On Teaching and “Productivity”

Some Recent Thoughts

One click  on “TEACHING” below will give you access to the thoughts, and to a poem I wrote soon after I retired in 2004 from a teaching post in a Sydney high school.

TEACHING

Regarding that poem, education ministers and administrators should remember that the students below the test mean are half our future.

***

There are some challenges for teachers with that failing group of students that objective attainments tests do nothing for. The test psychosis in the minds of political administrators just now is courting disaster. I am not saying we don’t need tests. Test teach retest reteach has got to be part of every teacher’s program. What I am against is the tyranny of haloed attainments tests over everything else.
All my best wishes to the teachers of today. I am compassionate and proud that I understand ( to a large extent) what huge sacrifices you make and what difficulties you face.
         Royce

An Effort To Escape

No evil dooms us hopelessly except the evil we love, and desire to continue in, and make no effort to escape from.

George Eliot

So far I have lived twenty-three years longer than Shakespeare. Oh my! What he would have done with that extra time.

As for humble me, I have noticed so many dark deeds in my eighty odd years I will feel guilty unless I at least draw attention to some of them now. That is why I am writing this.

That looking glass of mine still seems to be getting darker and darker. All my years of teaching and that infinity of classrooms have created so much data.

I feel driven just now to talk about the shadows that worry me. Are you familiar with Plato’s Cave? That sums up the way I feel pretty well. So many people in my life have announced THE answer to so many things. One of my problems is that I have seen so many unexpected changes I am beginning to wonder if you can be sure of anything.

Is uncertainty the only certainty? But wait a minute. If my answer is “yes,” how can you be certain about the certainty of my answer? My brain needs a rest. Contact with these four heroes of mine might help you understand what I am trying to say: Georg Cantor, Ludwig Boltzmann, Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing?

Please note therefore I’m into suggestions not certainties but possibly useful points of view here. For now, as I’ve said elsewhere, I focus on one cause of my anguish at a time. This is the second post in my list.

I am sick of all the sad news around me so I have decided to laugh a bit here.

The problem this time is

Things are not what they seem to be.

The means alas, justifies not the death!

FAKE NEWS 4 SALE. MEDIA WHERE R U?

FROM OUR FOR REIGN CORRESPONDENT

  • I bought a bottle of grow-tall juice by Beanstalk Jack Inc. from my chemist last week  I know it will work because I have seen breathtaking computer generated TV images to prove its effectiveness. Six foot six within my reach! I took my first dose this morning. Watch this outer space!
  •  Midas Merten sold me a pair of Bullshit-detecting Reading Glasses for my 83rd birthday. Cost him a fortune I believe, although included was a pair of absolutely free Climate Change Sunglasses. Haven’t detected anything yet, as I read, but patients are a virtue.
  •  Error-free pens are the latest craze in the US. They are just now poker machine prizes. A new age is approaching and it’s good buy to misspelling.
  • My dear wife has bought me a Truth-selecting Hearing-aid  for our anniversary. So sweet of her!  When I hear words of suspect truth, I notice the volume gets louder but it’s good to know lies won’t trouble me anymore.
  • That Anti-aging Potion I also bought from my chemist last week has caused me a bit of trouble. It’s a three times a day job with a free, precise measuring glass and a homogenised plastic spoon. The first day of treatment went very well but for the last few days I can’t remember where I put the bottle. Damn!

MORE FROM OUR LOCAL CORRESPONDENT

 How Political Schemes Do Come True
  • A dog has just been elected to the Australian Parliament after a long series of court battles. Citizen Canis, as his owners named him, was declared a valid, living being by the High Court and approved on constitutional grounds because dogs have not been specifically forbidden by law to occupy a seat in the House Of Representatives. The dog is functional. All it needs is one bark for yes and two barks for no. The new independent member for Black Tree wags his tail a lot. Frequent requests for support in divisions are usually backed up by gifts of  export quality steak.
  • Citizens are advised that postage stamps are now, as the border enquiry suggests,

A WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION.

