Thursday, December 17, 2009

New thoughts on National Standards

The National Standards debate has become polarised and silly. The Minister has managed to paint teachers and principals as lazy cheats who want to avoid National Standards because National Standards will show teachers up. She has done a good job of this, with support from ERO and editorial writers, if not parents. Through the debate parents have had their fears and doubts about teachers reinforced.

Schools are not going to win this fight unless we can label National Standards as "fart tax" was. This is unlikely now. "Tolley's Foley" doesn't cut it and the reality is teachers have lost the high ground and lost this battle with the Government.

I'd suggest that a better approach than fighting the Barbarians (as we are now outgunned) is to negotiate an accommodation with them. It might be better to see how best to work in an environment where National Standards are a reality. How do we live with them? How do we put them in perspective, give them only the importance they deserve, use them to improve the quality of teaching and learning in schools without making schools worse? We might learn something from the relationship, and I'm sure Anne Tolley would.

We now need to work to ensure students can and do achieve well in classrooms despite the barbarians at the gate. We also have to stick to our guns on what good teaching looks like and feels like, and if we are right, then surely kids will achieve and the National Standards will help prove it.

I think the things we need to stick to in New Zealand schools and in our teaching include:
  • Rich language environments
  • Whole language approaches and the love of books and stories
  • A strong focus on meaning (comprehension, understanding)
  • Rich conversations with students (in literacy and mathematics)
  • High expectations of students and teachers
  • A focus on building teacher capability and confidence
  • A focus on professional dialogue and teacher learning in both literacy and mathematics
In the States, Lucy Calkins, a passionate advocate of whole language literacy teaching and a strong critic of standardised testing, wrote a book called A Teacher's Guide to Standardized Reading Tests: Knowledge is Power. I'd suggest this is the approach we should take to National Standards. Accept them (even if they are Barbarians) and put our energy into our classrooms.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Book Council video

Nice to see a quality piece of animation coming out of New Zealand. The Council's website is worth a visit too.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Learn to Juggle!

8 Reasons normal people should learn to juggle

And teachers too, I reckon. Especially teachers because it reminds you what it is like to be a learner, to learn something new. Holiday goal: Learn to Juggle. Start here.

From Jason Kottke