Saturday, 28 May 2016

Somewhere Tonight

This video montage was posted on Facebook by one of my 5 Platoon associates. Thanks Bernie.

It was originally used to promote the 1987 Welcome march - something I missed (to my eternal regret).

Although it's Bob Seger song, Normie Rowe makes a great job of it. He does, after all, have an in-depth understanding of the experience.

My platoon features from 3.36 until 3.40.

Most of the photos are the work of Denis Gibbons  and Andy Mattay, two great photographers.

Here are the lyrics -

Somewhere tonight
Someone's reachin' out to someone who's refusin'
Someone's tired of all the reasons someone's using
Someone doesn't understand

Somewhere tonight
Someone's thinkin' back to someone who got closer
Someone's realizin' something's really over
Someone's thinkin' it's too late
Someone's thinkin' it's too late

There's a cold wind blowin' from the north
And the summer birds are leavin'
As the sun slips ever further south
The lakes will soon be freezin'
And the ice will claim the empty shores
Where the one's in love went walkin'
And the hard blue skies will shiver
As the winter clouds come stalkin'

And unless you find someone to hold
Unless someone starts carin'
Unless you find the warmth you need
Unless someone starts sharin'
When the long, dark nights come closin' in
And the winter winds come howlin'
You don't know if you'll make it
Without someone you can count on

Somewhere tonight
Someone's packin' up and someone's really leavin'

Someone's not quite sad - only disbelievin'
Someone's walkin' out the door

Someone's walkin' out the door


Friday, 27 May 2016

Finland Forever

By the end of this year I will have been teaching (or leading teachers and supporting them) for forty-eight years.

That's a long time, admittedly interrupted by bits and pieces such as two years as a Nasho, and four years in Regional administration, but generally speaking, I've worked in schools with kids and teachers and this profession has pretty much been my life. I continue to get a real buzz out of it.

It's interesting to reflect on the waxing and waning of educational trends down through those years. There's been plenty.

When I started as a wet-behind-the-ears First Year teacher (we weren't given the honorific of "graduate" back then) I had a class of forty five sitting in rows, and I was on my own. Teacher Aides hadn't, at that time, been invented. I remember that the job was challenging, but fun. For me, it still is. At least the actual teaching part, that is. The bureaucratic dross that has been added down through the years is less enjoyable.

We taught from a "workbook" which stipulated content. On day 5 of term 2 (for example) work that was set down to be covered was written in detail in the workbook. It was different from day 4, but was pretty much set in stone, irrespective of location, student characteristics and school size. Every school in the state was teaching the same content on that specific day. I can't remember the origin of this curriculum content, but I recall that it came from a syllabus.

Ironically, we've gone full circle in that the "syllabus" is now called the Australian Curriculum, and its content is available on line.

In just about every other aspect of the craft, however (apart from class size) there have been enormous changes - too many to cover here. I will, however, touch on the current obsession with standardised testing. It's known as NAPLAN (called irreverently NAPALM) by some.

It's the politicians' gift to education. Quite obviously, if you aren't sure what to do to improve results (I won't use the word "outcomes") measuring them is probably a safe bet. At least, if you're a politician, it shows that you're "doing something about education".

Actually, you're not. You're doing about as much for improving a team's performance as the crowd at a Broncos/Cowboys match does by watching it. Somebody should tell Wayne Bennett that the performance of his team can be improved by the game's spectators. Standardised testing does however provide great copy for the media. They publish "league tables" and sell a lot of newsprint.

The other downside (apart from the league tables) is the waste of precious time and energy preparing for, and administering the testing regime, and the time it takes out of actual teaching and learning. The subjects that actually enhance quality of life (Music ad the Arts) are languishing.

All this testing and data gathering seems to be making little difference to school performance.

There is one country where standardised testing was abandoned decades ago.

And guess what - their school performance improved exponentially. Now I'm not saying that the improvement is down purely to the lack of standardised testing. It's not.

It's down to a range of factors, most of which relating to teacher performance. It's pretty simple. If you want high performing students and high performing schools, you need high performing teachers.

When I was in the principalship, my school participated in a Queensland study looking at the influence local school management had on school performance. It was supposed to show that if the management of a school's financial and staffing resources was in the hands of the school community instead of the centralised bureaucracy, results would improve.

When this study was done and dusted, it proved that there was a small correlation between management and outcomes, but by far the most significant factor was teaching competence. It had been commissioned by a government that was hoping to use its results to justify a programme they called "Leading Schools". The very expensive study was quietly shelved, never to be cited again. They had to use other justifications.

Going back to my reference to standardised testing, I'm talking about Finland, of course. Take a look at these results -

Ninety-three percent of Finns graduate from academic or vocational high schools, 17.5 percentage points higher than the United States, and 66 percent go on to higher education, the highest rate in the European Union. Yet Finland spends about 30 percent less per student than the United States.

The Finns moved away from highly centralised planning and standardised testing decades ago. Instead they focused their time energy and resources on improving the quality of their teaching force. To teach in Finland, you need a masters qualification. You are a didactition, a concept totally foreign in the USA (and here, as it happens).

Google the word - results come up only in Finnish - yet it's an English word.

There is a waiting list to get into teaching in Finnish universities. Teachers are highly respected and well paid. They also have a strong union. The last characteristic is about the only one that in this country we share with them.

If we want to improve educational standards, lets support the people critical to school performance. Let's pay them what they're worth, improve their status, and understand that teachers shape the future.

Ask the Finns. 

Hugh White - Without America

Hugh White is always provocative, and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to criticising current defence policy. In 1995, he was appo...