Yesterday I picked my son up from school early because I had to attend an Interactive Whiteboard Training Workshop. We had packed dinner and snacks for the supposedly hour and a half journey to St Albans. Never ever believe Mr Google Maps when it (he?) tells you it is one hour and twenty five minutes fom one destination to another. I had allowed an extra twenty five minutes or so. Stupid me! I probably should have left at lunch time and taken my son somewhere educational like the museum in the city for an hour.
We arrived nearly an hour late and spent about twenty minutes wandering around the St. Albans primary school where the workshop was being held trying to find out exactly where the workshop was being held - in what room. At least the toilets were unlocked. One's bladder can get remarkably strained after hours in the car and a little boy's too. He loves David Attenborough but the nature of a child is not to sit quietly in a car hour after hour crawling along a highway even with movies on the laptop or a car kiddie screen. Kids need to move. Considering the length of time he sat, my boy deserves a prize for patience plus. I also began to understand how road rage builds up in a person. Frankly I will look forward to advanced technological hook ups. More of that later.
Just under and hour of an informative, scintillating session by the presenter Amanda Neumann was well worth the stress of getting there. It was going at a crackling pace so as I chilled out and took in what was happening, I thought GEE what did I miss, but she anticipated the anguish of latecomers or those who had to leave early and there are notes on the session at www.lambourne.net.au/anzuk
I used my little IPad and took a few notes. There is also a site called Promethean Planet and it has FREE as in it doesn't cost money, workshops and tutorials on how to make the best use of your interactive whiteboard resource and more importantly how to operate them effectively. You can down load flip charts for any number of subjects and topics within them. There are activities for Maths that if Maths had been taught using what they have available today through the Internet and interactive whiteboards in my day, I might have been a mathematician instead of a wannabe novelist, poet, short story writer moonlighting as a Humanities teacher. Maths becomes fast and competitive with lots of cute little diagrams, interesting problems posed and solved because every child has the potential to be an Einstein, we as teachers just have to know HOW to unlock the vaults to knowledge for each child.
I was fascinated by the resources and learning tools available to the end and will definitely work on the Promethean website and others to extend my knowledge and skills in this area. Amanda the presenter explained at the end of the session how we can use Twitter for example to follow tweets from an education conference from around the other side of the world to get an idea of what is being said, presented etc. People use their ipads and iphones to upload material which is then available on the net if you know how to access it. She was able to access information from multiple sources on a particular presenter in Boston USA which made her feel as if she was actually there at the conference.
She is available to present this workshop at schools through Lambourne Next Generation Technology and it was extremely worth while. Phone 1300 857 492 Very good value.
Now I will jump on the soap box to air another pet issue of mine. Teacher student ratios are important. Don't let anyone tell you that they are not. Yes, I have spoken to some schools private and public. One of the public schools I contacted, did not even bother to get back to me. Probably because they are aware of the truth but have been battered into submission by superiors into believing the lie that it doesn't matter how many students are in a class, if the teacher is a 'class act' then we can have classes of 30 plus so long as we have brilliant well trained teachers. However that does not take into account the multi roles of a teacher in a classroom. A teacher needs to liaise with parents of students, other teachers and students themselves with regard to the welfare and social progress AS WELL AS the academic progress of their students. Plus teachers have to prepare lessons and deliver them, checking and assessing the students' comprehension, writing reports doing Professional Development and keeping ahead of developments in pedagogy and also involvement in extra curricular activities is desirable in teachers. The more students you have the less contact and your ability to guide and teach proactively is lessened. Why do so many young teachers burn out and leave the profession? The answer is obvious. Overloaded and pressured to perform beyond realistic expectations the good ones burn out and leave. The lazier teachers or those who teach 'smart' coast their way into senior teacher jobs in any cases and load down the willing bunnies if allowed. Not always though. There are also many good teachers who realise that meeting the expectations placed on teachers by members of the public who are ignorant of what the true role of a teacher is, is a recipe for disaster and learn to survive the fiascos of the teaching profession in today's world.
