Teachers’ Own Words

This category contains 100 posts

Dear Hekia, I don’t want to be an All Black

Hekia Parata shared this meme on her Facebook page today, and good on her.  As all good Kiwis know, we must never miss a chance to link something – anything – to the All Blacks.

Hekia all blacks meme

However, the analogy is entirely faulty.

Does she propose we take just the top, say 15, students in the country and throw all we have at them. Fund them the most, give them the very best equipment, best medical care, best physiotherapists, best food, best buildings and sports fields, best transport, and all the positive support a country can muster?

But what about the other students? No, that can’t be what she meant.

Perhaps she meant the teachers are the All Blacks?

That might work, because we do and always have used data to inform us in our classrooms and schools, and we do try to improve and have fun. Excellent, that must be it.

Oh, wait… I presume The All Blacks don’t have to run their planned moves by the Minister, though? Or send their data in a couple of times a year for some civil servants to check over? Or get sudden edicts from the Ministry or Minister saying how they should play from now on. Hmmm… so the analogy falls apart again.

Of course it falls apart no matter which way you look at it, because it’s just a soundbite and means nothing.

Teachers are not the All Blacks. Nor are we the All Black captain.

We coach the ones who play well, the ones who don’t,

the ones with boots, the ones without,

the ones who would rather have a punch up than play to the rules,

the ones who want to play but are too shy or unsure,

the ones who think they are Richie McCaw when in fact they are more Ritchie Valens,

the ones who try so hard but never quite get to the top team,

the ones who blow your mind by making great leaps forward,

the hungry ones who can’t focus,

the depressed ones whose minds are somewhere else,

the ones going home to a warm dry house and the ones going home to mould,

the ones who can’t see the ball,

the ones who run the wrong way,

the ones who’d rather draw the ball or redesign it,

the ones who want to be an All Black

and the ones who don’t –

the ones who can be an All Black

and the ones who can’t.

What we are is the coach of all the teams – ALL of them – and we can’t and shouldn’t pick our players. We should teach the team we get.

So, if being an All Black teacher means picking only the very best, I’d rather be a little league coach any day.

~ Dianne Khan, SOSNZ

Reducing teachers to remote-controlled robots

What on earth is happening to teaching? There’s a wave of almost unbelievable practices appearing in classrooms. This is the latest jaw-dropper and, truly, I am stunned:

“Last year, my school contracted with the Center for Transformational Training or CT3 to train teachers using an approach called No Nonsense Nurturing.

It c3powas supposed to make us more effective instructors by providing *immediate, non-distracting feedback to teachers using wireless technology.* In other words, earpieces and walkie talkies.

I wore a bug in my ear. I didn’t have a mouthpiece. Meanwhile an official No Nonsense Nurturer, along with the school’s first year assistant principal and first year behavior intervention coach, controlled me remotely from the corner of the room where they shared a walkie talkie. (Source)

Where to begin?

The teacher is forbidden to speak in whole sentences.

The teacher must narrate what is happening in the room: ‘Noel is is finishing question 3. Marjorie is sitting silently. Alfredo is on page 6.’

The teacher must speak in a monotone voice.

The teacher must stand on both legs and not favour one over the other.

The teacher, it seems, mustn’t teach but must manage, and do it in the most robotic way possible.

It sounds as though there’s no room for joy, no room for praise, no room for individualisation. No room for the human, personal connections that are vital to a healthy learning environment. Just a teacher with an earpiece being directed from the back of the room by three people selling a product:

robot teacher Jetsons“*Give him a warning,* said the voice through the earpiece I was wearing. I did as instructed, speaking in the emotionless monotone I’d been coached to use.

But the student, a sixth grader with some impulsivity issues and whose trust I’d spent months working to gain, was excited and spoke out of turn again.

*Tell him he has a detention,* my earpiece commanded. At which point the boy stood up and pointed to the back of the room, where the three classroom *coaches* huddled around a walkie talkie.

*Miss: don’t listen to them! You be you. Talk to me! I’m a person! Be a person, Miss. Be you!*”

Teachers, when you look back ten, fifteen or twenty years, did you ever imagine it could ever come to this?

And yet it has.

