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Archive for the ‘Learning Community’ Category

I went to visit my hairdresser last week.  Having just relocated to a new and bigger salon, he is in the market for new staff.

“Not easy” he told me.  “It’s not easy to find good, willing, staff nowadays”.

I guess it is the sixth sense radar I’ve developed from working with teenagers in school settings that made me zero in on his words.  But when I asked “What do you mean?”  I really didn’t expect his lengthy reply in which he  assessed the nature of today’s youth:  their lack of interest in earning an honest day’s pay, their conviction that they ‘know it all’ and their sense of entitlement.

The bottom line was that my hairdresser was finding it very hard to employ someone who was sincerely interested in working in the salon and committed to learning how to not just work with him and other salon employees, but to be interested in working with clients.

It was a tough conversation in which I found myself reflecting on the many young people who have walked through the doors of our schools.  One that found me reflecting on not just this issue, but the larger issue of society and its future.

I can’t help wondering whether or not we  – schools today – are at fault in our preparation of today’s youth.  Is it the schooling these young workers’ are leaving our schools with or is it societal changes at large?

Makes for interesting thoughts – no?

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So much is written about encouraging STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) subjects  in our schools today.

As I looked through at an article listing 11 top Israeli innovations for treating wounds I was in wonder at the ‘can do’ attitude to develop solutions for seemingly simple problems. From an adhesive bandage which has a breakable capsule that releases a multi-compound therapeutic substance onto the sterile pad to a pressure bandage which features a unique built-in pressure bar to stop bleeding, the developments listed here are quite mind blowing!

Perhaps motivation for students in our schools could be as simple as exposing them to high tech solutions to everyday problems such as these that have been developed or are in trial testing or patent pending stages of development in overseas countries.

The power of one may well inspire the power of many!

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I seriously blinked in disbelief when I read this headline in a recent EducationHQ Australia publication!

But ….. much to my shock ….. the article confirmed the stats were real!

More than 1000 Prep students aged four and five – 1028 in fact – had been suspended in Queensland in 2016 – a statistic that is almost double the 572 recorded three years earlier in 2013.  The reasons for suspension included “physical and verbal misconduct and persistent disruption.”

Attempting to explain such incredible statistics, Kevin Bates, the Queensland Teachers’ Union president suggested several reasons:

  • prep education level was only introduced in Queensland in 2008
  • young students are ill-prepared for school
  • questionable opportunities for socialization before they come to school
  • the inadequate impact of daycare and home environments

Fortunately though, I discovered as I continued my read of the article, this figure represents only 1.1% of prep students!

The great majority of state school students from prep to year 12 behave appropriately every day, are actively engaged in learning and have positive relationships with their fellow students and teachers” said a Queensland Department spokeswoman.

So ….. how misleading a headline can be when facts are stated out of context!  A great example of sensationalism and a perfect example of how a person – me – can be hooked into reading an article just based on its headline!

I found myself pondering the reason I was so easily hooked by the headline and concluded that it tapped into my own belief that kids today just don’t behave as they did in the past.  And if I needed any proof of that, I found it just last weekend, prior to reading this article, when my husband and I visited a newly opened cafe just around the corner from us.

Packed full of people, it was super noisy, so noisy we could hardly hear each other talk.  The concrete floor and massive bare walls were surely to blame I commented.   Yes, possibly, but this wasn’t the first cafe we’d been in which was fitted out in the current super modern minimalist trend, none of which were as noisy as this one.

Then we looked around and saw it!  There were kids, lots of them, far more than the usual number of young children we’d ever seen in other cafes at which we’ve enjoyed morning coffee.  And it wasn’t that the numbers were greater, it was how they were behaving which struck us.  Screaming, yelling, running around as if there was no one else in the cafe was the norm for these young ones.  It was only after I found myself wincing at the high pitched squeals emanating from more than a couple of tables, that I looked up and started assessing what I was seeing.

The cafe seated around 50-60 people.  Parents with children, who were kept busy by the cafe supplied crayons and stencils, were in abundance.  In between colouring in their pictures, kids were doing what they most often do – zooming around open spaces, checking on their baby brother or sister in their prams, arguing with each other, running over to waiters and then waiting impatiently for their pictures to be pinned up on the wall.  It felt like I was in a school playground rather than a cafe!

Clearly this was an atypical cafe!   Yet, why did it attract such a large number of young families?  Then it clicked, the cafe was right next door to the local primary school.   It wouldn’t surprise us if the cafe owners had marketed themselves to the school next door.

If yes, they clearly achieved their aim!  If no, they clearly have a problem!!  Either this four week old cafe will survive on a niche clientel or, sadly, they will close sooner than they anticipate.

The underlying reality of our Sunday morning coffee though was as clear as anything.  Societal expectations of how children should or should not behave in public have shifted dramatically since I was young and most certainly since my children were the same age.

