Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Sir Ken Robinson Will Richardson, Tony Wagner and others challenge teachers to move beyond the GERM 'new normal'.

Challenging the Ministry imposed  'new normal' - there is an alternative!

I caught up with a respected old colleague ( who is still working) and asked him for his thoughts. He replied:

'I haven’t lost touch with main currents of madness but I put less energy into them as even recent history tells us that the MOE
agenda supported by a compliant education sector is able to proceed in spite of international evidence, the shortcomings of our assessment methods AND the voices of reason from respected NZ critics – including you' And he added, ' most of the current teachers know nothing of the creative approaches to teaching that  you represent.

I have recently written a blog sharing the views of respected New Zealand educators - all ignored by those in Welligton who pull the strings in education  .

Kelvin Smythe is one who writes with passion about the  negative effects of the current educational ideology recently made the comment ' the difficulty lies at the principal level, where so many principals have been rewarded like Pavlov’s dog for enforcing the most terrible of education ideas'. Such principals reflect the 'new normal'.
Lester Flockton

Another educator researching current educational policy wrote to me

'it is important to let teachers and educators know that there is an alternative to the dominant instrumentalist rationality for education; that education is just a means to an end of increasing economic growth.  In the contemporary era especially, the articulation of an alternative is in itself a political act, as it disavows the neoliberal dictum ‘there is no alternative’'

He continued:

'Don't know if you've read any Michel Foucualt?  He would say that the Ministry builds its own truths through networks of power/knowledge and discounts the statements of 'experts', and the experiential knowledge of teachers, although they are the ones that work in it every day, counts for little'.

So it would seem that we are now in what we could call 'the new normal'. Three decades of imposed neo-liberal ideology has all but pushed out  teacher led creative alternatives.

Keeping a creative alternative alive is the point of my blog.

Unless a sense of alternative is articulated teachers will find themselves further captured by the neo- liberal ideology as seen in other countries that the Ministry relates to - featuring  National testing, League tables and performance pay and the like. This ideology is often referred to as GERM - the Global Education Reform Movement.

We need more mavericks
For a horror story relating to  our possible future (unless things change dramatically) read what  Phil Cullen, a retired Director of Primary Education Queensland, has to say about the results of appalling test oriented Australian education.

I believe it is important to challenge the status quo ( the 'new normal' ).

 I believe that real innovation comes from classroom teachers - and that sharing their ideas is the only way to effect creative change not imported ideas out of tune with our culture.

The trouble is in our current compliant educational culture
Time to fight back
principals , and in turn teachers, waste valuable time satisfying Ministry directives and targets. Few teachers can now find the time  or resources to provide ideal learning environments; too busy complying or simply keeping their heads down; going along to get along; or, worse still, oblivious to the need.

Sir Ken Robinson, in his excellent book 'Creative Schools: Revolutionizing Education from the Ground Up' states the situation clearly that creativity cannot exist in:'an education system
The 'new normal"
based on standardization, measurement, competition corporatisation and conformity
- one that suppresses individuality, diversity,imagination and creativity.' 

True change  Sir Ken writes, 'is not coming from the top down; it is coming from the ground up':We need instead a system that 'enables students to pursue their own interests and strengths.'

Many principals have listened to Sir Ken's TED Talk videos or
Time for courage Skinner!
read his book but few have the courage to put into action his advice.

Schools , even the so called Modern Learning Environments, still reflect the teaching of a past industrial age. Follow a learner through a day and little will have changed - literacy and numeracy  ( with  ability grouping)still  take up most of the day.

Take the time to listen to  educationists  giving a real view of education and how it needs to transformed ( to move beyond the 'new normal') :

Will Richardson - transforming  education. 

Tony Wagner ( and read his valuable book) Reinventing education.

 American Teacher Joshua Katz The Toxic Culture of Education. Powerful stuff

Tony Wagner
 Peter Hutton A courageous Australian secondary school principal outlining how his school has personalized learning. Schools, he says, currently only works  for a third of all students. A powerful TED presentation.

Teacher Esther Wojcicki. A unassuming quiet revolutionary. See how she transforms her teaching. Don't give up on her. She is amazing.

Kayla Delzer. Teachers as learners students as leaders.Why do some classrooms look the same now as they did 70 years ago? .Kayla explains how to release the power in the classroom by giving students ownership of their learning and making it relevant to them.

And take another look at Sir Ken's powerful TED 'Do schools kill creativity.'

Lets begin getting rid of the 'new normal' imposed on school by an ideology that places teacher creativity at risk and start to learn about, and share, the ideas of creative teachers past and present.

That's why I write this blog..

Two books to give schools courage to change:

David Hood ( NZ ) The Rhetoric and the Reality.

Creative Schools by Sir Ken Robinson. This is one book that all schools should have



Anonymous said...

You are so right. When things become 'normalized' then they become the way things are done. Invisible. Unquestioned. And worse still defended.

Bruce said...

The changes were dumped on schools beginning with the introduction of Tomorrows Schools in the 80s and anything before this was demeaned by those introducing the changes. As a result the baby was thrown out with the bathwater. The standardized formulaic top gown approach is now ingrained. In many ways we have returned to anti creativity days of the 50s

Thankfully there are still creative teachers soldiering on waiting for the tide to turn - a bit like the French resistance in WW2.

Some of strongest resistance comes from educations older warriors who can say what they like about the orders from the central politicians.

One day the current ideology will run out of steam and we may see the creativity of the 60s remerge.

Bruce said...

Happen to visit a school today and saw the corperatized charter on display. What a waste of principal time - time better spent focusing on teaching and learning. Full of doubtful targets. Felt sorry for the principal but he had little alternative but to comply. Complying to requirements developed by technocrats long removed from the reality of a classroom.

Bruce said...

I have been thinking about the dilemma facing principals in today's schools. Following my previous comment I met up with a few local principals at a local pub. It is always interesting to listen to what they are up to.

Made me think about principals generally. There is no doubt in my mind they are good people doing their best to keep alive a focus on teaching and learning although the demands to develop 'their' new corporate charters with appropriate goals in literacy and numeracy takes up so much of their valuable time.

I have been feeling a bit guilty because in recent maths I have been criticizing principals for not standing up to the mounting demands for standardization, formulaic 'best practice' teaching, and the moves to 'corporatise' school through the recent charter requirements. All such efforts to determine teaching is part of the current neo-liberal Market Forces approach to education ( and every other public service).

After observing for myself the demands placed on individual principals I now understand the pressures on such principals. May be some may even believe it all but my feeling is that they have little choice but to go along to get along.

I sense that there is a conflict between principals believe and what they have to comply with - in such situations integrity is at risk. This is made all the more difficult when there is no collegial support from their national organisations.

The best advice ( to misquote GK Chesterton) 'If a thing is not worth doing, do it badly and get on with the important things'.

One day things will change as the corporate model is found wanting ( not everything that is important can be measured). Just keep up underground resistance ( or act as a group) and keep the focus on teaching and learning. Pick out the best bits and focus on those.

And keep up with resistance/subversive reading. Buy and read Sir Ken Roberson's latest book 'Creative Schools - transforming education from the bottom up'. Make it your bible.

It is not easy being principal in such a toxic environment.