As Mr Shultz, Mrs Fuller, Mrs Nadarajah and Mr Lazaro
undertake a 14-hour flight to the UK to interview potential Alice Smith
teachers, I sit down to write this week’s KLASS Times article as Acting Primary
Anyone who has been into the Primary Campus this week
would have noticed that things seemed just a little different! Thanks to the
hard work of our dedicated teachers and supportive parents, students this week
have been transported into Space, sent back in time, experienced other’s
culture, explored prehistoric times and joined the circus!
“Sounds like a very usual week at Alice Smith!” I can hear
you say and yes, you are probably right, but as I sat to eat my lunch between a
3-eyed green alien and a bonneted Victorian schoolgirl, I started thinking…
‘Just how much has school changed since Victorian times and what will it be
like 100 years from now?’
For today's children, used to inquiry-based approaches,
group work and circle-time, Victorian teaching methods are a shock and for some
of our Year 2 students this week, one day of strict school masters, nail
inspections, canes, dunces hats, curtseys, rows, silence, rote learning, and
drill was enough to bring them to tears. Surely school today has come so far
from the days when children were to be seen and not heard?
Ex British Education Secretary,
Michael Gove’s speech at the opening of BETT 2012, suggested that little has
changed between then and now.
fundamental model of school education is still a teacher talking to a group of
pupils. It has barely changed over the centuries, even since Plato established
the earliest "akademia" in a shady olive grove in ancient Athens. A
Victorian school teacher could enter a 21st century classroom and feel
completely at home. Whiteboards may have eliminated chalk dust, chairs may have
migrated from rows to groups, but a teacher still stands in front of the class,
talking, testing and questioning.”
Is he right? Is education the same
today as it was over 100 years ago and will it remain that way for 100 more? As
I walk around the classrooms of Alice Smith School, do I see teachers standing
at the front of the class writing on boards? Do I see students taking tests to
prove they can? Do I see hands up and students answering questions? Well, yes,
but it is no longer only the teachers asking the questions. Tests are now far
from our main form of assessment and the student voice is the one that shape’s
the direction of the lesson. The classrooms are bright and resource rich and
displays include work from a range of abilities and across a wide range of
subjects and themes. Interactive whiteboards, i-pads and laptops are used from Pre-school and mistakes are not punished but seen as learning opportunities.
Peers learn from each other and talking in class is expected!
Learning what they did, the way they
did during Victorian times did have its purpose. Large classes (sometimes over
300) meant that control was paramount and back then career opportunities were
limited. Most students knew the roles they would take on as adults; women to
become housewives, shopkeepers or teachers and boys likely to become miners,
doctors or bankers – often following in their father’s footsteps. Drill
(Victorian PE) even had its clear purpose – to instill discipline and prepare
students for national service. Thinking for one’s self was not encouraged or
Today’s students have an uncountable
number of future career choices. Many will take on jobs that have not even been
invented in countries they have not yet heard of. Teacher’s today have the
challenging task of preparing students to enter the unknown.
So what is the purpose of education
today? Can we really prepare our students when we don’t know what they will
need to know?
Well, Alice Smith teachers do know
we need to teach our students to:
- Be respectful of others as they travel the world and live in host
- Communicate with people of different socioeconomic backgrounds,
beliefs and status.
- Collaborate with others and/or lead a team to success
- Be able to solve problems and independently
ask questions - hunting for answers when no one before them has found one.
For our students to be successful in
the unknown world of tomorrow, we need them to be motivated, brave and
confident. They must believe in their abilities and have the resilience to keep
trying. It is the job of teachers today to ensure that students have all the
knowledge, skills and attributes necessary to be happy, healthy, successful adults! These skills cannot be learnt by
rote, they cannot be read in a book nor can they be instilled through fear and
Schools today must be places where
students can think creatively, explore, question and practise applying the
skills they will need in tomorrow’s modern and unpredictable world.
So, do I agree with Michael Gove?
No, not one little bit!
Thank goodness our children go to
school today and thank goodness they go to Alice Smith!
Primary Campus Assistant Principal - Curriculum