  1. “threatening our freedom and much envied way of life. Classified sources now reveal messages in stamped envelopes have been detected avoiding border security. This is a clear and present danger. All foreign stamps therefore will now be vetted by dedicated, well versed geologists. Please note that this may lead to delay of up to six months in delivery.”
  • The Treasurer has announced for tomorrow a state of the art plan to reduce costs and improve the lives of the aged and the disabled with a spectacular Budget switch. On this given date, all motor services for members will cease. Parliamentary vehicles and drivers’ roles will be be diverted  to welfare service for the aged, incapacitated and dying. This will save as the needy will die off more quickly than politicians and so reduce costs and workload.Self-sustained member transport will be applied henceforth. Free bicycles will be issued. For the bicycle infirm, substitute  three-wheeled scooters are planned. Long distance transport will, from this day forth, be by train only. All air transport is banned save for helicopters in a state of emergency. Overseas conferences are already missing from members’ agendas, interstate conferences will be fewer in number, and Skype and internet conferencing will become the new mode of travel.
  • Notice this. Bold steps have also been taken to reduce needed attention span in Parliamentary Question Time. Now, for both questions and answers, the number of words spoken will be limited to what can be stated in a single breath. Breath Detectors have been fitted to all microphones so that if a second breath is taken, a BD switch renders the member totally silent. An increase in the use of gestures has been noted. So too have the many Speaker demands to withdraw unparliamentary gesticulations.
  • In addition,  we report that Standing Orders in the Parliament of Australia have been privatised. The Speaker now has digital support, at a small taxpayer-funded cost, for all judgements. Notable is the Question Time Relevance Monitor. Now, whenever an answer strays from the topic, a whistle blows and a QTRM recorded voice will say loudly, “Tell the truth you devious scam artist.” Disruption has already become suddenly rare and speeches in reply are noticeably brief.
Last Comment: Ad Folk Regularly Advertise Confusion
I just don’t understand these things.

Because I am old and infirm, I don’t get out much. This means I depend on television for my awareness of the world and for advice on how to spend my meagre pension. As you can see, that is serious business. I have to concentrate hard to get things right.

That is the problem!

They keep saying things that don’t make sense. I am nearing an Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Anxiety and Depressed Mood over this. Big challenge in my extreme maturity!

Look. Here are some examples of what I mean.

  • I needed a new scrabble set because I’d lost Q. So I saw this advertisement

BUY ONE TODAY AND GET A SECOND ONE ABSOLUTELY FREE.

I contacted them and told them I’m pretty poor so I would just like the free one please. This caused an immense fuss as they said no. Well how about that! How can something be free if you have to buy something else to get it? So I’ve made a new scrabble rule. If you’ve got u and e, you’ve got q.

  • And then there was my wheelbarrow insurance.

I couldn’t afford to pay a lump sum so I spaced the cost into 12 monthly payments. Would you believe I broke an axle in January and they told me I could get only one twelfth of the value as I hadn’t paid for the whole year. They didn’t tell me that on the big blurb that got me in. Fabulists!

  • My sweet tooth got me into trouble recently. I love hundreds and thousands.

Now look what that has done to me. In one of those shops with good deals I saw a huge jar of hundreds and thousands marked SPECIAL. Now I’ve no surplus money for luxuries, but I decided on a cunning little plan to forgo toothpaste for a month and use salt to clean my teeth.

That was how I bought the great jar. That was why, when I opened it, I had another mixed anxiety and depressed mood outbreak. The jar was only  half full. Jar size trickery. No thousands just hundreds. For some sad reason those pretty sandwiches I made  were not delicious at all.

  • And now I must tell you about the Truth Converter I picked up at Vinnies for a song.

It works under the old AV system. I’ve kept my out of date AV recorders just for old times sake. When you’re 83, old times are important. Things fade away like the old Stanley Steamer don’t they, for various reasons, but they might still be useful one day. This one was.

This Truth Converter works for me! Only me.
I just plug the lead into the old AV recorder.

Look at these results. A mindblow! Look at what I fed in and what came out.

The hordes on that PM did trample as he thought a sample was ample.

robust discussion … a vicious argument

responsible spending … gainful cuts to welfare 

 a deep trust alliance …  all the way with LBJ     

a finely balanced budget … any profitable asset sold

 as soon as is  practical … before the next election

within reasonable time  …  after the next election 

   telling the truth … agreeing with me

nothing but fake news … not agreeing with me

            great prime minister …  great at hiding the truth

There you are. What fun my little toy is! Only paid $1.50 for it. Can’t wait to get back to it.

Finally, to end this post, here’s a little piece I wrote.

Use-by Date

Once in a fit of ill-informed hate

Back in the mists of my time,

Somebody wrote the use-by date

When I would be past my prime.

Then, it was thought, my mind would decay

And the voice would lose its thrall.

Thus, even though I still seized each day,

No one would heed me at all.

It is true, now that I’ve seen a few years

And I’m often in need of a bed,

Some people don’t give me access to their ears

Or even a nod of the head.

But there’s always a trumpet with smiling face

Who will tell you he’s got a solution;

But alas he is crass, brain so far out of place

Any wise thought’s a true revolution.

Yet he’ll offer false dreams with lucrative schemes

To turn all your strife into money.

All that does for me is awaken my screams

As I hide his junk mail in a dunny.

It’s a lonely place this, with your energy spent,

Where half-truths will still come and go;

If you spend your last cent to dispense with the rent,

There are few other strings to your bow.

