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Mediocrity, thy name is school

beejay76 26 October 2010 153

back to school

I would have thought, with an Honours degree under my belt, and having started a PhD, that there would be nothing for me to learn from kindergarten.

My eldest daughter started school this year, you see. Surely, with all that education, kindergarten in Canberra could offer me nothing more.

Well, it turns out not to be strictly the case. Sure, the reading, writing and arithmetic I’ve pretty much got in the bag, and the art and craft I can probably manage. It’s the philosophy I’m struggling with.

I would have thought that equality would be fairly high on the “values” agenda. The school certainly teaches a policy of a “fair go”, but it doesn’t seem to practice it’s preachings. Let me elucidate.

My daughter is gifted. She’s not the next Einstein and probably won’t cure cancer. She is, however, extremely bright. I’m astonished that the modern education system is at a loss as to how to deal with gifted kids.

Schools have come a long way with regard to learning support. Kids who are struggling, whether with disabilities or for other reasons have a swag of services at their disposal to help them get up to scratch. Parents have been the driver of this, of course, demanding services where once there were none.

However, although it’s taken as read that a child with an IQ two standard deviations below the mean needs special education, there’s absolutely no recognition whatsoever that the same might apply to a child with an IQ two standard deviations above. I find this grossly unfair.

Surely all children should have access to an education that is interesting, informative, engaging and appropriate? Average kids slot straight in. Below average have help. Why should the above-average be left out? This is hardly a “fair go”.

There is no real gifted program. They started an extension program in Term 2. It was 40 minutes twice a week. I thought that was pretty minimal, given that my daughter was bored in class for six hours a day five days a week. But after one term it dropped back to one day, as the teacher was ‘busy with other duties’.

I don’t know if it’s even happening this term. Imagine the furore if this was a learning support unit! Why should the gifted kids be getting this raw deal?

I think there are a few reasons. Firstly is that some people are unwilling to even admit gifted people exist. This is patently ridiculous. Intelligence, however you measure it, falls on a standard normal curve. The overwhelming majority within a certain band, with small numbers above and below. Those above are the gifted and the challenged. To deny it is just plain silly. I don’t think anyone would deny the existence of those with a developmental disability.

I suspect another reason is the ranking of schools. They may be highly motivated to get the underperforming students up to par, but those high-achievers? They are already cruising.

But I think the big one is our celebration of the academic mediocre. We’ve always had this tall poppy thing going on, but it’s getting out of hand. My daughter, and others like her, have never received any recognition of their outstanding academic achievements. The school simply ignores it. However, those who achieve at sport, chess or any non-academic activity are publicly lauded. They have swags of certificates every fortnight handed out to children (including my own) for things like “displaying caring”, or “recycling”. But as far as I know, none has ever received a certificate for academic excellence.

While I think sport, chess, caring and recycling are important, so is learning. In case we’ve forgotten, that’s what schools are actually for.

Celebrating a range of achievement is important. Supporting those with a disability is important. Recognising that we’re not all good at the same things is important. But also, recognising that some people achieve academically is important. Are we really so scared to recognise academic excellence that we risk stamping it out?

So this is what I have learned from kindergarten, 2010: achieve only where it’s popular to do so.


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153 Responses to Mediocrity, thy name is school
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Woody Mann-Caruso Woody Mann-Caruso 3:18 pm 04 Nov 10

I taunted them a second time.

When will you start flinging cattle? 😉

Holden Caulfield Holden Caulfield 2:20 pm 04 Nov 10

colourful sydney racing identity said :

cleo said :

3jane and me no fry

Are you both think or what, of course a criminal lawyer defends criminals durrrrrrr

This post is funny for so many reasons.

Yep, probably explains why the grandchild is considered to be so gifted.

colourful sydney racing identity colourful sydney racing identity 1:57 pm 04 Nov 10

Me no fry said :

cleo said :

3jane and me no fry

Are you both think or what, of course a criminal lawyer defends criminals durrrrrrr

As think as a plack?

Somebody remove your humour chip?

No it’s standard operating procedure for her.

Me no fry Me no fry 1:08 pm 04 Nov 10

cleo said :

3jane and me no fry

Are you both think or what, of course a criminal lawyer defends criminals durrrrrrr

As think as a plack?

