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Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

Committing ‘Suicide’ to the Curriculum


Boy! Is this ever a contentious issue. I’m so glad that we are finally having the discussion of how ‘suicide’ is handled in our society.

For years it has been a taboo subject; particularly in media where the issue has been addressed with ‘kid gloves’ in fear of copy-cat events from those who may be more vulnerable in our community. In media circles the only time that suicide is openly discussed is if; a ‘person of note’ has committed suicide, the journalist is reporting on the death of others from a ‘suicide-bomber’, suicide statistics are being discussed and/or the various classifications of this data (e.g. gender, age-ranges, etc.)

The state of mental health in our community is such that we need to have a wider conversation than this. More people die from suicide than in fatal motor vehicle accidents in Australia. Currently, about 2,000 people commit suicide per year in Australia. There is hot debate about what is the best course of action with some arguing ‘we have seen a small drop in the suicide rate – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and others saying ‘let’s take it off the taboo shelf and discuss suicide more openly’. Both sides agree that ANY reporting and/or discussion must be defined by a mature, non-sensationised conversation.

So where does this leave teachers who are being asked to incorporate ‘suicide’ within the national curriculum (Health? Physical Education?) under the mental health banner. See report:http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/breaking/8989646/calls-for-schools-to-address-suicide-prevention/

If the mental health experts can’t agree on how it is best to deal with it – is it something that teachers should be ‘boldly addressing’? I’m getting mixed messages, this recent article highlights some of the issues that are bound to await us http://www.theage.com.au/national/education/experts-warn-of-danger-posed-by-school-text-20110216-1awnt.html (I wonder if Romeo & Juliet is being slammed with equal rigour?). Whilst it seems ludicrous to ask students to write ‘suicide notes’ (an oversight on the part of the publisher more than the teacher I would suspect), surely it is important to find and CREATE learning opportunities that allow students to discuss this issue? 

There are many texts from my own teaching that I have used in the English class (frequently) that allow discussion of this topic in a controlled and meaningful manner. Romeo & Juliet, Dead Poet Society and short-stories such as On Saturday Afternoon (from the classic short story collection in SPECTRUM ONE) all open doorways for discussion about ‘dark feelings’, ‘the black dog’ and (not just by osmosis) pathways of help and assistance.  

For me it is about PLANNING these teaching experiences. Don’t misunderstand me, they are not a daily showcase piece of my teaching practice but they are in my ‘swag bag’ and I would certainly be prepared to ‘go there’. I believe that students need to have the opportunity to discuss things in order to be informed, have access to support and have some issues ‘deconstructed’ in complexity.

I should say that I do take precautions when delivering any kind of sensitive material. In the case of texts that address suicide (yes – even Romeo & Juliet!) I would consider the following list a bare minimum of preparation;

  • If I don’t have a good rapport with a group of students, I wouldn’t go there; likewise, if you know that friends/family of students have committed suicide it is just insensitive to ‘go there’ through the use of (in my case) a text choice!
  • Keep those ‘LIFELINE McDonald’s CARDS / KID’S HELPLINE CARDS(you know the free ones they send to schools) ready for these lessons
  • Deliver this type of content when you have TIME – save it for a DOUBLE-PERIOD
  •  Notify the counsellor / chaplain / HoD that you are covering sensitive material
  • Don’t deliver the materials or lead the discussion like you are at a funeral
  • Allow students to talk openly
  • Pitch the depth of conversation to the age

I would love to hear other teachers response to the idea of being mandatated to deliver curriculum in this arena. All thoughts, disagreements, cases, examples greatly appreciated!

If you or someone you know needs help – please access the FANTASTIC resources available at the following website: http://www.suicideprevention.com.au/

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Australian Curriculum Coalition Paper (Summary)

October 22, 2010 1 comment

For those following movements in the Australian Curriculum here is an important development; “The Australian Curriculum Coalition (ACC) represents a forum of Presidents, Executive Officers and Executive Directors of National Education Organisations. The Organisations represent members who are teachers, principals, school leaders, academics and education researchers.”

Today they released the following ‘open letter’; http://www.acsa.edu.au/pages/images/Australian%20Curriculum%20Coalition%20common%20view%20on%20the%20Australian%20Curriculum4.pdf

The report extends support for a national curriculum but requests the following;

  • Revision of timeline for development and implementation
  • ‘Build stakeholder ownership’ (teachers/principals/associations, etc.)
  • Inform debate by making drafts and consultation ‘public’
  • Pages 4 & 5 discuss a rigorous need for these initiatives to be world-class and framed by clear curriculum rationale
  • Reduction of ‘over crowding’ in curriculum documents (This will sting as it was a primary objective for ACARA to keep the statements ‘open’ – ironically it is the consultation process that has been the source of the ‘fattening’)
  • Whole or Core Curriculum – Clarification for ‘local’ content (This is quite problematic for the History implementation but I think they are drawing a long bow on this one – your thoughts?)
  • Cross-curricula Developments – (YAY!!)
  • Reporting and Achievement Standards (YAY!!)
  • Funding for PD/PL

Wish they had mentioned a few more (e.g. consideration for special needs, resources, etc.)

Would love you know what you think of these suggestions? http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/WA-Teachers-Lounge/154210691257798

OECD Education at a Glance

September 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Interested in seeing how Australia compares with the rest of the world in relation to performance, graduation statistics, students pursuing tertiary studies, money spent on education, alternative programs in other countries, ‘country rankings’, teacher pay scales, class sizes, contact time?

Then you may be interested in looking over the new 472 page report from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) … OK…. there is an abridged version titled, “Highlights from Education at a Glance” (92 pages) which is well worth having a glance at. You may wish to leave a strategically placed, pre-highlighted copy in the teacher’s staff room in hope that the Principal may have a look too!

NAPLAN Data Released

September 10, 2010 Leave a comment

National NAPLAN Data has been released today.

http://www.naplan.edu.au/verve/_resources/NAPLAN_2010_Summary_Report.pdf

Although a ‘raw data’ comparison will show that WA students are performing below the National Average it is important to remember that, on average, WA students in year 9 are nearly 1 year YOUNGER than our Eastern States counterparts and have experienced 1 ‘less’ year of schooling. This is a variable that will likely be marginalised by our newspapers.

 This is being corrected by the ‘half cohort’ year coming through the WA system (currently children in Year 8). Queensland schools will now be represented as the ‘weaker cousin’ as they have not yet made the adjustment to be ‘in line’ with the rest of the country.