Content

So having been welcomed to our heart’s content, last night and then today was mostly just focused around some genuine pedagogical content. Exciting times! It’s been a relief to get really stuck into some meaty stuff and find that I’m not completely out of my depth, and might actually have useful contributions to make. Definitely feeling the beginnings of the transformative process into my teaching alter-ego: Mr Matheson.

There’s something really fantastic about being in lectures with people who are so unequivocally engaged with the subject matter. It draws you in further, and almost has you wondering what the next insightful question will be. We were forced to hold questions at a number of points during the day due to the need to cover the required ground in the timeframe. It just becomes an exciting learning environment to be a part of, and it’s certainly inspiring to say the least.

I was fascinated today with the address from Ros Black from the Federation for Young Australians (www.fya.org.au). Her lecture was focused around the report “How Young People Are Faring” (which you can find at http://www.fya.org.au/media/publications/ ) – and specifically what was working in schools in the efforts to fight disadvantage. Check out the report, and also the “Impact of Racism” report on the same page. Genuinely useful research.

Sorry for the necessarily rushed nature of these posts, I’m afraid I can’t see a lot of depth coming into the blog while the Intensive is running: there’s just a whole lot that is going on. But I’m endeavouring to provide daily updates on things I’ve found interesting, and hoping that it helps me remember later on… I guess we’ll see.

“Doing School” – A must read for any would-be teacher

Doing School
"Doing School"

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.

Redefining “Work”

For all of my employment career so far, “work” has been a place as much as it has been an activity. Work has clearly specified hours, and any work that takes place outside of those hours has an even more beautiful name: “overtime”. But all that is about to change.

You don’t have to have grown up around teachers to understand that teaching is a violent departure from the 40 hour, 8 hours a day lifestyle I am so accustomed to, but it doesn’t hurt. I have vivid memories of parents spending every spare moment in the dining room for seemingly evenings on end, marking the latest tests or assignments, while us kids sat watching the TV. I remember that for the three or four weeks it took for the timetable to get settled during Mum’s years as timetable coordinator we’d just find any excuse to stay out of the way.

But deep down, it’s an exciting change. For starters, there is a degree of flexibility around the when and where of non-classroom related work. More than that though: I’m desperate to be doing work that I care about. So while I’m certain that the prevailing image in my head of how teaching will be must be a highly romanticized one, I am feeling quite at peace with the thought of sitting down of an evening with a glass of wine to sort out some marking.

Because I’m really hoping that teaching won’t be my next job. I’m hoping instead to have found a sense of vocation.