Testing testing …

About 5 years ago when my daughter was in kinder and her brothers were about to embark upon the

“most important exam of their lives”

I hoped that when she got to the end of her schooling, things would be different.  That tests, if indeed they were/are still necessary, would be taken using the technology of the day, that the test might see if you knew how to find something out, rather than if you could remember something.

Today, I’m saddened to see that the big final test hasn’t changed at all in the 5 years since my daughter started school, and it doesn’t look likely to before she finishes.

I remember reading how selective schools are bad for society, and now,  I really really want to do away with ‘reports’ all together (that’s a completely different post).

So, now when I find myself applying for the opportunity class, and looking around for the school that will really be the very best one for my daughter, again I find myself wondering why, and writing here (which I haven’t done since her older brother left school).

Too many choices and not enough choices.  Imagine if we all “had” to go to our local school, what a great school it would be.

I have actually found the perfect class for my daughter, she will flourish there and the principal has already told me she can come.  I know the teacher will inspire her, she will love it, and will love learning.  But she also loves band, and there is no band there …

So, we do the opportunity test, and may or may not get in, and if we do get in, we will meet some like minded people, and learn how to pass tests.  And there is band! Happy days!

I feel it is inevitable, that in 8 years, she will have to use a pen for 6×3 hours to do the

“most important exam of her life”

to show what she learned in the last 13 years, and be judged on that.  I would really like to know how to change that.  It seemed like we, society, were going there, but now we seem to be accepting that we just keep testing and comparing our results with the results of the world, PISA and all those markers.  Is that good enough for our kids?  Is it good enough for your kids?  Do you know how to change it?  Can we fix it?


50 questions

I need to talk to the school counsellor about my child. I’m sad about this because I know she’s busy with real McCoy problems much bigger than mine … and my child is not a priority. Its sad that I need to talk to her because my child is doing well. She’s bright and is doing well, she’s really willing to please, she really wants to do the right thing, a loves school kind of kid … who now is retreating to her books.

I need to talk the counsellor about her anxiety. I didn’t know she was anxious before she started school. Quite confident I thought she was. But now, she’s worried … her hat isn’t in the right place, her homework isn’t finished, she might lose her book, what if she says the wrong thing, will you come with me please? will you ask for me please?

She cries … not because something is wrong, because something *might be* wrong. School is scary now. In year 1, she cries, turns away, takes a breath. It’s not ok to cry. In year 1 … she learned she *must not* cry. She turns, takes a breath.

Is this what we teach our children? to turn away and take a breath?

Yes, I understand resilience, does it have to be such a tough lesson? for someone so young? who are we learning to deal with? Why do we have to ‘put on our armour’ to walk into; school, work, home? Who do we live with? Why are we so hard on each other?

From kindy to year 1

In a school far far away the classes were doing their annual transition …

Some children, particularly the younger ones, were feeling anxious, some didn’t even want to go to school that day even though they’d had a really good year last year.  Their parents were upbeat, reminding them of all the good and exciting things that were going to happen that day.

At school all the children were gathered up and taken to a big room inside a building.  Their parents hovered outside and, while they were out in the glorious sunshine they were completely in the dark about what was happening inside.  They started to feel some of the anxiety their children had been expressing earlier.

After a while some groups of students came out. Many parents, relieved now to see their childrens happy faces followed them to their new classroom and went off to enjoy their day safe in the knowledge their child was settled and they’d know where to find them in the afternoon.

Slowly, some in groups, some alone, teachers started to come out too.  One was mobbed by the parents of the children they taught last year.  The parents were told, from the teachers memory, which students from their previous class their child was with.  The teacher could not tell them where their childs classroom was, only the teachers name.

The parents set off wandering around the school, some alone, some gathered in groups to try to see where they would need to meet their children in the afternoon.  They discovered classrooms inside the building the children had gone into and waited patiently for the classes to settle so they could see if their children were there, when suddenly a school leader appeared and asked firmly ‘Parents! I must ask you leave this area!’.

Defiantly, some stayed, sneaking glances into the small windows to try to get some kind of reassurance they would be able to find their children in the afternoon. Others, now visibly sick with worry, called to them, is my child in there?

The parents gathered outside the outdoor classrooms discussing their feelings about the morning.

Do you have any postive thoughts on how this could’ve been managed differently?

Homework … help!