Am I looking through the ‘mature’ age lens?  Or could it be as the Queensland Teachers’ Union president suggested ‘young children are ill prepared’ or are constantly exposed to ‘questionable opportunities for socialization’?

I’m left wondering whether young children today are naughtier than previous generations or whether their parents simply don’t know how to discipline their children.

Or … dare I suggest … could it be that somehow we failed to model good parenting skills to our children so that they in turn would know how best to parent their children?

Or … am I totally off track here trying to lay blame when in fact societal expectations have shifted, that the ‘me’ first mentality prevails and what we witnessed in our local cafe is today’s ‘acceptable’ public behaviour?!

Hmmm….  It seems I have many more questions than answers here!

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Just a few days ago, a fascinating report was filed by Matt Connellan on SBS about a young Israeli student, Sarit Sternberg, who has made a significant scientific discovery – finding a virus that can kill anthrax.

Not bad for a 16 year old student!

Enrolled in the Alpha program for gifted high school students in Israel,  Sarit is currently visiting Australia and is talking about her discovery.

Have a listen to the SBS report aired last week and share the video with students to inspire them to greater heights.

As mentioned by Sarit, it is her generation who are more easily able to think outside the box and is perhaps a lesson for us as educators to steer students in such directions.

Inspirational!

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I came across this really great animated video just recently.

James Nottingham’s Learning Challenge which he refers to as the “Learning Pit” offers some really great ideas that can be easily implemented into any lesson.    Encouraging our students to ‘think’ helps them to develop a deeper understanding of concepts.

At stage one they develop surface level knowledge where they know the basics and have a reasonable understanding

At stage two they are getting into deeper thinking where they are questioning their own and others assumptions, looking at exceptions to general rules and exploring concepts in greater detail.

Take the time to watch this short video:

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I first heard about Sharism a few years ago.  After reading about it and taking some time to ponder a little more about it’s benefits, I did what often happens with good ideas – I forgot about it!   At the time, I put off taking decisive action to either share my thoughts here or to more actively implement its philosophy!

Then I listened to Mark Zuckerberg’s 2017 Harvard Commencement Speech a couple of weeks ago, and I remembered the notion of Sharism and could see that what Zuckerberg suggests be done on a grand scale is somewhat similar to Sharism.

So what is Sharism?

Sharism is a term for the motivation and philosophy behind the collaborative building of value that results from sharing content and ideas

or ….. in other words

The more you give, the more you get. The more you share, the more you are shared.

And what struck me was the notion of ‘building community’ which Zuckerberg noted in his speech to this year’s Harvard graduates.  Identifying the divisive nature of society segregated by race, religion and country of birth, Zuckerberg paused to question his audience to confirm the fact that millennials, connected to each other as they are by social media, are ‘citizens of the world’ who relate to each other in a deep and meaningful manner, a process which did not exist prior to the advent of social media.

Social media is a tool by which Sharism can so easily be implemented:

  • just a click shares news, thoughts and emotions around the world within seconds
  • networks of like minded people can be created
  • individuals can locate and tap into existing networks
  • individuals can be empowered enabling just one person to truly make a difference
  • sharing enables continued sharing in a speedy and powerful way

Indeed – social media is a gift that has altered our world in profound and significant ways.

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UN agency ranks Australia 39 out of 41 countries for quality education

Newspaper headlines like this Sydney Morning Herald headline just two days ago, is both demoralizing and disturbing.

The League Table of country performance of nine child-related goals is a serious concern, one which many a school, its administration, principals and teachers along with parents will no doubt be questioning.

Is it just lack of money being put into education?

Is it teaching standards?

Is it ill planned curriculum?

Is the curriculum too cluttered?

Just what is behind the continual slide of Australian standards, achievements and quality of education?

While answers to these questions will continue to be hotly debated, a new theory was thrown my way just yesterday:

Australians as a whole don’t value education!

Could there be any truth to this? Could attitude or lack of positive attitude to the value of education be the stumbling block to attaining quality education?

Let’s be honest here.  Despite hours of preparation, attention to detail, provision of challenging resources and superbly equipped classrooms, we’ve all had those lessons that just fall flat.  The students don’t engage with us, each other or the subject matter.  Leaving the classroom at the end of the lesson, we feel frustrated and miserable.  The most in depth analysis just can’t identify anything we, as the teacher, could have done differently.

Could it be that student lack of interest is real and is pervading not just our classroom, but the entire school and society?

Is it time perhaps, for us to be having conversations about our collective attitude to education? To be talking up achievement, the value of education and the big picture of how Australia’s future economic and business success is dependent on a well educated population?

This is a hot potato.  A very hot potato!

Even the most remote thought that our schools are populated with children who don’t give a hoot about what they are being taught or what they are learning is a very scary prospect!

 

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