This morning while reading and looking for inspiration on the Aussie Homeschool forums, I came across a post with this article. It is quite long but if you have ever known a teacher or have children in an Australian school, I would suggest you take the time to read it all. (Here is a podcast interview with the author of the article). Changes in Australian education have been going on since its inception but over the last decade since I completed my education degree, the changes have been significant. While I was a student at QUT I was filled with a quiet sense of pride to take on the role of teacher in a QLD school. I loved the idea of helping to shape the minds of young people and showing them how amazing it is just to learn how to learn. Uni was my first real taste of the world of academia and I loved it because it was not until I became a student at 25, that I finally understood how to learn. My favourite subjects were educational psychology and theories in education and I loved the idea of being able to see the spark of learning in a student's eyes. I was even lucky enough to see it (once) during my short time teaching in a high school and again when I was teaching young adults at TAFE.
However, by the end of my time at uni, my thoughts and ideals on teaching had changed. I had spent some time with teachers in the field during prac and met quite a few teachers who really shouldn't have been in front of a classroom. Lucky for me though, all of my supervising teachers were amazing and inspiring and taught me so much about teaching and children. It was the other teachers, most were older than my supervising teachers, in the lunch room moaning about resources, students, parents, exams and basically showing me what I could be like after a few years as a teacher. For the first time since choosing to become a teacher, I began to think maybe it was not a profession for me.
During my degree I never actually learned how to teach. Soon after graduating I realised that to be a teacher, I had to figure out a way to just get the information to the students then test them on it. That's it. There was no time for building relationships, which is what I now understand to be the key to teaching. What the students learned - that is, what the final test showed was their level of knowledge - was a direct reflection on my teaching. Or so I thought. I couldn't help feeling completely responsible if the information (deemed important by the educational powers that be) was not retained by the students. This one thought caused quite a bit of stress for me and one of the main reasons why I knew I would never teach in a high school. TAFE was different for a few reasons; the students were there by choice and the apprentices I taught were being paid by an employer to be there. Also, most of them really liked a break from work to learn some new skills.
At uni there were lots of subjects containing the history of education as well as educational theories and how they have formed the role of 'teacher' today. It seemed to me that the teaching profession, and Australian education system as a whole, is nothing but a social experiment. I guess this shouldn't really be a surprise. The government of the day has an idea and implements it. The next government changes that idea or scraps it and implements another one. And it goes on making the art of teaching dwindle to a mere administrator role. And, as the article above says, teaching really is an art. It is so much more than just creating assessments to gauge how much information has been retained during any given time. It is personal interactions and relationships. By their very nature, relationships are unique - NOT assessable. The author says of changes in the system -
Each change limits my control as classroom teacher, undermines my judgments and detracts from my ability to act as a unique and educated professional.
When we first started down the homeschooling path it was a financial choice that sparked a change in our family. Our wonderful school had changed a few things (in their business model) that we didn't agree with and really couldn't afford so we had to think of some other way to educate our children. The author says of business models -
Schools should not be framed by business models. They should not be viewed in terms of academic results based on productivity. When we look at schools in this way we lose sight of what matters. We lose sight of students.
We didn't want to lose sight of our children, or the school to lose sight of them. I didn't want them to turn up and tune out as I did for the most part during my time at school. I want the spark of learning to grow and not to be snuffed out before then can even find out what it is that inspires them. The last few weeks have been a bit stressful for me because for some reason I have been worried about the children's progress and comparing them to other children instead of to their own achievements. This of course is not a new worry but it does rear its ugly head every now and then, usually at the beginning of a new term. Then an article like the one linked above jumps out at me and I remember why I am doing this. I am teaching our children because I don't believe in the current educational system and I know I can do a better job. There it is. The reasons may have been more immediate at the beginning but right now, that is why our children are home with us. Sometimes I need a bit of a wake up call to snap out of my school thinking. I need to forget about standardized testing and knowing where my three children are in their learning and in comparison to their age peers at school. I need to remember that most of what they are learning right now cannot be tested or even compared to their peers - or siblings for that matter. I need to concentrate on our relationships and have faith that their learning will follow.
Of course that does not mean I don't believe in teachers personally or the teaching profession. I do. I know many teachers take offence to homeschoolers and I have experienced that offence first hand. Our choice to homeschool actually has nothing to do with anyone else but our family so there is no need for anyone to be offended. There is also a need for schools and I have nothing against them or anyone who sends their children to school. I totally understand that everyone is just doing their best inside a system that seems incapable of seeing what it doing to itself and the wonderful teachers inside. The burnout rate of passionate teachers must be huge and it is such a shame that teachers like the one in the article are now cleaning apartments rather than helping provide a secure environment for our most important people in society - our future, our children.
To comment on this post... Click on the title of the post above then at the bottom of the page (it can take a few seconds to load) there will be a comment section. If you have a squarespace account you can log in using the funny Squarespace icon above the field for your name, there is also Google+, Twitter or facebook icons you can use to log in. However, if you have none of these accounts - it's ok! Just write your comment and click on the little person icon and fill in the Your Name field. Email and website are optional and all comments are moderated before publishing :)