New Zealand teachers please don’t be complacent and think this is just the Americans, we wouldn’t ever do this.  We are not immune to madcap and ill-thought-out education reforms, nor are we immune to the lure of the chance to make a dollar or two from selling snake oil. This will especially be a danger once the TPPA is signed and free trade overrides education policy.

KIPP charter school chain, who sell this method, have their beady eye on NZ and have been here to visit business groups and the Minister…

Like it or not, one way or another, US education reforms deforms seem to eventually find their way to Aotearoa, no matter how far away they seem at the start.

Unless you want an earpiece, three coaches and a complete castration of your teaching skills, you must actively resist.

Kia kaha, teachers. Stay strong.



Further readings:

National testing of primary school students is political not educational

The letter below is from Beth Beynon, a mother in the UK, distressed at the impact of testing on her child.

Please, NZ, trust us that have seen both countries’ education systems first hand when we say NZ had it right in the first place by having in-class testing that was not made public or used to label children.

Please don’t let the already poor National Standards mutate gradually into this horror story – which it will, if we just sit by sighing and muttering but fail to stand up and be counted.

Testing should be there to inform the teacher and the student about what is learned already and where they might go next. It is a learning tool. It is not a labelling tool. Or, more accurately, it shouldn’t be.

Read the letter and consider where NZ is going:

“Dear Prime Minister,

crying childToday my daughter got her Year 6 SATS results. Level 4 across the board which, my years of teaching experience tell me, is absolutely spot on for Year 6.

So can you tell me why she has spent today in tears? Why she’s lying on her bed sobbing, because she knows she’s not good enough?

There’s a part of me that barely has the energy to write this. To ask you why you insist on putting 10 and 11 year olds through a system that takes nothing of child development or good pedagogy in to account, or why you put relentless pressure on schools to up their expectations, so what was once seen as good progress is suddenly a failure. But why bother? Why bore you with analogies of weighing pigs that nobody fed? You won’t listen to highly qualified education experts, or even people who, you know, actually teach. So I’m under no illusion that you will listen to me.

I do however want to tell you what is happening in my house tonight.

My funny, intelligent, artistic daughter has received a message today.

She’s average.

The government has told her so.

And that’s not good enough.

The fact that she has rhythm in her soul, a stunning singing voice and takes people’s breath away when she dances, the fact that she thinks about the meaning of life and loves to ponder the great questions like why are we here and what our purpose could be, or the way she cared for her dying Grandmother – painting her toe nails and singing to her, the way she puts her younger sister into her own bed because she woke with a bad dream.

These things that make the whole person that my daughter is. It’s all irrelevant.

She’s just average. And that’s not good enough. You’ve told her so.

Another one bites the dust.

Thing is Mr. Cameron, my daughter is wise to you. At eleven she has learned that SATS are just a game.

“I’ve not learnt anything this year Mummy,” she told me during the harrowing and stressful weeks leading up to the SATS “Just how to pass some stupid test for the stupid government”.

From the mouths of babes, Mr. Cameron, from the mouths of babes.

And so here we are. Your SATS results are in. You can number crunch to your heart’s content. You can order schools from best to worst, rank them, categorise them and make them work for you. Numbers are clever , aren’t they? Look what they did for bringing all those children out of poverty! Clever old you.

And meanwhile my daughter will go to sleep tonight despising a government that has squandered a year of her education so they can tell her she’s no more than average. And that it’s not good enough.

Oh, one more thing. She brought home her Grade Three ballet certificate today. She got a distinction.

But I don’t suppose you’re the slightest bit interested in that.

~ Beth Beynon

This is what happens when testing is done for political rather than educational reasons.

No-one in their right mind wants a testing regime that leads to so many distressed children who are doing perfectly well but now believe themselves to be ‘less than’.

As teachers, we must think seriously about what we are being complicit in, and we must ask ourselves when we are going to say “Enough”.

