On Teaching

Well here I am. Older than most – eighty-five to be specific. For fifty of those years, as a teacher, I helped people fashion their future. Now I’m in my own future, that uncertain time so dependent on whether you can keep on breathing.

What now? Categorised by the powers that be as beyond my use-by date, I often find myself these days like Winnie the Pooh: sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.

As for the thinking part, I thought I might today share here my thoughts about the classroom as a place of learning. Why not? It’s such an important place. The real nucleus of education. That class at work is close to the only setting where you can truly judge a teacher. Validly and reliably that is.

It is where essential learning journeys begin; where the young bird flies for the first time; where words become wheels in motion; where the penny drops and the mind comes to life.

So here I stand. The following are my ideas gathered through time about teaching behaviour. Do what you like with them.

We first need to answer important questions before we start teaching. What is a classroom? What is a class?

Every classroom is an infinite cauldron of competing forces. Every class is a bubbling pot of individual differences close to boiling point on the day you take over. So when you begin you need to say to yourself, “This is serious. Learn to teach or else!” You might also be aware of the old axiom: “To teach is to learn something twice.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in his Emile or On Education, has an interesting general principle to start you off:

I have already said your child must not get what he asks, but what he needs; he must never act from obedience, but from necessity.

Interesting. Those “needs” are the key. Should they be elitist ideology or genuine universal requirements. Your immediate task ontaking over? To determine, as best you can, the precise, true needs of each child in your care.

Testing therefore will be important. Real teachers, as opposed to upwardly mobile politicians, know the difference between a diagnostic test and an attainments test, and use them both well, certainly not to create league tables and myths of superiority. So the initial teaching time, say the first six weeks, can include something like this:

Initial Attainments TestInitial Diagnostic Test

TEACH

Retest AttainmentsRetest Diagnostic

RE-TEACH ∞

It’s all basic logic. You need first, as the great educational drama guru Brian Way once said, “to find where the child is at.” You can then apply teaching that is appropriate to age, social status, home background, pupil mental and physical health, past achievements, gender, student ambition, available resources and the teacher’s professional awareness. Yes. The role of the teacher is extremely complex.

Testing will always be a part of that complexity. To be avoided at all costs however is a system of public ranking that in itself becomes the main focus of learning. Have you noticed the huge market for so called test panaceas? Worried about NAPLAN? We can fix it. Do these things and win.

Once you have established how close to the chronological age the mental age is, for each student in your care, you are ready to begin your vital work. If you are an infants or primary teacher, you are a generalist and your assessments and diagnoses will be many and varied. You will have developed your own, professional variety of tests. I have found the “getting to know you” short essay from each pupil a very good starting point. It can reveal many things including information from the Affective and Psycho-motor Domains.

I want to talk now about some of my classrooms. The memories remain.That is how I will share my visions of virtue and folly.

My First Class.Class 4B Boys Primary January 1953 45 Pupils: Sydney, Australia.

I was with those boys for a whole year – day after day after day. Each of those days began with a hymn: “Now Thank We All Our God,” and a creed: “I honour my God, I serve my Queen, I salute the Flag.” That routine and comparative order usually moved quickly into chaos. To create a learning climate in such a big class was a challenge for pupils and teacher.

I had so much to learn about classroom management. I would shout above noise, demanding silence. I would bang my desk with a large piece of wood for the same reason. I would blame and punish far more frequently than I would reward virtue. I would delay feedback with written tasks because of the large number of children in my care. It was a hard way to begin my fifty years of teaching.

Abilities in the group were so mixed too. Some were quite bright and many were well below the norms for Year 4. Average age was about ten yet there were two twelve-year-old strugglers who could not read. You had to program, teach and test a plethora of subjects: craft, English, music, maths, science, history and geography, physical education. The inspectorial system was used then. Once a year for the three years of your probation, you were visited by a learned inspector who watched you work and judged your worth as a teacher. At the end of the third year I passed and was awarded a teacher certificate. Such a challenge with but two years teacher training. If I were to begin teaching that class today, their lives would be so much better.

In A One-teacher School. Classes K-6 plus 2 Correspondence; Girls and Boys Primary 1958 19 Pupils: Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia.