Somebody remove your humour chip?

shadow boxer shadow boxer 12:22 pm 04 Nov 10

Well I did but then people started calling me names so I taunted them a second time.

😉

Woody Mann-Caruso Woody Mann-Caruso 11:14 am 04 Nov 10

So much for ‘Yeh, alright, i’ll let it go’.

colourful sydney racing identity colourful sydney racing identity 9:54 am 04 Nov 10

cleo said :

3jane and me no fry

Are you both think or what, of course a criminal lawyer defends criminals durrrrrrr

This post is funny for so many reasons.

shadow boxer shadow boxer 8:02 am 04 Nov 10

I have already answered the question several times on why I don’t become a teacher, it doesn’t pay enough to meet my lifestyle requirements. I think we have general agreement on that. The problem is it never will while it remains a part time occupation.

I have never said kids should be in school 48 weeks but I have said a summer school type system for academic excellence and remedial catch up is accepted best practice in the worlds best education systems. The down time could also cater for non-core activities like school camps, athletic carnivals, school plays, sports camps etc that curently eat into the 10 week block. It is also an opportunity for teachers to develop and plan, who knows a bit more of that and maybe your job would be a bit les stressful.

While I dont have a lot of time for the current crop of 21-27 year olds who seem to just want to know where their next pinger, tattoo or vodka is coming from my experience with the current crop of year 7 to 10’s is that they are an absolute delight, (articulate, well rounded, respectful to adults, keen to learn and possessing excellent bullshit detectors) I imagine they would be an absolute pleasure to teach so some of the attitudes on here are a bit dissapointing.

georgesgenitals georgesgenitals 6:36 am 04 Nov 10

Jim Jones said :

Really, what is this pissing contest that people get into about this sort of crap. You have to be very very stupid to think that spending every waking hour working is a really good thing that makes people deserving of special respect.

I suspect many people think their job is stressful at times (and it could well be), and having someone who works in a different profession to you telling you that your job is easy and cruisy is taken as offensive. The reactions you see here are quite natural.

I’ll offer an alternative. I work a busy professional job, and get paid quite a lot more than most. I often work 10 hour days, and put up with stress. It’s also my choice to work that job, and I’ve spent many years learning it, and working to get better at it. If I didn’t want to do it anymore, I could get a job I perceive as easier.

Frankly, if people find their job incredibly stressful, they should change jobs. This town has so many options – it just takes a bit of initiative.

cleo cleo 12:26 am 04 Nov 10

3jane and me no fry

Are you both think or what, of course a criminal lawyer defends criminals durrrrrrr

Hells_Bells74 Hells_Bells74 7:08 pm 03 Nov 10

** the kids need to man up that is, not the teachers 🙂

Hells_Bells74 Hells_Bells74 7:02 pm 03 Nov 10

Yeah, someone way back asked “what would the teachers do in the holidays” or something similiar. How about teach kids. It’s not like the kids get quality time having 10 weeks off a year when half their parents have to work anyhow or even with stay home parents, it’s just a time for more expense and entertainment.

Oh I would dearly love no more than 6 weeks of school holidays as a mother. They get a lot of long weekends too and quite frankly, they need to man up! Life is much tougher than that.

/rant

BerraBoy68 BerraBoy68 6:46 pm 03 Nov 10

boxie said :

@shadowboxer Have you ever been a school teacher? If you have why aren’t you now? Have you ever worked in the environment? Until you have how dare you have the gall to suggest that my stand down is a rort. If I didn’t have that time off I would not be able to teach. It’s an incredibly stressful job, and I teach at one of the “better schools”.

I wish people would stop basing their opinions of what teachers do on their experience of school rather than any teaching experience. Spend a week in my shoes and you’ll see both the joys of the job, but also the difficulties of it.

I’m a consultant working 12-15 hour days helping the government buy billions of dollar worth of stuff. That’s really stressful too except for the 4 weeks I get for holidays. However, I still bow to those in the military and emergency services who face all sorts of trauma each and every day and who also only get 4 weeks leave a year.

I went out with a teacher for 5 years and never once say this ‘stress’ or long hours of which you speak. I did see a lot of questionable behaviors by her and her colleagues towards students and guess what, she’s now a Principle.