Yes here then am I, much older than most,

Foundering, some say, and dismasted.

You may feel that I’m past it, or even a ghost,

But I’m not a loot wizard’s snared bastard.

 March 2004

Howard Littlejohn

A Loot Wizard

Thanks and respect to Howard Littlejohn

______________________


Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Twitter is no longer a place for me.

 That is all I have to say about that.

______________________

All images on this site are my own or from Wiki Commons, Creative Commons or Public Domain. If there is any error, please tell me and I will fix things immediately. All my thanks to the wonderful Wiki service and to the artists who share their gifts.

Royce

 images-1

Title: To Know Is To Be Responsible

The words of my title here are from Mordecai Vanunu. They are my inspiration.

 Subtitle: Education On Probation

I have noticed so many dark deeds in my eighty odd years I will feel guilty unless I at least draw attention to some of them now. That is why I am writing this.

So let us begin a journey of revelation even though the past cannot be changed. Perhaps we can refashion its consequences.

First a poem about  unrealities imposed by political ignoramuses:

Categories

Here I am,

Limping through what was once tomorrow,

Struggling, sighing, crying, prying,

Lying in the clutches of the quicksand known as status.

Why is this so?  If you should wish to know

The reason for my life’s hiatus,

Visit my classroom of a dozen years ago,

The bleak place where my grade will forever be

Aligned, confined, maligned, defined as E

For all the world to see.

Not people in that place

But ordered classifications of merit or disgrace,

Probed and detected by tests ad infinitum,

Whose validity moves only fools to cite ’em.

So from that space in my stark inferiority,

Degraded by others’ implied superiority,

I’ve wandered aimlessly deprived of  sanity,

Longing to meet unclassified humanity.

O why am I cursed, reviled and frowned upon

Because I am not an alpha but an epsilon?

August 2009

There you are then: some initial thoughts about the present.

Any thoughts of the past? My past?

Well yes, actually, my eighty-three-year-old mind seems to want to hang on to my school memories.

1938: Kindergarten

My school life begins.

At any given moment there is always so much still to be learnt by every child. Take me as a child for example. Here’s a bit of my history to illustrate the challenge for curriculum designers.

When I was five,
I was just alive.

A A Milne knew all about me then, and I knew him. But what of the rest of the world? Look at all the things I didn’t know about.

Who was ruling the world then?

Australia — Prime Minister — Joseph Lyons

Germany — Chancellor — Adolf Hitler

Italy — Prime Minister — Benito Mussolini

Russia / Soviet Union — Secretary Joseph Stalin

United States — President — Franklin D. Roosevelt

United Kingdom — Prime Minister — Neville Chamberlain.

Look at what was happening to other children.

“Kindertransport” allowed children to escape from Germany to the United Kingdom in December of 1938 of to save up to 10,000 between 1938 and 1940. Many of these children’s parents were killed during the Holocaust.

Look at the inventions I was to  use eventually, but so much later.

Teflon is created.

Du Pont produces “nylon”. The first nylon toothbrushes are marketed.

The ballpoint pen, also called a biro, is invented in Hungary by Laszlo Bir.

The photocopier is created in the USA by Chester Carlston.

Freeze Dried Coffee is created by Nescafe.

Look at the arts that were not yet able to shape my thoughts.

Action Comics issues the first Superman comic.

Popular Films:

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs;

Boys Town, starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney;

Jezebel, starring Bette Davis.

Look at the “adult” events so far from being understood by the child.

Adolf Hitler is Time magazine’s “Man of the Year.”

Howard Hughes sets a new Round The World Air Record of 3 days, 19 hours.

The first use of a seeing eye dogs occurs.

RMS Queen Elizabeth is launched at John Brown, Clydebank, Scotland.

Oil is discovered in Saudi Arabia.

Albert Hofmann synthesises LSD.

Mexico nationalises foreign oil wells.

The Munich Agreement is signed.

Japan commits the Nanjing Massacre in China.

Germany invades the Sudetenland.

Freak Waves at Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia have 300 swimmers caught in a rip.

Now my teachers belonged to an era very different from today.

Yet I wonder why those teachers of mine still seem to be keeping an eye on me; those mentors of Miranda Primary School south of Sydney New South Wales Australia, in my time. That distant time had war, Empire Day and the White Australia Policy. Yet Conan, an Australian  boy originally from China, was in my class and we were mates.

Those teachers of mine must have been contributing factors to that friendship. They made the curriculum of their time work for Conan and me despite the troubled world we were in.

That’s my point. Love, empathy, professional awareness can win against a hostile world and inadequate administration. Is that happening in 2017? Not sure.

