Story Number 1 - Three weeks ago, I handed my student a mark for an assessment she had completed. The mark was 24/30 . Twenty - four. Not twenty. Not four….. 24. She burst into tears.
Story Number 2 - When I was choosing a primary school for my own children I went to two open days for two similar demographic primary schools of which I live smack bam in the middle. The first principal addressed the parents and began to tell us of the history of the buildings listing the wonderful resources the school had to offer. The principal of the second school stood up, introduced the students, sat back down and let them speak instead. I chose to send my daughters to the second school.
Story Number 3 - I was sitting in parent-teacher interviews last night when one student and her mother came and sat across from me. The student looked deflated.
“I am sorry. We don’t have an interview but I really want to speak with you.”
“No worries”, I replied.
I began to tell the mother that the student sitting across from me was one of the most creative, imaginative students in my class; that her left of centre ideas were something to be nurtured; and that she had made so much progress over the last two terms as she began to find herself through Drama. The mother turned to her child, “See!”, she said. “Hear what she is saying? You aren’t stupid.” I began explaining the theory of multiple intelligence and how although schooling has been difficult for her over the past few years, she had just found her home in Drama. She left with a beaming smile.
Story Number 4 - I am currently interviewing past and current principals, teachers, students and parents about my school. It is the school’s 125th Anniversary and we are trying to capture a piece of this history through Verbatim Theatre. Interestingly, in the conversations I have had with past students and parents no one has spoken about the mark they received on their Year 8 History exam or Pythagoras Theorem. Not one of them have even referred to their HSC exam results. In fact, all they speak about is
moments of joy….
moments of sorrow.
Story Number 5 - This is not a personal story. It is not even my story. It is a story from The Sydney Morning Herald - “ICSEA is a scale allowing for fair comparisons among schools with similar students. It provides an indication of the socio-educational backgrounds of students but has nothing to do with the staff, school facilities or programs at the school. ICSEA is set at an average of 1000. The lower the value, the lower the level of educational advantage of students who go to the school. The higher the value, the higher the level of educational advantage.”
Let me say that again. ICSEA provides an indication of the socio-educational backgrounds of students but has nothing to do with the staff, school facilities or programs at the school. Oh, and don’t forget the last line, The higher the value, the higher the level of educational advantage.
I can’t begin to tell you how much this saddens me. So, instead I am going to turn the tables and evaluate the system.
Our current educational system is using ONE form of testing to measure a student, focussing on the final product or regurgitation of knowledge rather then the personal growth or personal bests of each individual. Students, like the one in story one, feel a mark is an indication of their success. It is far from it.
Our current educational system is placing more value on funding, buildings, resources then the students that reside in these spaces. Like the principal in story two who sells their community as a collection of empty spaces, our educational system is becoming empty of heart. We have forgotten why we are here.
Our current educational system favours one mode of teaching and learning and fails to differentiate for those left of centre. This leaves students to feel disheartened, isolated, incompetent and deflated... like my student in story three.
Our current educational system fails to acknowledge the most important learning taking place each in everyday. Students and teachers learning about themselves, their relationships, connections, joy and sorrow, which are expressed through the stories they have to share (like those in story four). Our system limits learning through narrowmlndness.
And so dear education system, (for the sake of creativity let’s call you Christopher), here is your report card:
Although Christopher is a valuable member of our community, he is performing well below average. He shows sophistication in his writing and policy making, but fails to apply the key values of education to his practical work. In fact, in this area Christopher is not reaching his full potential. This has been measured by the stories he tells and the stories he chooses to ignore. Christopher could benefit from being more empathetic, more considerate of others, more collaborative. He is encouraged to think more critically and creatively over the next Semester.
I believe dear Christopher, what we need to be doing is measuring schools by the fullness of hearts not the fullness of pockets. We need to be listening to the stories of those that reside in the community rather then wasting time gazing at navels. We need to stop measuring students by numbers and start measuring them by their joy. Then and only then will I take you seriously.