Sunday, December 16, 2012

Usian Bean

Just a quick note before I get started... I've just noticed. This is this blog's 300th post!

Mr C.K. has probably been wondering when I was going to do this post. There's been a little bit to think on.

So I've been spending a little bit of time at another school. It's been a bit of an eye opener. When the offer to go to the school first came along, I was told I could take 2 or 3 kids at a time and teach them how to super impose images.

I had to do a second take. I can easily take 8 kids at a time. Except... that these are kids without netbooks. To the left is one of the images we came up with - I only got around to a few students throughout the day unfortunately so there weren't any other interesting images to do though... I've since decided that I think I'd have a lot more fun doing tessellations with the kids. i.e. show the class the method for creating simple tessellations, get a group to come up with more complicated forms using squares (hopefully they'd discover that lines of symmetry can lead to more complex designs), another group to figure out what shape M.C. Escher's lizards are formed from (Hexagon) and how he did it etc.

Anyway, so kids without netbooks. It's easy to start taking things for granted. I found myself having to, first off, check what skills they did have. Questions such as "Do you know what Ctrl-Z does?". There was also the novelty factor. It was incredibly hard to work with 2 kids when everyone else in the class would then stand around rather than getting on with their own work. I probably spent half my time telling them to get on with it and having to explain that they wouldn't get a turn if I was having to spend all of my time having to tell them to get on with it.

When I first started at the schools, I was horribly awkward. There was a whole lot of uncertainty. Such as what can I do and not do in terms of discipline. I also went on a field trip with these kids and found myself horribly surprised by the ... lack of interaction with the adult helpers. It turns out that the uncertainty I felt when I first got started isn't all that unusual. Here I am telling kids off for throwing rubbish around (no sooner had I gotten one kid up to pick up rubbish that one decided it was a good idea to throw a bottle about - he also got a bollocking and made to pick up rubbish) or kicking other students and the other adults just seemed to be almost paralysed with indecision.

So it turns out that even though one or two of the kids looked at me with askance - wondering what authority I had to tell them to pick up rubbish, given the right tone of voice, they were actually quite receptive to it. And while I'm telling off the occasional child, I found myself a little annoyed that things that shouldn't be ignored were ignored by one of the teachers. Rather than going off and getting ready as the rest of the kids were doing, 2 kids decided it was a good idea to not only loiter, but then to do something they were specifically told not to do... twice. I told one of them off. The other was told to hurry up and get dressed rather than the misbehaviour being dealt with.

Blame all of that on Super Nanny. I've probably watched enough of it to know that 90% of it is simply setting limits and sticking to them. It's absolutely pointless to set rules but not enforce them.

The point though... schools all over the country are in completely different states. The criteria used to compare them is ineffective and the resulting kids are going to be quite different depending, not only on their on their own individualism, but also on the school that they went to and the opportunities that school afforded them. The difference between a school with a computer lab compared to those running 1:1 programmes are light years apart for example. At one of the schools within the Manaiakalani cluster, the kids spent all of their time initially, not on the internet exploring all of that horribly interesting stuff like other kids in the cluster, but instead sat there taking photos of themselves.

Which then brings up the question of zoning. Schools must accept students from within the zone and they get funded based upon those numbers. Kids from outside the zone may be accepted at the school's discretion BUT don't receive funding. This doesn't sit well with me. If I had a child, I would like to think I could chose what I felt was the school that offered them the best opportunities with an ethic that I felt was appropriate for them rather than having that dictated by where I lived.

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