Posts Tagged ‘Teacher’

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!!!!

The Report Every Politician and Principal Should Read

November 16, 2010 1 comment

The Gratton Institute have just released a report which endeavours to ‘bring home’ the message that teacher effectiveness is the most significant influence on student outcomes. The summary on page four should be enough to spark significant conversation. Jenson (Director of School Education Program at Gratton Institute) investigates the factors that influence student performance and writes;

“An increase in teacher effectiveness of 10% would lift Australia’s education systems into the highest performing group of countries in the world… Each grade needs to incorporate 5% of a year’s worth of learning for our students to be amoungst the best in the world.”

The report campaigns for more government investment in teacher training rather than ‘pointing the finger’ at teachers. It utilises internationally recognised testing such as PISA, PIRLS and TIMMS to acknowledge Australia’s placing in international rankings; currently eighth with Finland, Hong Kong, Canada, Taipei, Estonia, Japan and New Zealand ahead of Australia in performance.

I thought this graph was worthy of inclusion;

Jenson quotes extensive research to determine that class size has a ‘little to no impact’ on student performance (mentions a study in Florida where class sizes were restricted to 18) but ‘moderate changes to teacher effectiveness have a significant long-term effect’.

Politicians will push for 5% more ‘content’ but they also need to be prepared to spend big on effectively equipping Australian teachers (This report comments that the government have spent a great deal on training and development with little return). Principals, don’t let those ‘effective’ teachers go!

I feel justified in some of my earlier arguments about teacher commitment to learning outcomes. What do you think? (Go on – tell me I’m right) Read the full report by clicking here:

WACOT Report

September 29, 2010 2 comments

Did any of you hear about this on the news last week? Perhaps I was drowning in examination papers at the time and missed it. We have now had WACOT just over four years. As part of the legislated responsibility, a review was commissioned ‘as soon as was reasonable after four years to ascertain WACOT’s effectiveness in achieving its intended objectives”. On the 23rd September, Liz Constable announced in response to this “Review of the WACOT Act” that:

“… there is a pronounced mismatch between what teachers had expected of the college and what the college has delivered. For example, they had expected the college to promote the profession, deliver professional development and take a stand on controversial issues, but believe the college has fallen well short on these things.”

The most interesting of the many detailed reports submitted was the 63 page review on the “Teacher Survey” which was taken from a pool of 932 teachers from all education sectors in WA. If you are interested, page 60-62 itemise the recommendations for WACOT improvement. You can access a copy of this report at

If you would like to make an entry, I would be most interested in YOUR response to the WACOT experiment. Post a comment at our FACEBOOK DISCUSSION BOARD.

Is There A Baby In This Bath Water?

September 16, 2010 Leave a comment

At a garage sale on the weekend I picked up an old copy of an education text I hadn’t seen for many years. Most WA Teachers would be familiar with BEGINNING TEACHING – I purchased it for $2. Flicking through the pages, I was reminded of the MANY techniques that these sharp educators exposed us to and wondered how many of these techniques are used adequately today.

I have read many books on discipline in the classroom, management systems and follow up routines. A little like a good recipe, we often need to see these methods ‘in progress’ in order to evaluate if they could work for us (or at least elements of them?). This video sample is one of many techniques demonstrated by TEACH LIKE A CHAMPION; a youtube search would give you more and you’ll find a comprehensive bank at their FACEBOOK SITE. If you do visit that site, have a look at TARA MEAD’S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL ROUTINE. Phew! The comments on this post alone are quite controversial.

I’m truly interested to know whether you feel these techniques have place in YOUR teaching world? Is there a baby in this bath-water for you? Here’s a sample:

The Parent Partnership

September 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Since my post about “Teacher Responsibility” did not receive a standing ovation from my teacher friends, I thought I would include this terrific report prepared by NEiTA (National Excellence In Teaching) and the Australian Scholarships Group (ASG) discussing the role of parents in partnership with schools/teachers. I will be seeing if I can secure a few printed copies for our Parent Evenings.

Teacher Evaluations

September 4, 2010 Leave a comment

TEACHER Magazine reports that the Los Angeles Unified School Districts Board have recently opened the door for student standardised test data to be used as a measuring stick for teacher evaluation. Most sadly is the publication of a ‘best to worst’ list of teachers using this standardised data as a primary measure of performance. The fall out has been as expected (click here). In future this data will only be one of the evaluation tools used by the district but it will most certainly be the most publicised, scrutinised and the most likely to be ‘leaked’ as ‘best to worst’ listing by an ever hungry media pack.

As our own government make moves to move this process forward, it will be interesting to see the pitfalls (from this model) that may lay ahead for Australian Schools. I’m certainly not opposed to scrutiny, accountability and even a healthy sprinkling of competition but I am disturbed by using fear and/or humiliation as a form of extrinsic motivation for teacher performance.

I’m sure we have not heard the last on this issue and the debate will continue for some years to come.