I went to a conference today and the first speaker was talking about the ways in which children seamlessly move from virtual worlds to “real” worlds, and the ways that big corporations such as Lego and Matell are on the ball with how to integrate real life experiences with online ones, so that children are developing a sophisticated repertoire of literate practices that we haven’t even begun to build on in schools. So tell us something we don’t know.
In primary schools we don’t have the luxury of one to one devices , coupled with the fact that most sites have a thirteen year old age limit and our kids are 12 and under, adding to the mix DECS’s absolute paranoia and moral panic around online predators, capitalising on virtual worlds is somewhat problematic. But we manage to still get kids onto Blogs, make web pages, join networks, engage with digital learning objects and engage in discussion about popular sites, gaming and other online pursuits.
But because academics rarely set foot in a classroom they seem completely unaware of the complexities of teaching digital learners. They also are lieutenants of post modernism so they luuurrrve to make the ordinary and every day seem strange and politically imbued with a host of values that belong to white middle class hegemonies. But sometimes Lego man is just Lego man in the classroom and we don’t see the need to delve into this navel gazing mode du jour. We are busy. Busy with kids that come to us with a host of experiences, some of which don’t bear dwelling on.
The second speaker, Barbara Comber, talked about the same literacy issues she has been talking about for decades, in that we need to value the literate practices students develop outside of school as well as support them in the development of those sanctioned by education. But it was a comment she often makes that continues to irritate me. And that is that teachers do not have the time to engage with the intellectual rigours of our profession. It’s like her way of saying teachers are not academics, therefore academics need to come in and hyper analyse their practice for them. Poor teachers, if only we would stop dumbing down our profession.
Let me put it in plain dumb teacher terms; this really gives me the shits. Many teachers do not engage with academic articles because we don’t get access to them. We are bombarded with meaningless curriculum documents that academics have also written minus the experience of the classroom or we are constantly dealing with policy documents that teach us how not to get sued. Periodically I enrol for study, because I do get bored with this, but my last experience was horrendous so I won’t do that again any time soon. However I also regularly involve myself in the analysis of my practice based on current academic research and I am very critical of the way I do my job. So these statements shit me.
When I worked in the Department as a policy officer, it was the same thing. Teachers won’t understand this, teachers won’t engage with that. Well if you stopped censoring the bloody documents and sought our opinion you might find that we can string two words together and some of us can even write intuitively and with rigorous reference to current research. When I worked with Uni SA through my role in the department I was asked to write something based on an academic’s research but I wasn’t allowed to write anything until I had submitted a sample of my writing first, to prove I was capable of writing. And then when I did write, and write well, it wasn’t acknowledged as mine.
So teachers are constantly being constructed as the pragmatic service provider, but definitely not intellectuals. Well I am telling you, thinking is what takes up the time of most of my colleagues. Is it equitable? Is it accessible to all? Is it a fair way of assessing? Have we scaffolded the learning enough? Have we offered enough opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning in multiple ways? I could go on and on, but it would probably bore the pants off you and that is why teachers don’t go on and on about the intellectual practices with which they engage. Because we are so exhausted from thinking, that what you are having for lunch is a far more preferable conversation topic in the staffroom. That and why the hell should I have to do other people’s dishes when I wash my own…that sort of thing.
Teachers are bearing the brunt of a societal backlash. They are blamed for all societies’ ills and the profession has been so degraded by politicians and academics that parents and people who deal with us on a daily basis consider it perfectly reasonable to be abusive, question our professionalism and dance on our reputations with impunity. Do you know how long the average male graduate lasts in teaching? Four and a half years. Why? because only women would tolerate the amount of free donated labour we are required to give to do our jobs well and put up with the constant misogynistic ripping apart of our good name.
So, it’s Friday night and I hold up my glass to all my colleagues and say…you rock…oh..and don’t forget you are doing my yard duty on Monday Mrs T!