It’s Not Cricket.

“It’s not cricket.” Did you know that the first recorded use of that expression in England was early in the seventeenth century when folk were accused of playing cricket on a Sunday. That was one way out of a Laurel and Hardy “revolting development.” An excuse was needed to avoid God’s wrath.

Regarding the rules of ethics though, is cricket today the moral pastime it was once claimed to be? No comment from me. You decide.

I do have a comment here however. About something else.

This little speech of mine is a consequence of 50 years of teaching: 29 teaching children or youths K to 12, and 21 teaching teachers. Yes, it is definitely not about cricket. A topic for between seasons perhaps. Anyway here it is. You decide.

I am a graduate of Fort Street, a selective high school in Sydney Australia. I remember Fortians with affection. Yet my memories of my students who struggled to learn with me in underprivileged Western Sydney also give me much comfort in my old age. Learning can be such a victory for some of us! I have noticed that the joy of sudden understanding lasts even  longer sometimes than the school itself.

A Parting Plea

Education is not a black and white simplicity. It is technicolour!

An infinite range of variables can influence the learning success of a child. We can mention postcode, home conditions,  parent ambition, gender, health, height, hearing capacity, eyesight, teacher-child-relationships, relevance of subject-matter, difficulty of subject matter, teacher mastery of subject-matter, intelligence (whatever that is), attendance at school, change of school, constancy of failure and constancy of success as some of the potential controlling variables. I do not claim this list is complete.

 Therefore, how do we measure teaching competence?

Don’t you dare tell me we can measure teachers via pupil performance in objective or one-off single day written tests! Don’t you dare tell me you can measure the competence of a teacher of literacy in the same way!

You have to get into that teacher’s classroom. That is where the essential action takes place. That is what needs to be observed. That is the cauldron where learning has to happen. The judge has to be there; has to taste the climate that children face every day; has to smell the smells; has to see what windows don’t open in hot weather.

In my school teaching days I was inspected by experienced, observant mentors twelve times. Twelve times they passed judgement on me according to what they saw in my classrooms. Once, two Year Eleven boys tried to help me. They said loudly for the inspector’s benefit as they left the classroom,”Gee that was a good lesson!” The inspector smiled and winked at me, but those two young men knew that a glossy CV was not enough for me to get promoted in that system. They knew that I was on display there where you cannot hide incompetence. The inspectorial system was replaced some years ago by a Harvard business model in my part of the world – alas!

More cricket next time, if the weather is fine.

R.