As HSC scores and ATAR results roll into the school’s conversations and the media coverage, we find ourselves evaluated and judged on the basis of these. The media only has access to the Band 6 (90 and above) results of students in each subject so schools are ranked on this basis. In this post I want to discuss the unmeasured outcomes.
In Year 12 Society and Culture today I was meant to be covering the dot-point in the syllabus about the future directions of the country we had chosen to study for the topic of Change and Continuity. We have been studying Vietnam. In class, students were organised into small groups and were supposed to use all that they had learned about Vietnam to predict what would happen in the next 5 to 10 years. They had spent several weeks studying Vietnam at the end of last year and had a refresher lesson and a half this week.
However, they struggled to focus, which could partly be because it was Friday, at the end of the first full week back, on a day of an assembly that went for over an hour and that they are keen to move onto the next topic, Popular Culture. Every bit of pleading and guiding failed. So I let it go. I decided to give myself a break for 10 minutes and leave them to discuss whatever they wanted to discuss. The group that most interested me included a girl who suffers from anxiety and the most chilled girl going around. They run in completely different social circles but they were using this time to find out about each other and their attitudes towards school. It was fascinating to eavesdrop on the conversation as Miss Chilled gave Miss Stressed advice and Miss Chilled learned how much other students care about results and doing their best to perform at school. Miss Chilled expressed how much she loves school because she lets all the hard bits just wash by her. Miss Stressed couldn’t believe that people like Miss Chilled exist in the world. What I was most fascinated by was how much they listened to each other intently and learned about different perspectives and attitudes towards the purpose of school. And isn’t that what Society and Culture is all about? Yet this conversation will never be measured or recorded except in this blog and possibly in their own memories.
All up, the three groups came up with some good basic fundamental future directions for Vietnam but mere bones which need a lot more flesh. I’m frustrated that I feel the need to do one more lesson to expand their ideas when my schedule says we should be starting Popular Culture. How often do we ignore learning opportunities because of our plans based on content driven syllabuses? Thankfully in Society and Culture we have more scope and space than most other subjects except for the timing requirements of the Personal Interest Project (PIP) but I’ll save discussion of the PIP to another day.
The assembly today was a celebration of the 2014 HSC students who achieved an ATAR of 90 or more. It was a well ran event with one of those students performing a piece out of the musical Chess, a guest speaker, the Head of Curriculum speaking and two of the 2014 HSC students speaking, ending with the student who achieved the top ATAR mark for the grade. Both the students spoke about balance and tried to provide advice for how to approach the HSC, study and school life in general. They had both very thoughtfully constructed speeches directed at their peers. The seeds they may have sowed today will never be measured because the cause and effect of HSC results to speeches like these are not measured. My daughter is in Year 12 this year and a similar event occurred at her school and the highlight for her was similar advice from a past student but her outward behaviour will not change in any detectable way. I’m a big believer in sowing seeds that may blossom immediately or may take an age to show life.
Today I had 10 minutes with a colleague who is resistant to change and having to learn new things but she is thrown into a circumstance where she must. I showed her how to use the technology required for our Year 7 program and provided some tips along the way to make it easier and more efficient. All these little moments of teachers learning are not measured; it seems that only the big registered courses that count in the teacher accreditation process. The 10 minutes snatched here and there are precious in the teaching world but are not valued enough. Teachers learning from each other, planning together and even teaching together is vital for the modern age but there isn’t enough of it.
Ah, my 28 minutes are up. I’ll sneak in here at the end stuff about my last class of the week with Year 7, my second ever Geography class with them, with both lessons having a focus on the technology set-up rather than the subject itself, and that’s fine. While they were learning about the technology and some basics of high school Geography, I learned about them. I learned how a boy interrupts me mid-sentence every time he had something to say (and I wonder if he is allowed to interrupt his parents at home), how another could not stop talking no matter how hard he tried, how some boys have patience and resist the hardships being dependent on technology can bring, while others want to give up at the first sign of difficulty. I learned how strongly independent some students were, and they weren’t who I expected. I learned that most of the students started the year with a concept that Geography is all about nature and that the human element is a perspective of Geography many hadn’t considered before. I don’t know all the students’ names yet so I don’t have comprehensive notes of all this but this information is invaluable for deciding my attitude and approach to teaching them. How can this sort of thing be measured?
At the end of the school day I gave my congratulations to Year 7 for making it through their first full week of high school and was very corny by asking them to give themselves a pat on the back but they were happy to do so. I imagined giving myself one too. Survival, resilience, resisting temptations, and letting go of control…these things are hard to measure but are so important to life and learning. When are we going to start valuing the unmeasured more?