Posts Tagged ‘Education’

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:

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 (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:


What is a Teacher Worth?

March 6, 2011 1 comment

So the maths in this repost is creative and I think it was created in the political environment of the Wisconsin union discussion BUT I am posting it for the fun of it! My wonderful wife forwarded this to me. We don’t know who wrote it but will happily acknowledge if someone knows?

Are you sick of highly paid teachers?

Teachers’ hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or 10 months a year! It’s time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do – babysit! We can get that for less than minimum wage.
That’s right. Let’s give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and plan– that equals 6 1/2 hours).

Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children. Now how many students do they teach in a day…maybe 30? So that’s $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day.

However, remember they only work 180 days a year!!! I am not going to pay them for any vacations.

LET’S SEE….That’s $585 X 180= $105,300 per year. (Hold on! My calculator needs new batteries).

What about those special education teachers and the ones with Master’s degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour. That would be $8 X 6 1/2 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year.

Wait a minute — there’s something wrong here! There sure is!

The average teacher’s salary
(nation wide) is $50,000. $50,000/180 days = $277.77/ per day/ 30 students = $9.25/6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student–a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!) WHAT A DEAL!!!!

What’s Eating You? … A Case for Intrinsic Motivation

February 26, 2011 Leave a comment

We’ve all been on awesome PDs,  Camps, Incursion where we have left feeling reignited about our teaching (or other aspect of our lives). After a while it seems to ‘wear off’ and for those of us who are over thirty (OK! forty!)  it would be easy to surrender to the cynic inside saying, “Motivation is just hype and it doesn’t last very long.”

The truth is, our inner-cynic is RIGHT – that’s why we need motivation ALL the time.

I don’t know how far you are into the year when you are reading this but as I write we are about to commence Week 5 of Term 1. The honeymoon is over, some students have had a cry in your classes, the staff are getting niggly again, you have a wad of marking, programs are due in, you are reminded again that the administrators really HAVE spent too much time out of the lower-school classroom and your family are back to being your part-time interest… Clearly, my inner-cynic is alive and well!   

I know I need to seek out the inspiration needed to keep me firing from day-to-day and to gauge when I’m heading for the rocks and reignite my lighthouse! Many of you would have tremendous sources for inspiration and I would love to hear them. I’m certain they aren’t all web-based but they are the easiest to share.

My recent bank of mental turkish delights has come from TED but I have only recently stumbled up STUMBLE UPON (couldn’t help myself), EDTALKS and a ripper TOP 100 MOTIVATIONAL stories site.  What are your sources of inspiration right now? What gets you through the rough days?

For many, the reality of our motivations can based in pay, fear, looking ‘solid’, performing ‘crack-free’, work conditions or competition. I sincerely believe that teachers, more than any other occupation, need to be on the front line of being intrinsically motivated; of being positive, energetic and committed individuals,  because our actions and attitudes duplicate in the students we teach.

Now to go into my week like I really believe that.


LMS – Does this mean … Let Me See?

February 3, 2011 Leave a comment

School LMSs (Learning Management Systems) have been a saving grace for many (especially smaller) schools.

With Moodle a local hero and ‘free’ champion in this arena, I feel a real CAD to even mention ‘Blackboard’ or the newly open sourced ‘Instructure Canvas’ – The truth is, it is an entertaining advertisement!

There are plenty of follow-up instructional / overview videos on ‘youtube’ so I will leave you to explore further if interested. For now – enjoy the young lady with the fireworks!

Loved like Churchill?

January 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Tomorrow morning will be the start of a new school and a new set of classes and responsibilities. In addition, I will be embracing a new educational approach – perhaps that conversation is for another time. We have all heard the old adage ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’.

I know how tempting it can be to want to be ‘liked’ as an educator but realistically the key word should be ‘respected’. Not respected because of the severity of our behavioural management but respected because of the focus we bring to our classes, the commitment to developing the child and the outcomes we achieve with students.

Week One is a most significant opportunity to establish the tone of the classroom. Any revisions or updates we attempt to ‘add on’ later will take much longer to establish as long-term ‘truth’ in our classrooms. It is also fair to say that any ‘promises’ or ‘declarations’ you make on day one (when we are most motivated and excited about the year) will be remembered for a LONG-TIME – especially if you do not deliver. I recall telling a class that I would have all English work marked and returned within a week; this is my normal turnaround but when I didn’t deliver… ONCE …. it was LONG remembered.

It is worth taking a moment to ask what you want from your students in 2011 but also to ask what changes our own delivery might require in evolving our own professional practice. What do “I” need to learn? What should “I” change? What are “my” weaknesses (you know the ones we know exist but didn’t get noticed in the appraisal)?

A teacher I was partnered with during my university training said, “You need to be Hitler in term one, Mussolini in term two then you can be loved like Churchill for the rest of the year.” Well, OK, it’s a strongly loaded analogy. Another trainer stated it this way, “Firm, Fair and Friendly and in that order!”. I can certainly see the need for establishing routines that allow education to happen, masterful classroom management, engaging lessons – but I’m no Hitler.

Let us know what you have planned for day one. Here are a few fun activities / ideas for your classes. Most are labelled ‘K-6’ but I will be using a few with my 7-12 classes tomorrow.

Vanilla Education

November 22, 2010 Leave a comment

An 11 minute challenging video. I loved the content; it is refreshing to be reminded that our goal is not to produce ‘cookie-cutter’ kids from ‘cookie cutter’ schooling. What do you think of the final few minutes? Are these proposals realistic? achievable?

I recently visited a school website where a mp3 recording of ‘What students liked about the school’ was available to listen to. On four occasions the students referred to ‘not having to sit at a desk like other schools’, ironically my daughter (in Year 1, not from the afore-mentioned school) came home with a script her class had compiled for their end of year assembly. They had been asked to write down ‘what they had LOVED about year one?’ They said;

“I” is for “independent”. We have enjoyed having our very own desk to sit at with our tray full of our very own things

My point is NOT to say that one is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ but rather an observation that we (as educators) somehow ‘sell’ our pedagogy to our parents / students, regardless of the approach we take.

This commentary is only a microscopic part of the content covered here – it is certainly worth your review.

Education Revolution ICT Teacher Training Package

November 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Summary of a Media Release from the office of Peter Garrett (29th October, 2010)

ICT Innovation Fund Projects: Teaching Teachers for the Future – $7.8M “Teachers who are expert users of ICT will assist universities to update teaching courses, so that new teachers have the necessary skills to incorporate the use of ICT in their classrooms.”

Teacher Online Toolkit – $825,000 ‘development and trialling of seven online teaching packages which will show teachers how they can incorporate the use of ICT in everyday learning, with a focus on elements of the Australian Curriculum.”

Anywhere, Anytime Teacher Professional Learning – $5.4M (NSW) Ensuring that teachers in rural and regional areas have access to the same ICT resources as teachers in urban areas. “..implemented nationally in the future”.

Leading ICT Learning – $2.08M “This project from Principals Australia will provide a single online portal through which principals can access expert ICT advice and tools as well as network with other principals. The portal will help principals to better plan the use of ICT in their school and the ICT professional development of their teachers.”

Full details – Please click on the picture