Above all, there was something about those teachers I trusted and respected. Such trust is a vital need today. Teachers teach everyone from PM to Inmate 765. Their work has vast consequences. They need support and open, free doorways to their own learning. Bad schools created by a balanced budget cost far more than Shakespeare’s Horatio could ever have dreamed of. University student-mortgages kill learning.

Mr Manuel, the Miranda silver-haired headmaster (principal these days) had a lovely rose garden. I can still smell the roses. To track it down today you would need to excavate the vast shopping centre now eulogised as Miranda Fair. This could  create two kinds of depression.

Miss Rogers, who taught me to read in Second Class and struggled to remove the threepence I put up my nose one silly day, still seems to be somewhere near me now. I can still sing “Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes” the song Mrs Jurd taught me in Fourth Class. Ben Jonson’s 1616 poem “Song To Celia” still lives in me because of that teacher.

Mr McDonald, my Fifth Class teacher, ladled milk to others and me as long as we brought a mug. Departmental policies extended this innovation to sealed bottles in the Fifties when I became a teacher. The milk was free in those days. I loved it. It made me feel I was part of a family not a contest.

Just now my looking glass seems to be getting darker and darker. I have been a teacher, K to university, for fifty years. Three degrees and an infinity of classrooms. That creates a big data base for judgements and comparisons.

That’s why I feel I’ve just got to talk about the shadows that worry me, as I leave the leading lights to their own narcissistic power. I can’t talk about everything at the one time. For now I focus on one cause of my anguish. Here it is. More later I hope.

The Curriculum Testing  Calamity

Too many externally imposed, one-off tests in reality decide not what you are but how well you can do the tests. Look at the lucrative flood of HOW TO DOs for Australia’s NAPLAN Tests. We teachers warned about this before this travesty of assessment was introduced. Those sales to me are indicators of the false status given to NAPLAN.

Of course we teachers use tests. We are professionals. We teach, test and reteach. We use diagnostic tests and we use attainments tests. But they don’t give children nervous collapse and create false league tables. Can’t we do better than allow the ridiculous tyranny of one-off testing to decide the fate of children and their teachers?

More or less on this matter, here’s a little poem I wrote some years ago when the troubles began to emerge.

Dear Teacher Did You Read It?

Dear teacher did you really read my story really truly read it really truly?

What I said was true–
My darling mother died when I was only ten.
It is true I didn’t understand we’d never meet again.

It is true my world became a beast that seemed to snarl and bite.
It is true that every kindness ceased and even God took fright.

It is true my father ran away when his world seemed to end.
It is true I searched the human race and couldn’t find a friend.

It is true I longed just one more time to hold her hand in mine.
It is true I jigged away on trains to the end of every line.

It is true you are busy every day, planning and doing your work.
So much to read and so much to say that it’s only rest you shirk.

But why did you talk about full stops and little slips of the pen
And give me an E on my report card and make me write it again?

Dear teacher did you really read my story really truly read it really truly?

August 2006

For your interest, her-picture-is-here.

What is a professional? Clearly someone who by study and experience has earned the trust of society. A practising surgeon is a clearly recognised professional. That surgeon, that adversary of death, pain and suffering, is widely recognised. How ludicrous it would be to force his patients to do a politically devised objective test before each operation!

Teachers have to do exactly this.

We teachers too, have difficulty in gaining the professional recognition awarded to surgeons. We have all been in classrooms and therefore claim to have the power to judge teachers. Very few of us have been awake in surgeries.

The surgeon creates, and deserves, instant respect as an enemy of death and illness. The teacher, as a proponent of life with all its vagaries and vicissitudes, may never know the precise consequences of a lifetime of teaching and so self-respect is often the main incentive to carry on. If you get out of the classroom and wander into the deceptive backrooms of administrative expertise, you can quickly rise to power over the classroom teacher.

But if you love children and teaching, carry on regardless in those classrooms.

Epilogue

Well now here I am: eighty-three and looking back on all those classrooms. I am so glad those teaching years happened for me. I feel justified in my professional status, despite my flaws from time to time.

One special thing I really do believe. If you were to give me a child in my classroom for a year, or even half of that year, I would be able to tell you far more about that child than twenty NAPLAN Tests.

And there on my old and rickety, pain riven legs I stand.

Parting Words

The Browning Version  Terence Rattigan

Andrew Crocker-Harris: You must excuse me. I had prepared a speech, but I find now that I have nothing to say. Or rather, I have three very small words, but they are most deeply felt. They are these: I am sorry. I am sorry because I have failed to give you what you had the right to demand of me as your teacher: sympathy, encouragement, and humanity.

Goodbye Mr Chips  James Hilton

“These examinations and certificates and so on–what did they matter? And all this efficiency and up-to-dateness–what did that matter, either? Ralston was trying to run Brookfield like a factory–a factory for turning out a snob culture based on money and machines…”

Class dismissed for now…

Royce