Elephants on the Table!

Ever been to a meeting where some “elephants” were raised from under the table?  Well at a recent staff meeting two elephant type issues were raised: student’s repeating classes and teacher roles and how allotment decisions are made. 

I have previously made comment on students repeating and had the leadership team read the research article I referred to. It was interesting being challenged on this issue from some teachers with personal stories of how successful individual cases of students repeating classes have been. I asked some teachers to produce evidence and conceded that school entry and readiness for academic learning was a separate point however I was not quick enough on my feet to ask had they asked the person who repeated what they felt years afterwards or tracked the so called benefit? 

In reflecting on this issue I myself repeated what would be now be called year 9 in secondary school for academic reasons and as the research suggests quietly suffered – I was fortunate enough to enter a religious order a few years later and was in my memory was tutored and or taught the art of study for which I am grateful to this day. After 3 university degrees of one kind or another including courses at Harvard University I enjoy reading and learning and am contemplating another course soon. I guess I was able to convince myself of my own self worth during that time I repaeted but no one outside my parents asked. And certainly academic success can be attributed to other experiences.

The second “elephant” was teacher roles. I have long been keen to hear the teacher voice in this process and thought that the other factors should be made explicit:

  • team balance which in its crudest form could mean not all the graduate teachers in one team and in its more sophisticated form could mean a range of skills and attributes.
  • school and student needs which might means balancing experience in handling a group of students with challenging behaviours or getting a teacher with particular high level instructional skills in English for some low performing groups
  • readiness of teachers to work in flexible spaces that challenge ones instructional understandings, practices, openness to talk through issues [read de-privatising teacher practices] energy levels to work in new ways for the benefit of student learning etc…
  • opportunities for leadership for some teachers who aspire to future roles.
  • teacher preferences this year expressed in the mid cycle review interviews.

This was not an attempt to define all the factors but simply an opportunity to made public some of the thinking. Questions were raised on timing and processes if people didn’t get their preferences and perhaps the right of appeal. Teachers have previously expressed the wish to stay in an area for a few years so they consolidate some skills they have learnt. Teacher role allotments is not an exact science and calls for judgements to be made. Its a challenge for principals let me say. If someone has a better system I’d be interested to explore the possibilities.

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