Here the social role of the teacher was important. It was an isolated community and the teacher was a star of recognised social status. Links with parents were vital as was an awareness of pupil home duties on the farms. Life had taught the older pupils very valuable sibling management skills that were used by the teacher with a number of learning tasks, coping with the age and subject variety – all in one room. ABC radio broadcasts for music and social studies gave valuable assistance. We did lots of story telling for the whole group. Drama also worked well across the grades. Henny Penny for example:

One day an apple fell and hit Henny Penny on the head.

HENNY PENNY: The sky is falling. I must go and tell the Queen. Henny Penny met Goosy Poosy.
HENNY PENNY: The sky is falling. I must go and tell the Queen. GOOSY POOSY: I’ll come wiv ya.

Participation was the aim, not necessarily perfection. Which brings me to a major issue with the contemporary child.

The cyber age has drastically reduced interaction between people in real world contact situations, free of computerised devices. A serious consequence of this is a lack of practice with vital communication skills. I mean gesture, eye contact, the smile and other facial expressions, posture changes linked to meaning – they all tend to disappear in the cocoon of chat group or the SMS. Even Skype is artificial and not the same as a meeting between people without artificial links.

I believe with all my heart therefore, in the vast and present need for drama in classrooms. I mean Theatre in Education (TIE), educational drama, readers theatre and children’s theatre – all required now with constant use.

Another Primary Class After Several Years Of Teaching.Class 6A Girls and Boys Primary 1961 32 Pupils: Maitland, New South Wales, Australia.

A lovely classroom climate. Pupils working busily all the time. No shouting and banging of my desk. A gentle pause instead when necessary, waiting for silence. Important instructions were often given in a soft voice. Listening thus became a reward and helped each good listener’s progress. The effect on classroom climate was important.

One of the pupils from that class recently visited this web page and linked up with me. It was a joy and an honour to meet her. Where does a teacher’s influence end? One of the boys I taught in 1953 also found me in the same way. He was a successful sportsman and teacher. It was also an honour to share coffee and memories with him until he passed away two years ago.

A GA (General Activities) Class.This is a special category of students with limited ability in high schools, staffed by primary trained teachers. My class: boys Median Age 12-14.11 1963 17 Pupils: Sydney, Australia.

The curriculum for this group was focused on everyday survival skills. Teaching time was all-day not 40 minute periods, and in a single room. This was my entry into secondary teaching. I was studying part-time for an Arts Degree so later taught English and history in that and other high schools, and later became an English/History Master. My GA lesson notes:

Spelling: Danger, Poison, Beware of the Dog, Keep Off, Give Way, Wrong Way, Go Back, Halt, Trespassers Prosecuted, Wait Here, Do Not Touch, Electricity, Police, Ambulance, Hospital, Emergency.

Mathematics: Addition of Shopping Bills, Distance Measuring, Easy Fractions, The Four Processes: × ÷ + −.

Social Learning: Electoral Rolls, Emergency Behaviour 000, Police Functions, Interpreting Advertising, Our History and Geography, The Rules Of Good Manners, Job Seeking.

There was a fundamental need for these young people lingering at school until the leaving age of 15. It was self respect. A major strategy required was to give them support to live their debased lives. One of them said early in my time with them, “Gee Sir, you can’t be very bright having to teach us dumb ones.”

We were friends, those seventeen lads and I, and found ways of succeeding with practical things. I met one in the street after he had left the class. He was very excited and wanted to share with me the news that he had found a job with a panel beater.

Is it not an essential duty of all educators to strive to avoid isolation, despair and varying degrees of self contempt in the young? That is a call to arms for us all.

HSC High School English Class. This was a final year class with students from several cultural backgrounds. Year 12 Mixed Gender 1997 27 Pupils, Sydney, Australia.

One of my students, a young man from this class, one day gave me a poem after a lesson. It was a very good poem, hand written. So good I asked him where he found it.

“I wrote it Sir,” he said.
I heard his words with genuine surprise.
“It’s a very moving poem,” I said. “Tell me about it.”

“Well Sir, I am a Kurd. I have lived if four countries counting this one. It makes me very sad because I have not felt that any one of these places is my home.”

There he was, as I observed, a young eighteen-year-old refugee, sharing his anguish with me as a friend. I wondered what my country had done to him to make him feel so much an alien. My humble contribution was to offer support and give him more power to analyse and write in English.

Year 10 History. This was a class with students from several cultural backgrounds. Year 10 Mixed gender 1997 30 Pupils: Sydney, Australia.

