found out a piece of student work I had kept from last year (a creative writing piece) was plagerised from a 'free-essay' site. I will confront this student ASAP and tell him we are all watching him closely this year.

I has been great to see the new Dip Eds in schools on their observation rounds. I have meet two student-teachers from Monash who are studying with Brenton and Graham. All very keen and interested, excited. I can remember being in a similar situation and finding it hard to ever imagine myself as a teacher - looking at 2nd year outs and wondering how they managed to get that far!

Funny how things change (or how they don't).

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

period 7s are dodgy

Period 7s are after the regular day has finished. Period 6 finishes at 2.55pm, kids go home etc. But year 12s occasionally have period 7 till 3.45ish. Problem is that many of them treat is as optional, or they have conflicts with their part time jobs. There doesn't seem to be much follow up with those who don't show. It's a pain because I have to catch up those who wagged, while those who came along are penalised and patient untill we can move on.

Must be a better way - perhaps I can email those who were not there and expect them to do some catch up work before coming to the next class? Yeah, that sounds good - only some of the stuff we do is difficult to put in an email.

Y10 are frustrating too. They are just taking so long to complete any work - I have posted six 'blog tasks' on the class blog ( but these guys don't seem to uinderstand what I'm on about. It looks as though there are a number of reasons for this, 1. that I havent modelled online writing very well; it is extremely difficult to model this stuff for a class when I don't have a data show or something like it. Inevitably I spend my time going to each individual and going through the same thing again again. Voice explanations just don't do the job (perhaps mine are just bad). So anyway, I kept some of them in through part of lunch hoping some more would get done. I need to be tougher on this bunch - they kind of get off very lightly - I mean I only have them two periods a cycle.

This online writing thing needs a rethink ... any suggestions

Monday, March 08, 2004

Grand Prix and a quality education

The bold text below is from the AEU Victorian Branch page and contains the resolution voted on at the stopwok meeting. There was some'debate' over the details and some other crazy amendment but nothing very interesting. Although one fellow wanted stronger action and said that this action would not accomplish much - that it had been done before and basically would not work.

I must say that I wonder about the effacacy of strike action too. Certainly in terms of keeping the public's support of teachers and their 'cause'. Kosky (state ed minister) has been using the 'extravagant' holidays that teachers get as a wedge to incite public support of her refusal to grant a 'fairer' del for teachers. Once again there is little talk of working conditions and the other deeper problems that schools face.

Of course there continues to be plenty of media coverage - often supporting Kosky's extravagant holidays rant. There has been some exceptions though. Kenneth Davidsonof course notes that the Bracks' Government seems more intent to provide the masses with entertainment (i.e. the grand prix) than with quality education. I'm reminded of some interesting parallels in the film Gladiator, where the emperor uses bloodlust games to turn the attention of the people away from the real issues and problems of the Roman Government.

March 3 Stopwork decision
04 March 2004

On March 3 AEU members at the stopwork meeting(s) unanimously endorsed the following resolution.

"That this meeting of AEU teachers and principals expresses its anger and dismay at the Bracks Government's negotiating position over a new certified agreement for schools. This meeting notes that the Government's position has not changed in the seven months of negotiations, is worse than the current agreement, amounts to a worsening of working conditions and is an effective salary cut.

This meeting calls on Minister Kosky to personally intervene in the negotiations to ensure that they are consistent with the Government's claim that education is its number one priority.

Further this meeting puts the Government on notice that if an agreement is not reached by the end of the first school term, the AEU will embark on a series of half day rolling regional stoppages which target Labor MP's offices where possible, commencing in the second week of term two. A further 24 hour statewide stopwork meeting to be held early in term three to assess the campaign and plan further action.

That in the lead up to the rolling regional action, Regional Campaign Committees be asked to schedule meetings with Labor Members of Parliament and ALP Branches to seek support for the AEU claim, informing them of the impending campaign in the event of agreement not being reached.

That Regional Campaign Committees meet to plan publicity/activities to be undertaken in conjunction with the rolling regional stoppages. That the AEU prepare a comprehensive media campaign to complement the regional stopworks. Further that sub-branches continue to implement bans on Victorian ALP politicians visiting schools and the bans on the Department of Education and Training. That these bans be extended to include a ban on any online training required by DE&T.

The following timetable of half day rolling regional stopworks be endorsed (Timetable attached)."

So there you have it - more to come. Who knows what will happen.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

AEU takes strike action

So I am on strike today. This is actually the first time I have been involved in a strike action and I must say that it has been an eye opener. I won't go into the details of why, you can read for yourselves; The Age, The Age 2, The Age 3, Herald Sun.

The best treatment of the issue is the The Age Editorial. I think it's pretty spot on the money. The AEU has been accused in the past of being toothless, unrepresentative, unprofessional, etc. and of playing petty industrial games that don't tend to lead anywhere productive. Mary Bluett (AEU Victorian Head) is often 'on about' the money only - but obviously this is only part of the problem. More sinister are the calls from government about 'increased productivity' and accountability tied to student outcomes. This position is only a sie step from the kind of difficulties the American ed system seem to be in at present with standarised testing and teachers being reduced to delivery 'robots' who just enact whatever curriculum the government believes should be used - i.e. Bush's 'No Child Left Behind' etc. Check out some 'other' stuff about NCLB!

So I tend to agree with The Age editorial team, in that this kind of narrow industrial action results in a 'stand off where no one wins'. I mean don't get me wrong, as I also understand and feel myself the frustration of other colleagues who have just had enough (a gutful!). Looking at creative options that do not exclusively focus on more pay. After all, when you ask someone whether they are payed enough, what are they going to say? But looking at professionalism and identity, more time, professional learning and development, better resourced schools, better VCE curriculum, etc. are other ways to push the barrow if you like. There is more to improving public education that reducing class sizes and giving teachers more money.

I guess one excellent example is the STELLA project and others like it that are now in progress (PRIME etc.) These teacher engaged in sustained reflection and research into their own classrooms and as a result experienced great professional growth - why not use this a model or a type of professional renewal. To engage in such activities teachers need TIME.

This has been said before, but I am coming to know it better and better - probably because I am experiencing it - that to change schools and education, to really offer students the best possible education, we need to offer teachers more powerful learning opportunities (Sharon Fieman-Nemser).