Today I find myself in the unusual position of railing against homework at my daughter’s primary school while simultaneously in an argument with my teenager about the value of revision. Unsurprisingly I have a million questions: ‘Do my teenagers hate homework because they were made to do it an early age?’ ‘Do teachers ‘like’ homework?’ ‘Do parents like homework?’ are some.  All the primary school teachers I’ve asked say they only give homework because parents expect it, yet all the parents I talk to say it causes arguments at home and they don’t want it.

Some parents tell me it’s too hard for their children.  Others it’s too easy and doesn’t relate to what they’re doing in class.  Some parents want to spend quality time remembering with their children what they did on the weekend and helping them express it clearly in a written or artistic form.  Others are upset their child spent last weekend with their former partners new partner, while both biological parents worked.

I got to this point today when a parent posted in my kinder daughters school ‘underground facebook group’ asking if anyone has this weeks yr2 spelling words.  I had to ask more about this because of the angst I experienced 10 or so years ago strongly encouraging my sons to practise their spelling words. I wanted to know if they still use the “look, say, cover, write, check” method of learning to spell.  My boys and I had so much fun making up stories with those spelling words, seeing what we could do with 10 or 20 simple words. Or should I say, I had fun, the boys were more interested in quickly writing the words out in a column so they could go play in the treehouse.

They always did well in the spelling test at the end of the week, of course they did.  They wrote the words out every day, they were stuck in their heads on Friday.  The problem is they can’t spell them now, well one of them can – he’s a natural speller. In two weeks one will start his year 11 exams, in preparation for his final year of school. I’m not exactly sure what contribution those yr2 arguments about homework will have on his final results, but I do know that I’m being much more relaxed with his little sister and I’m very grateful she doesn’t really have homework yet.

I’m trying to emphasise revision now for all my children, in an interesting way. No busy work please, let’s talk about what you did in school today; what did you learn, what can you teach me?  My little one and I talk about her upcoming news items and plan ahead for the letter of the week in a playful way.  I wonder at what point planning for news becomes less playful and why?

I’m still learning and I’d really like to hear what you think.  What do you love and what do you hate about homework?  Can you help me and my children with your ideas about learning at home please?

Upload and link a PDF in your WordPress blog

3 Steps to loading a PDF in your wordpress.org blog

1) Position the cursor on the page or post where you want the link to appear and click the Add Media button.  It looks like a star on the ‘Upload/Insert’ line

insert media

2) Click on browse and locate the file you want to upload


3) Enter a title (this will be the clickable link), click on ‘File URL’ (so that when the user clicks on it they’ll get the file) and then click ‘Insert into Post’

insert into post

The clickable link (below) is the text that was entered into the title field (above)

clickable link


Another reason I love my job

Hi kelly,
I have just posted what we did for maths this morning on our blog.
I am so excited. I feel like a big kid.
I got heaps of comments from the kids last nights.
There is no stopping me.
Thank you so much

This is the email I received today from a yr3 teacher who earlier this year told me she doesn’t even like using the computer at home to check email.

Yesterday we had a video conference with @mitchsquires and his yr3 class of accomplished bloggers.  We’ve been looking at their blogs for about a term and finally meeting them and hearing their thoughts on blogging has flicked the switch.  So inspired was their teacher that immediately after the VC she went and created a blog and the rest is in the making.

I still get goose bumps reading that email.  Thinking about the looks on the faces of the students during the conference and afterwards when they saw their own class blog, I’m sure there’ll be a few student blogs to share after the holidays.

Thanks to NSW DET for the video conferencing and blogging facilities that helped make this happen and …

Thank you Mitch and The Blog Dogs – you are truly inspirational.

Use links in your wordpress posts

If you’re wondering why to use links in yours posts, have a read of Zemanta’s post on it.  This is another in my three steps series -helping my friends with their blogs.

1. Go to the web page you want to link TO and copy the exact URL from the address bar in your browser.

copy the exact URL from the web page you want to link TO

2. Select the word you want to use as the clickable link and click on the link button -it looks like a chain with three links

select text and click the link icon

3. Paste the URL you copied in step 1 into the Link URL field (1), then set the link to open in a new window or the current window (2), and finally click on Insert (3).

paste the URL, click on insert

That’s it for now, please feel free to comment and let me know how you went or if there is anything else I should’ve included.  You will find more information about using links on Wikipedia