I ended the school day grumpy. It was sunny, I had met a lot of great parents of great kids at the report day, and it was 3.05pm, but I was in a bad mood. This is unusual for me. 3.05 on Friday is generally the pinnacle of my contentedness with the world. Here is why.
At the beginning of the day I found this out:
Confidential papers, obtained by The Dominion Post, reveal the Education Ministry has suggested returning the pupils – who include those repeatedly suspended, expelled or who are long-term truants – to mainstream schools.
Dominion Post, 20 March 2010
These students are at activity centres. This doesn’t mean anything to anyone outside the school system. We have one at our school. It’s a house down the road with ten students and one teacher. These ten students have been so hard to manage in the mainstream school that they attend this alternative. A bit more flexible and low key, but very focused on getting those kids through school.
The article tells us that the money for alternative education would be protected but redirected to something like fighting truancy, or programmes within school grounds. I see. This makes me suspect that the people who came up with this idea haven’t worked in a school for a really long time. If they had then they would know that kids like this need to be away from the school grounds so that they can focus, and not run around the school showing off to their mates, and going for smokes behind the gym, and wearing gang caps and stirring things up. They would also know that these are the worst truants because they hate mainstream school, but at an activity centre their attendance usually improves because they feel far more engaged.
I hear Tolley wants to cut funding for career advisors in schools too. Super. So now low decile schools have national standards, no activity centres, and reduced employment skills programmes for students to look forward to on the horizon. Oh yeah, and no adult education. Since the cuts last year the entire adult education scheme in our community has closed. I think National must have something against the poor. High decile and private schools are no doubt unphased by the news that activity centres are closing, and careers advise is to be reduced, and nod their heads when Tolley says that adult education should be user pays.
I find myself in the unusual position of actually beginning to hate a politician. Mind you, her actions in November last year were a startling warning signal.
Tertiary Education Minister Anne Tolley says there was no meaning intended when she read teacher union leaders a story about a rat happy with his lot in life. Tolley encouraged teachers to “think about the good things that we have in this country and be happy with what we’ve got”.
It is very hard to satirise this kind of thing. Especially when Tolley went on to explain her actions in this way:
Asked on Tuesday why she read the union executive the story, Tolley says she liked the story and wanted to share it.
“It wasn’t intended to be (patronising). It was meant to be light-hearted,” she told reporters.
“I was saying to them ‘look this is a really good book’… There was no underlying message, I was trying to share with them a book I had come across in a visit to a school and I thought they might be interested in it.”
At least she’s not the Foreign Affairs Minister. God knows what the ambassador from the Congo would think when she started reading him Where the Wild Things Are.
But there were other reasons for me to be grumpy.
At the start of last year I carefully selected students for a form class that would get two teachers in the classroom for English, Maths and Science. These students were picked because their literacy was low. It worked very well last year, and was to continue this year. I discovered today that it is only very sketchily running, with a mish mash of teachers, scattered across some of the lessons. The reason for this is that another programme was set up for an integrated learning class. This has been badly planned, and a complete shambles, but it has taken resources away from team teaching. Now, because integrated learning has gone badly they are throwing more resources at it. Result: the specially set up class is losing team teaching altogther, and some of the kids will be shifted out of the class because it is too big (it’s bigger because it was supposed to have two teachers). I found this out by chance. Nobody came and told me.
I am stinking mad.
I am probably madder than I would be normally because I am reading a book about values and integrity.
Several years ago I was introduced to the military term ground truth, which refers to what’s actually happening on the ground versus the official tactics…. Ground truth is discussed around the watercooler, in the bathrooms, and in the parking lot, but it is seldom offered for public consumption and rarely shows up when you need it most – when the entire team is assembled to discuss an important issue.
Sounds about right. When ground truth and official truth diverge widely then we are in big trouble. I feel like this. I feel like the Minister doesn’t have any feel for the issues that concern her Ministry outside a page in an official document that outlines the Ministry’s budget; and I feel like the leaders of my school are bumbling their way from one bad decision to another but still talking a good game partly for show, and partly to convince themselves that everything is ok.
Everything is not ok.