My subject one day with this class was the outbreak of World War I. The specific topic was the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip. Part of my tale of the assassination ran thus:

The motorcade mistakenly turned into a side street where Princip happened to be hiding. The first three cars began to reverse to the main road giving Princip a chance to fire two shots at the archduke from point-blank range. Within minutes the Archduke and his wife Sophie were dead. Three weeks too young for the death penalty, the Serbian Black Hand member Princip was sentenced to 20 years gaol. He died in that gaol of tuberculosis in April 1918 aged a mere 23.

A day or two after that lesson I was approached by one of my pupils.

“Sir, I’m having a hard time after that lesson about the assassination of the Archduke. Some of the class are bullying me because I’m a Serb and they say I caused World War I.”

This was a shock to me. Suddenly I had to look at my history narrative from a different point of view.

It had been so easy up to that moment to classify “goodies and baddies” in clinical categories. Now one of my pupils was actually threatened by my black and white tale.

I told the troubled lad always to walk away from unfair criticism with head held high. He was not guilty o anything.

“Every nation has a dark side to its history,” I said. ”Austria-Hungary and the Bosnian Serbs had been in dangerous conflict for some time. But don’t waste your time fighting back with events for the bullies to be ashamed of. Just walk away. Learn more history and you’ll find no nation is totally free of shame. Yes. Walk away and learn more. That is your best defence.”

University Class: MA In International Relations (1 Semester 1993) . This was a public-speaking course for diplomats. There were 21 students from many nations.

The teaching strategy here was to immerse the students in great speeches and give them practice through group work largely, in analysing the material for emphasis, pauses, suitable high and low volume, varied speed, connotations, gesture suitability, appropriate posture and valid core themes. Discussion and debate were important aspects of the teaching.

Among the texts were Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Hamlet’s soliloquy, Mark Anthony’s speech on Caesar, 1 Corinthians 13, and texts contributed by the students. Interaction and peer support were noticeably a feature of this teaching program, in short “learning by doing” as drama pundits tend to say.

University Equity Program.This was a Federal Labor Government funded one-semester equity course I taught at university for non-matriculated applicants seeking entry to university. The literacy section included definition, comparison and contrast, description, scientific discourse, valid argumentation, public speaking and exam technique.

Nine Intakes, 20-30 Students, 1989-1995 a University In NSW, Australia.

The core of this program was an awareness of the power of analytical writing. Students were required to write one essay a week throughout the semester. The result was 10 essays of 250 words, based upon university model questions, all with feedback within one week. Exceeding the word limit was heavily penalised, as was failure to keep to the set question. Students learnt to get to the point quickly and keep to it without padding or irrelevancies.

I taught the nine generations of this program whose graduates achieved higher results in First Year than any other identifiable undergraduate group. Graduates later included a University Medalist in Psychology, several PhDs and many honours degrees across all faculties. Such is the power of precise, analytical writing and supportive, rigorous, ongoing guidance.

As a teacher, I can say my life intertwined with many of
these lives. One example is a single mother beset with a husband failing with alimony payments. She wanted to get into university and become a lawyer. That dream of hers came true, as did the dreams of many other such students.

My Last School.A High School In Western Sydney, Australia

When I retired from university teaching, I worked in this high school from 1996 to 2004. This poem reflects on some of the outcomes.

Vive l’école

A school is not an inanimate thing.

I found this out today

When I visited a place

Where in my yesterdays I used to teach.

‘Hello Sir’ came the voices,

And their looks of recognition

Seemed to tap me

On the shoulder

As I walked across that playground

At recess time

Into the hollow hallways

Where I heard again the footsteps

Of the past

And in its briefly empty classrooms

I met the echoes of my words

And the reflected sounds of yesterday’s pupils

With their sighs of learning struggle

Their misdemeanours

And their Ahas! of the once in a while

When insight sets in.

It was a weird experience this…

A haunted house without ghosts

Not spooks

But thoughts and words

And struggles and despair and hope

And growth and disobedience

And little triumphs over learning curves

And breakthroughs to understanding

And punishment and distraction

And anger and hatred and inspiration

And penalty and injustice and impossible tasks

And, when the last bell rang,

Memories of transformations that never end.

A school is not an inanimate thing.
 

  November 2004

Note: For images, my thanks to Creative Commons.

Memories Of A Second Class Cricketer

A Good Innings

 III

“Look after that shine please!”