Some private schools will tell you that they have 30 students in their year seven and eight classrooms. What the do not tell you unless you are a parent with a child about to enrol or they are selling the school potential to you is that in those year seven and eight classes they have a mentor teacher whose role is basically student welfare. She or he stays with the students across core subjects where there
are thirty in the classroom.
So effectively the student teacher ratio is 15 to one teacher, although one teacher's role is lesson preparation and delivery and I would imagine assessment and marking. The other teacher focuses on the students' welfare and learning needs as well as assisting them in the classroom and supporting the specialist teacher delivering the lesson. When one teacher tries to do the job unassisted e.g. teaches and assesses 30 students per class and fulfils the mentoring role as well, that is a recipe for disaster. If for example, a teacher is teaching five classes of twenty students English and History and has a Home group of twenty - usually a class he or she takes for a core subject, thus she or he knows the students, the teacher is dealing with around 100 students. Now if those classes are classes of 30 that equals 150 students and if they are around 35 students per class we are talking about 175 young individuals that the teacher needs to fulfil the role of educator, mentor, assessor etc on a day to day basis over the week and term and the year. The workload is greatly increased and students with special needs or even the exceptionally bright students fall through the cracks.
We should be deciding in society today and especially in public education what do we want for our kids and the future which is also our future. Do we want students to deal with teachers far too busy to give them anything but the most cursory regard for their progress in learning and education, or do we want teachers to CARE and to have time to do that little bit extra for the students and to make up sound individual learning program's for those falling behind or those who need to be challenged because they will act out as they are bored.
We have so many useful tools in today's technological age, to engage students in their learning and to fulfil their potential. We can harness social media to create good social networks and caring aware individuals. Instead, I have read and seen first hand how these educational tools can be misused and abused by those who need to be taught appropriate uses. A gun or a car is dangerous in the control of someone who is not educated in its proper use. Letting students and kids as young as seven or eight unsupervised access and use social media like Facebook is like me simply handing the keys of my car to my nine year old and saying 'Here Sweetie. Go take the car for spin down to Elwood or Brighton. You will be fine. You have been on the dodgem cars and you did ok.'
You just don't do it for most of the really obvious reasons. I think technological advances have at present outstripped people's ability to safely use them, especially younger people. Letting children use the Internet unsupervised in their rooms on laptops is asking for trouble. Would you let your 13 year old daughter or son go into a St Kilda pub at 11pm at night? Alone. No, definitely not, I can hear you say. Well that is what happens when a thirteen year old goes onto the Internet. It is global and twenty four seven and all sorts of creeps have computers and use them for purposes that we cannot even imagine and nor would we want to think about what they do. Our best defence agai st the creeps and perverts is 24 / 7 vigilance, rules, moderation, get kids to be involved in healthy activities, censor movies watched for content, values, levels of violent acts, language and inappropriate sexual content in the form speech, banter and references and of course no nudity. When told by a secular Israeli friend who let her children watch horror movies with nudity and people being chopped to bits, that I was unrealistic and brain washed by religion because I would not allow my son to watch such stuff, I replied that it was in fact she who is unrealistic and putting her children in mental danger by allowing them to see such things. My child or any child can gain absolutely nothing of value from a film about people having their brains eaten out by zombies that are taking over the world. Although it might be a good analogy for someone living in a fundamentalist Islamic state like Iran or Egypt or Saudi Arabia. You would want to be very careful about showing too much intelligence or common sense because the mosque zombies would be after you to rip your brain from your skull as quick as saying Allah Akbar. Oops. That goes for the more moderate Muslims too who probably also have a hard time with their more extreme Brotherhood mates.
Let's sum up and say that Teachers student ratios are important and if we want the best for our kids we do want lower ratios and quality teachers and teaching. We want to look after the teachers who teach our kids, what ever religion or gender or race. We want the best for them. They are our future.