“TONY EASTLEY: So if I interview you in 12 months time from today, you’ll be able to tell me that some of these problems, a lot of these problems have been alleviated and we’re around these problems of deficiencies in teacher expertise?
JULIA GILLARD: If you interview me in 12 months time, Tony, I’ll be able to go through with you each of the schools that’s got extra resources under our disadvantaged schools program where we’re making a difference. I’ll be able to give you the names of our Teach for Australia graduates who are out there teaching in schools. I’ll be able to tell you about how many students have gone into maths and science teaching induced to do so by our program to halve their HECS.”
Jokes aside though, I think this illustrates the stakes of this little experiment we’re a part of in Teach for Australia. This program has got national visibility, and while the Teach for Australia staff and the schools we go into will be doing everything they can to support us – there is still a definite sense that the success or failure of this program ultimately rests in the hands of the associates on the ground.
For those of you following along at home: you could well be interested that the Teach for Australia associates now have our own group blog. So if you’re an associate, interested in the Teach for Australia program, or just looking for more whimsical insights into what kind of whack jobs would give up perfectly good careers to get into teaching: make sure you pop on over for a quick read.
For a brief while (and I’m sure this will be revisited at some stage) I had an addiction to education content on iTunesU. For the uninitiated: iTunesU is a resource provided by Apple and a wide variety of universities to make some of the university content available as either audio or video to the general public. This eventually brought me to a presentation at Stanford University by Denise Clark Pope: essentially promoting her book “Doing School: How We Are Creating A Generation of Stressed-Out, for sale Materialistic, advice and Miseducated Students”.
“Doing School” is a compelling and fascinating read. Clark Pope follows five “successful” students from a variety of backgrounds, tadalafil at a likewise “successful” school, for a whole year. Maintaining the integrity of the study, she looks at the high school education experience only from the point of view of the student: following them for their entire school day (and sometimes in their extra-curricular activities) and interviewing the students themselves across the year.
The stories of these five teenagers are certainly absorbing. Each provides an insight into the pressures placed on high performing students: from parents, teachers, the college admissions system as a whole and certainly the students themselves. But more extraordinary was seeing the impact these pressures had on each student – as they cheated, manipulated, wore themselves into the ground and compromised to build up the all important GPA, or to better their chances with a college admissions board.
While there are undoubtedly parts of the book that are noticeably more relevant for US readers than for us here in Australia, there was nevertheless plenty to be gained for a prospective teacher like myself. While for the most part teachers play only bit-parts in the student’s stories, there were a number of places where teachers showed up: as enablers of poor behaviour, manipulated and naïve cogs in a much bigger machine, and occasionally as wise counsellors – able to see a bigger picture of unhealthy single-mindedness. All in all, “Doing School” represents a sobering look at how (and indeed what) we teach our “best and brightest”. I’d recommend this book very highly to anyone working in education.