Archive for August, 2013

Education policy setting us up for increased prison populations.

August 23, 2013

It seems strange that, in the one week, our State government both announces staffing cuts in Education and announces that they have to put more funds into education because the State Schools’ student numbers are increasing beyond forecast levels.  This is after an election where they claimed to have the budget under control and “fully funded” all their promises.  (No, I didn’t believe them, but many did.)

They have already cut the staff in the Personnel area so much that services are affected, and cut expert support so much that the experts have barely time to catch the phone calls let alone research answers, and yet they are cutting “non-frontline areas” further. In 1996 it was estimated that 20% of Western Australian school students were of non-English speaking backgrounds (http://www.mceecdya.edu.au/verve/_resources/wa_file.pdf); personal observation says the percentage has increased. These students are particularly at risk, and (experience shows) likely to shift schools, but staffing policies are cutting the support and staffing flexibility the frontline workers need to deal with the range of students’ backgrounds. This is like the army destaffing the Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps. (USA equiv: Quartermaster Corps)

They already have students in Years pp-2 who desperately need more one-on-one work, (What do you expect, when the electronic babysitters combine with non-english speaking background and with  toilet training falling out of fashion?) yet they are cutting Education Assistant numbers. They are setting the scene for increased imprisonment rates when those children – often those from disadvantaged backgrounds – reach their late teens. Many countries’ prison services have said (e.g. http://www.doc.nv.gov/sites/doc/files/pdf/education/Education_Services_Spring_2012_Newsletter.pdf) that teaching these children to read is vital. They are also setting the scene for more violent juvenile crime, as lower literacy is linked to antisocial aggressive behaviour.( Reading failure and juvenile delinquency. Hogenson, Dennis L. http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1975-09851-001)

I am short-sighted, but I can see ahead more than ten years.  Pity the electorate doesn’t.

Culture and interpretation of actions

August 19, 2013

A preservice  teacher linked me a 40-minute 2003 documentary , “Children Full of Life.”   (“Namida to warai no happî kurasu: 4 nen 1 kumi Inochi no jugyô”) It is worth viewing by those interested in teaching for happiness and resilience, including making an emotionally supportive classroom.

My interest here is the interpretation viewers make of the teacher’s actions part way through.  This is an example of factors to consider when classes have mixed cultural backgrounds,(Western readers might watch the video before continuing.)

Background

For those who do not watch the video, it is a class of 10 year olds.  The Class aim for the year is happiness.

Through their use of daily letters, the students have implicit permission to write about painful topics, and to have public reactions to others’ letters accepted,  This includes the sudden death of family members.

The teacher is able to hug a grieving child. but also to spend two days making the bullied know they are seen as wronged (““Bullying is contempt, and hatred, completely indefensible.”) , and to make the hidden bullies think about the reasons for their behaviour, the effects on others, and start to admit their actions.

Action

19 minutes in – that afternoon, teams are going to go  rafting in self-designed -and-built rafts in th school pool.

Teacher posture at 20:17 – 20:24 shows  he is angry at continued improper conduct of a student, as he bans him from the afternoon rafting,  The preservice teacher, a Manga / anime watcher, says the posture says “I show I am angry / disciplining.”

A team member protests courteously and asks others to speak, and continues protest argument for a  little.

21.51 – 22:11, 22:35 – 40 The manga / anime watcher says that the posture (folded arms, eyes shut, chin up, that expression)says “I officially disagree with you, but I want you to give me a good reason to agree with you.”

Teacher does eye-bag-at-side-of-nose scratch and slight chin lower at 22:41 as a student says “But it’s partly our fault, too” – (visual “yes, continue…”) hand returns to less closed position –  but eyes shut, chin up .  When the first speaking student claims it was a group task, not teacher task, so group has a right “If it’s all right with us, he shouldn’t have to stay behind”, 23:21 teacher lowers chin, and tilts face towards speaker. Student asks others whether invite him, and they do. 23:22:  teacher opens eyes as they murmur agreement, looks at speaker.

Speaker then notes class agreement and respectfully asks teacher to permit the boy to go in their group to rafting.  Teacher says “Well spoken, Yo.” and (by gesture) invites the teary speaker to a high-five.

 Conclusion

From many westerners’ viewpoints, the teacher was giving strong negative signals – and risking class disruption by closing his eyes.  From the (Western ) Japanese Youth Culture enthusiast’s  interpretation,  the teacher’s posture (including  closing his eyes) was giving strong tacit, visual permission for further attempts to speak for the argument.   Do any young Japanese have a comment?

Cross-cultural teaching is such challenging fun.