~ Dianne


Beth Beynon’s letter, published on Facebook

Further reading:

National Stigma – two teachers speak out

National Standards Should Not Be Published, by Prof. Martin Thrupp

Dear Principal, we are opting out of National Standards

Dear Peter Hughes, we need to talk about discriminatory teacher pay scales…

Fair-unfair wagesAn open letter to Secretary for Education, Peter Hughes…

Dear Mr Hughes

I am sure you are aware that a group of devoted and experienced teachers have been receiving an appallingly unfair remuneration deal in this country for a number of years now. I am of course referring to teachers who completed their qualifications either before or during the period in which the degree qualification was phased into Teacher’s Colleges.

I’m also sure you will agree, that it reasonable that these teachers who are can often be equipped with over thirty years of experience (and that’s after completing three years of education with world-leading institutions to boot) should be able to earn the same as their equally dedicated and hard-working colleagues that have more recently graduated.

The current scheme is not just puzzlingly inequitable to a number of dedicated and expert teachers, but it also undermines the reputation of our education system. By instituting such a needlessly dichotomised strata, we are now implying that the teachers who completed qualifications during this period are not worth as much as teachers who have studied more recently. Which as you can imagine is pretty insulting to people that have dedicated their life to education.

To illustrate the issue, the following is a real life example of a teacher in this situation:

Teacher X graduated studied for three years at The University of Waikato and graduated with a Hamilton Teachers College Diploma with Commendation in 1981. She has been teaching for over 20 years and each year has completed professional development, which has been very relevant and useful and has included training in Reading Recovery, Literacy Leadership and specialised teaching in The Arts.

In a role at her previous school Ms X held a permanent unit for leading The Arts and a fixed term unit for Literacy Leadership. The permanent unit allowed her to progress to a higher pay scale, but still not to the same rate as a younger, more inexperienced teacher who also completed three years of study with the same or any other university (just at a later date when it was called a degree).

Ms X then moved to a new location due to a change in her husband’s career. She was appointed a position at a local primary school on the spot at her first interview due to her experience, expertise, and glowing references. Her new role included a unit to lead literacy with a focus on writing, but because schools have the autonomy to decide how units can be used, she discovered that all curriculum units at her new school are fixed term and therefore went back to the maximum salary on the Q1 scale ($56,177) plus the unit allowance.

You must agree that this is somewhat confusing when comparatively teachers with a three-year Bachelor of Teaching degree can earn $68,074 after only seven years in the classroom. Especially when you consider teachers in the same position as Ms X also completed three years at Teachers College. The younger teachers have done nothing wrong and should be celebrated for having the courage to undertake an increasingly thankless career that has become cynically devalued by a government looking to shift the blame for their own social failings onto their most dedicated public servants. But it simply does not make any sense whatsoever for us to divide our teachers along these lines, when they are all there for the same reasons and are all equally qualified to do this work.

I realise this is an issue that the NZEI has been attempting to address for years with no resolution in sight. The Advanced Classroom Expertise Teacher (ACET) allowance is not an appropriate resolution. While it might help a few selected teachers who are employed by schools which are supportive of the scheme, it does not really address the inequity and it will take a long time to be implemented. The other issue with the already problematic ACET allowance is that it does not help rectify the damage done to the reputation of the education system or educators who gained their qualification from this period, who received sound professional training.

The most logical and easy solution that would completely eradicate the issue would be for The Ministry of Education to simply recognise the qualifications of those in the position of Ms X, and who are still teaching, as the equivalent of the current degree credentials (which they are). I fail to see any explanation of why this has still not happened, especially considering the relatively small number of teachers this would affect in 2015.

Mr Hughes, addressing the discriminatory system for older experienced, effective and dedicated teachers who haven’t had the opportunity to complete degrees is long over-due. I strongly urge The Ministry to remember that these teachers, who despite facing substantial financial disadvantages when compared to several of their colleagues, have made a significant contributions to young lives in this country for a number of years. It is well beyond time that their professionalism, expertise, commitment and loyalty is acknowledged and rewarded accordingly.

I look forward to the day these teachers are given a fair go. In fact I look forward to the day when all teachers are given a fair go.


Bevan Morgan

Punishing poor children to prove a point is bad economics as well as cruel – Bevan Morgan

defend the children of the poor

Bevan Morgan writes:

“I’ve written a lot recently about our government’s pathetic effort last week in shutting down the food in schools legislation. And I’ve learned a few things since then.