John Blomley, Brilliant Swing Bowler

imagesAttribution: Wiki Commons

I have explained earlier, in my personal cricket narrative, that in 1958 I gave up my sporting ambition and returned to teaching. My appointment at a one-teacher school in the outer reaches of the Hunter Valley, with week-day accommodation only, meant that I spent my weekends closer to the city of Newcastle. So how could I not play cricket again?

The 1960 green field I had the good fortune to return to was situated at Stockton, on the north side of the Hunter River. It was a joyous return to the welcoming friendships and support I found there in that club that was a vibrant part of the Newcastle competition. I hope my surviving team mates and all families will forgive me if I focus just on one team-mate. After all these years I realise more strongly that ever what a brilliant human being he was.

My motive therefore is to make this little piece of mine an obituary in effect to a special friend, John Blomley. Off the cricket field when I knew him, John was a doctor serving the Stockton community in particular. On the playing field he was a star. That star shone not only on the cricket field. As a medical student he had been a fine Rugby Union centre-three quarter with Sydney University, New South Wales and Australia.

Here is a little more on the football side of things:

Born 7 March 1927 at Tumbarumba in New South Wales, Blomley attended St Joseph’s College, Sydney where he came under the watchful eye of the famous rugby coach, Brother Henry. Here, the young Blomley learned the rudiments of the game. Brother Henry insisted on a solid foundation for the young footballer. “There is no room in a college fifteen for a boy whose hands are not safe,” he counselled. “All the footballers at the college must learn the rudiments of the game.”

So Brother Henry turned out Jack Blomley as a polished inside back. After leaving St Joseph’s College in 1944, Blomley entered Sydney University to study medicine and naturally played for Sydney University in the metropolitan competition.

… Although he declared himself unavailable for the Australian Universities tour of New Zealand early in the year, Blomley looked forward to the 1949 representative season with the Maori side touring Australia for a Test series to be followed by a Wallaby tour of New Zealand. Blomley won selection in the New South Wales team that met the Maoris in the third match of their tour. The visitors produced a strong forward display to win 19-14, but Blomley did enough to be selected to play for Australia in the first Test match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

(Source: Loc.cit. the link below)

Here is an image of John at the height of his Football power. He was known as Jack in his Rugby days.

blomley-john

  Attribution: Loc. cit. the link below

You can read more on the Rugby career of John here at this Rugby site.

Returning to matters of cricket, I can say with some confidence that wicket keepers tend to judge bowlers’ ability accurately. The bowler has a huge hand in the making of the ‘keeper’s status. Part of my destiny was to keep wickets to the bowling of John Blomley.

Now although I was a mere second class cricketer, I have been lucky enough to keep wickets to a number of Australia’s Test bowlers including Johnny Martin, Pat Crawford, Grahame Corling, John Watkins and (as a Golden Oldie) Robert Holland. I have batted against Gordon Rorke, David Sincock and Peter Philpott, all Test bowlers. You can add to that perspective keeping wickets for countless other bowlers from inter-varsity and the Grades of Sydney and Newcastle, as well as the brilliant Merv Black at Arundel for the Australian Old Collegians. Nowhere in that conglomeration of experience can a find another John Blomley.

I am not saying he was the best in my experience. But he was up there, unrecognised largely, with the stars. He was unforgettable with his wit and boundless energy. How sad for him to die aged 43.

John loved every moment of his cricket. His enthusiasm was catching. He polished that ball, especially at Stockton’s oval, like the finest medieval craftsman at work. If you bounced that ball with a throw, you were doomed to hear a torrent of abuse.

He rode the mystic winds of Stockton Bight with that ball like Pegasus. Perfect control with windy support. Three outswingers and then a sudden inswinger at LBW time. A sudden slow ball for a caught and bowled. A faster one, the wicket broken and a bail harmlessly hitting my jaw.

John was a busy doctor too. More than once play was interrupted by the urgent needs of a patient.

He was patient with me too, amidst all of his quest to overthrow batsmen. Cheerful with mistakes and generous with success. I still replay a missed stumping that would have given him a hat trick. It was a legside inswinger that left the batsman and me stranded and resulted in four byes. I have replayed that moment so many times that I am sure I could catch it now, old as I am.

It is such a long time now since I marvelled at John Blomley. We all fade away eventually don’t we? All that is left of our dreams is a memory in the minds of others. But somehow that is a very important place to be.

R

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

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