Current Issues In Schools and Education

This month’s 10 posts collection has a school and education theme. In Australia, this is the time of year when the new school year begins, so thought it it apt to focus on this area. I know there are many bloggers who have children starting school for the first time this week and I hope the transition to school is smooth one for them and their children.

1. ‘My School’ Website: A blunt and inadequate instrument

Just in case you missed it, the Australian Government launched its My Schools website last week.

My School enables you to search the profiles of almost 10,000 Australian schools. The performance of schools on NAPLAN tests is greatly affected by a range of student intake and school location characteristics. When comparing schools, it is important to compare like with like. The My School website allows and encourages comparisons with schools that are statistically similar in terms of a range of factors known to affect test performance. Source – About page on My Schools website.

I highly recommend any parent who has looked at this site for information on their children’s school to read this post by Trevor Cairney. Cairney acknowledges what is right about the website and also what is wrong with it:

For example, I looked at one school that seemed to have outstanding results for year 3 but whose results for year 5 were average. Does this drop off reflect the quality of the teachers in tear 4 and 5? Or some quirky difference in the demographic over time? Perhaps a new private school nearby had attracted some of the best students after year three?

The site isn’t able to measure what some parents find most important. What does the site tell a parent (or a politician) about the arts? What about creativity and the ability to solve problems? Leadership development? Sport and fitness? Programs for children with learning difficulties? The care and compassion of staff? Emotional well being? Are the children happy in these schools?

2. Middle Schooler Forgets Homework – Parents what do you do?

This video comes from a post on Joe Bruzzese’s blog – thinking forward, Middle School Tools . This blog is an excellent resource for parents who have children in the upper years of primary school.

This video discusses how as a parent we can support our children taking responsibility for their homework. Joe gives advice on how to cope with the phone call “mum I’ve left my homework at home” and how you can set up systems with your child to prevent this from happening.

3. No Time for Recess

The Creative Play Plus blog is written my members of the Schubert Center for Child Studies. The Schubert Center for Child Studies is in the College of Arts and Sciences at Case Western Reserve University and it promotes multidisciplinary research on children and childhood. In this post they look at the alarming trend to reduce recess in schools.

The argument that recess is not as developmentally important as instructional time is not well founded. We know from extensive research, that children who are asked to perform a school task are significantly more attentive after recess than when they are deprived of a break.

4. What Makes a Great Teacher

Sara Bennett on her Stop Homework blog discusses an article from The Atlantic Monthly. While she does not agree with the article in its entirety, Sara recommends parents to read it and does highlight this passage:

Super­star teach­ers had four other ten­den­cies in com­mon: they avidly recruited stu­dents and their fam­i­lies into the process; they main­tained focus, ensur­ing that every­thing they did con­tributed to stu­dent learn­ing; they planned exhaus­tively and pur­pose­fully — for the next day or the year ahead — by work­ing back­ward from the desired out­come; and they worked relent­lessly, refus­ing to sur­ren­der to the com­bined men­aces of poverty, bureau­cracy, and bud­getary shortfalls.

5. Stickers or Hugs: Motivating preschoolers

Deborah Stewart is the author of Excellence in Early Childhood Education. In this post Deborah gives an excellent and concise explanation as to how we should aim to motivate preschoolers:

What we ultimately want to foster is the internal motivation to do the right thing – to do the nice thing – to care about our friends and the concerns of others. Not because a sticker is waiting at the end of the task, but because it makes us feel good inside.

6. Lack of sleep akin to behaviour disorder

This article in the Sydney Morning Herald looks at a US experiment in which 50 children with ADHD were put together in a hall with 50 sleep deprived children – and sleep physicians and ADHD experts were asked to tell them apart.

Dr Chris Seton who works with the Sleep Disorders Clinic at Westmead Children’s Hospital in Sydney as a sleep specialist, comments on the study:

But he has no doubt that increasing numbers of Australian children are sleep deprived – and worse off for it. While some research links childhood obesity to lack of sleep, there’s stronger evidence that children’s behaviour, academic performance and mood are impaired by chronic lack of sleep, says Seton who believes electronic media and mobile phone use take much of the blame.

7. Enough With The I’m Sorries

Tricia from Shout – Life is too short to be quiet! shares some Montessori philosophy that she learnt from her sons preschool about not forcing children to say sorry:

“If Sally is throwing sand at Johnny, we’ll teach Johnny to tell her that when she throws sand it gets in his eyes and it hurts. It’s then Sally’s responsibility to acknowledge what Johnny has said by looking at him and repeating his words, ‘I know that throwing sand hurts your eyes. I don’t want to hurt you so I won’t throw sand again.’”

Montessori teaches children to acknowledge and name their feelings and to modify behavior rather than simply forcing an, “I’m sorry” that has little meaning and that’s uttered as a way to avoid punishment.

I too learnt this with my eldest son, when he went to Montessori. Some people in the comments section on Tricia’s post, seem to assume that this means that they are being taught not to say sorry. That is not the case. They are simply not being forced to parrot back to a child “I’m sorry” because an adult has told them to. By having the child acknowledge the impact of their behaviour, they can have greater empathy for the child affected.

8. What IS Literacy?

I came across this video on a favourite Australian blog of mine The Book Chook. This video is an exploration of the definition of literacy: more specifically, of what it means to be a literate person in the 21st Century.

9. Is teasing bullying?

The Learn to be Buddies Blog is connected to the Learn to be Buddies series of picture books. The series is written for children aged between 3 and 9 years and uses true-to-life storylines to demonstrate specific values or social skills.

This particular article looks at the definitions around bullying and why it is important that we don’t assume that every name calling episode is bullying.

But basically research and experience is starting to tell us that if we protect our children too much, we aren’t empowering them to deal with conflict and challenges life brings up – and this includes physical, emotional and social challenges.

In short, if we want resilient children who can sustain healthy self-esteem and positive relationships even through conflict, then we need to allow them some “practice” at facing social challenges with minimal interference from adults.

10. Electronics and How Much I Hate Them: A Motivational Speech

Sarah from Clover Lane (fabulous blog – if you don’t read it regularly, you are missing out!) is also a mother of five and in this post, she is sharing her experience with technology and reflecting on how things could be if she stuck to her guns.

How many LESS arguments about rules, how many less fights about who gets what controller, how much more money my children would have saved, and us too??? Do you know how many books my children could have read, how much fresh air they could have breathed, how much more creative they could have been?

If you have a school or educational based post that you would like to share, feel free to leave a link in the comments!