“The biggest takeaway has been that we have a major problem with how people conceptualise issues. Listening to people’s attitudes about poverty in New Zealand it is clear that it’s not simply a case of people not knowing about poverty – it is that that they don’t actually understand the very concept at its core foundation. Describing the reality and impact of poverty to people from middle NZ is like trying to explain string theory to someone who has never even heard of the term ‘physics’. You may as well be speaking Cantonese.

“There have been a lot of people tell me various myths, misconceptions, and out right lies about the poor in New Zealand. But even if all of those things were true (which they are not) not one single person has been able to explain to me how anything that poor parents may do wrong is the fault of the children.

“Not one single person.

“Because people are so angry at the poor for being poor, they have no problem with the wealthy ripping us off by $9.5 billion a year. And they have no problem feeding the future generation to the wolves despite the fact that they profess to love kids. That’s insane.

“Even if we look at it selfishly, people are so angry at people for being poor and daring to want assistance that they are literally willing to punish potential future doctors and engineers just to make a point.

In pure dollars and cents terms, our attitude to poor children is an absolute waste of future money: We are throwing away future billions for the cost of some Weetbix.”

“This is so counter-intuitive to human nature it is absolutely staggering. But sadly our leaders have done such a good job of hiding poverty that nothing is going to change any time soon. Unfortunately things will only change when inequality becomes so ridiculous that we have lost our middle class.

“But then again if the USA is anything to go by, this won’t even make a difference.”

– Written by Bevan Morgan and shared with permission.  Read more by Bevan, at

What could we do to improve education?

Mr Fitz, teacher and voice of sanity, once again speaks truth to power. Unfortunately, power is once again selectively deaf.

Mr Fitz - improving education

I shall leave it to you to decide the possible identity of the female, but I feel she could do with dark hair… perhaps the cartoonist, David Finkle,would do me an edited version… (Shameless hint)

My thanks to David for once again allowing me to share his work, which is always totally on the nose and deserves a HUGE audience.

~ Dianne

See more excellent Mr Fitz cartoon strips here:

Mr Fitz Comic Strips – Facebook

Mr Fitz – Twitter

David Lee Finkle – Cartoonist and Teacher – Twitter

Teachers Council v. EDUCANZ – spot the difference

As a past elected member of the New Zealand Teachers Council I find myself profoundly offended by the Ministry of Education’s advertisement for EDUCANZ in today’s Dominion Post, headed up “We’re making changes to education so all Kiwi kids can fly. Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand.

NO respect for teachersWhy is it in today’s political climate, that any new initiative has to be accompanied by denigration of the previous, as if the previous policy was so flawed and so led by misguided and insincere people that it had no value at all?

The Teachers Council was a replacement body for the Teacher Registration Board which had been an effective organisation but one with limited powers. The Board, Director and staff of the Teacher Registration Board were wholly in favour of the new Teachers Council with its broader powers and focus on promoting the professional status of teachers.

Yes, the NZ Teachers Council had a rocky start. The first Chair was driven from her post by unfounded and politically biased accusations – she was later cleared but it was too late by then. This led to the appointment of a director who, while a good person in many ways, was not really up to the task.

This all changed with the appointment of a number of truly effective chairs and of Peter Lind as Director. Over time this hard work gained acceptance of the Council across the profession – even (remarkably) in the university teacher education faculties. What a fantastic effort to make something as bureaucratic as registration accepted by teachers! Now for pathetic political reasons, all that hard, dedicated work by Peter, all of his staff and a whole swag of Council members and chairs has been discarded, marginalised and treated as worthless.

The Ministry of Education has a website page listing the differences between the Council and EDUCANZ. (See also this version on the EDUCANZ website.) Their view is that key to this is the status of EDUCANZ as an independent statutory body rather than an Autonomous Crown Entity. Apparently this means that the Minister can select members to create a skills-balanced organisation rather than relying on the vagaries of the electoral process – so much for democracy. And of course the Minister appoints all members of the Council – that makes for real independence.

At least five candidates from this nomination process will be appointed by the Minister, with the balance being selected by the Minister.

EDUCANZ Transition

The goals of the new organisation are listed. It’s worth looking back at the goals of the Teachers Council and trying to spot the difference.