However, if life for teachers has become so tough for you and your colleagues, boxie, maybe student teachers should be psychologically tested as part of their education degree to see if they can handle the ‘extreme pressures’ of a classroom.

Jim Jones Jim Jones 6:44 pm 03 Nov 10

I like how the argument about pay is premised around this masochistic idea that you really have to suffer in order to ‘deserve’ a decent wage, regardless of your actual contribution to society.

“I work a 400-hour week and don’t get toilet breaks, the only time I ever stop toiling is to hammer nails into my testicles (I pay for the nails myself). I’ve never ever had a holiday and I wasn’t allowed time off to attend the funeral of my wife and child – who I’d actually never met because I just work … so … damn … hard.”

Really, what is this pissing contest that people get into about this sort of crap. You have to be very very stupid to think that spending every waking hour working is a really good thing that makes people deserving of special respect.

boxie boxie 6:24 pm 03 Nov 10

@shadowboxer If it’s sooo easy and such a bludge get in the game then, become a teacher or can’t you do it? Is it beneath you? Can’t you deal with kids? Is it tooo much of a pay cut? Don’t tell me how to do my job until you’ve done it. Do you really think you’re kids can do 48 weeks at school?

@vg that’s why you as a police officer get that extra time off work, that eight weeks of standard leave.

Oscillate Wildly Oscillate Wildly 6:17 pm 03 Nov 10

If people are so jealous of the 6-8 weeks holidays and cushy conditions, why aren’t more of you signing up to become teachers???

vg vg 4:46 pm 03 Nov 10

“It’s an incredibly stressful job, and I teach at one of the “better schools”.

How about having a gun pointed at you, and/or a knife? I’ll see your ‘stress’ and raise you 100

shadow boxer shadow boxer 4:39 pm 03 Nov 10

How dare someone have the gall to post a meaningless opinion on an anonymous internet forum, that’s funny.

Aren’t you just reinforcing my point, the idea that, in this day and age, a years worth of education can be squashed into 40 weeks is ridiculous. Far better outcomes would be achieved for all parties if we did it differently. Take a step back and surely you can see that.

I know the parents would prefer it and I’m sorry but I just don’t buy the argument that teachers are the hardest working and only people in our community that work hard enough to deserve 6-8 weeks of additional paid leave a year.

boxie boxie 8:51 pm 02 Nov 10

@shadowboxer Have you ever been a school teacher? If you have why aren’t you now? Have you ever worked in the environment? Until you have how dare you have the gall to suggest that my stand down is a rort. If I didn’t have that time off I would not be able to teach. It’s an incredibly stressful job, and I teach at one of the “better schools”.

I wish people would stop basing their opinions of what teachers do on their experience of school rather than any teaching experience. Spend a week in my shoes and you’ll see both the joys of the job, but also the difficulties of it.

shadow boxer shadow boxer 8:23 am 02 Nov 10

dude, your post is like the Internet equivalent of calling someone a stupid head and then running around with your fingers in your ears so you don’t have to hear the response.

In this thread and the other one I have articulated a logical proposal on why having teachers work through the school holidays would produce better outcomes for all parties (teachers, parents and kids). Some of the things that could be done during these times include extension learning, remedial learning, extra-curricualr learning, lesson planning, cross training, school camps, resource development, individual student needs and requirement analysis, faculty team building etc.

I have also stated that if that was the case I believe the status of teachers would be considerably improved within the general community and a salary the equivalent of the top increment of an EL-1 (about 100k) would then be appropriate for a year 9 or 10 teacher with 4-5 years experience.

The only counter views that have been presented have come directly from teachers and make two points that both assume there is nothing wrong with the current system.

a. the extra leave is a perk of the job and i’m taking it; and
b. I work really hard and need this time to rest.

If by small minded you mean;

Adjectivesmall-minded (comparative smaller-minded or more small-minded, superlative smallest-minded or most small-minded)

1.Selfish, petty, constrained in thought, limited in scope of consideration.
2.Not interested (or capable) of thinking about the big picture.

I’ll let others judge.

BTW I asked my friend how work was going at the club on Friday, He said he’d had a good day because he had spent the afternoon with his kids watching “how to train a dragon” on the smart board. I suggested he might need some serious R&R in Saigon to recover but he didn’t get the joke.

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