This is a sham, a total sham. I am really pissed off!!

~ Ken Wilson


Kia kaha, Celia Lashlie

Celia-Lashlie3It with a very heavy heart I share these words from Celia Lashlie, who has terminal cancer.

I was fortunate (understatement) to hear Celia speak 2 years ago, and every word she said mattered. It made you think, it made you reflect, and it often made you laugh as well.

She is one astounding person, and I hope this next stage of her journey brings some magic along with what will surely be some pain.

Kia kaha, Celia, and thank you.

~ Dianne


From Celia:

When We walk to the Edge of All the Light…

““The seductive nature of the modern world allows us as human beings to believe we are in charge. In today’s world we think we are in charge. Technological advances and intellectual knowledge we continue to acclaim, leaves us with the sense that we are in control and that there is enough time to achieve what it is we want to achieve.

We become complacent about the need to take care of ourselves… always something more to do. Some of this is driven by our desire to save the world, others driven by the desire we have to reach the many goals we have set ourselves – many of them superficial. The simple reality is that we are not in charge and that moment of realisation comes to us when we learn of the fragility of the human spirit.

For some,that lesson comes unexpectedly and hard. Late last year I slowly became unwell. The stress of the lifestyle I was living, the demands I made of myself, the demands other people made of me and expected to meet became too great and as 2014 closed I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that had spread to my liver.

No treatment, no cure, only palliative care. I’d waited too long to look after myself and my body broke.

To say that it was and is a shock is a major understatement. and as I look at the amazing family and group of friends I’m surrounded with as I now travel a different journey warms my heart.

At the same time, there are feelings of trepidation about what lies ahead. I’m now focused on the moments of magic that are appearing in front of me: The laughter of my grandchildren;a smile of a friend attempting to walk this journey with me and the pure beauty and strength of my adult children as they battle their anger, grief and sadness at what is happening to their beloved mother.

It’s time to leave the work to others now. My wish is that others will learn to stop before I did, to take into account the limitations of their physical bodies and to take the time to listen to the yearnings of their soul.

It is in the taking care of ourselves we learn the ability to take care of others.

“When we walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen : There will be something solid for you to stand on, or, you will be taught to fly.”

“Faith” by Patrick Overton – “The Leaning Tree”

Are you teaching mastery or speed?

You know the scene, the teacher asks a question and hands shoot up so fast it’s entirely possible the sound barrier is broken. Bums start to jiggle on seats, hands start to wave and bob up and down, and a wee cacophony of “ooh ooh, me, miss, me” begins.

School students learn quickly that the fastest hand up often wins the game, but is that right?

We’ve all seen the kid who shoots his hand up like a rocket but when called for his answer gets it wrong.  Or gives a totally random response. Or who quite simply has nothing.  But, hey, thinks the student, the hand was up first, so that still counts for something, right?

Teachers come up with many ways around this.  Fingers on noses instead of hands in the air; think, pair, share; no hands up at all.  But the kids still find a way to show they got the answer super fast, because they have already learned that fast means good.They learn it from teachers, parents and other kids. First is best.

We need to counter this.

First is not always best. Accuracy is more important than speed. Taking the time to think about the problem so that you can choose an adequate strategy to approach and solve it is a huge skill. Kids need to know that speed develops with mastery and confidence.

So next time you ask your kids a question, reflect on how they answer you and why. Accurate or fast?  Students need to know there’s nothing wrong with getting a wrong answer – it’s the road to learning. But what a shame to get a wrong answer just because you didn’t give yourself time to think properly.

Slow and steady can indeed win the race: the goal is a good answer not just a fast one.


Please, no more “it happened for a reason”

There’s a case to be made for positive thinking. It keeps your spirits up, helps you forge forward, gives you energy. It can lower rates of depression, increase your life span and even help you fight of the common cold.

Man, oh man, do people really believe that!

Man, oh man, do people really believe that!

But if one more person shares a meme proclaiming ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ or ‘everything happens for a reason’ in response to some awful situation, I swear I might explode.

Positive thinking doesn’t insist you keep your head in the sand and ignore life’s unpleasant situations.

Just think about how insulting that is to the victim of a terrible situation: If you are bullied or sick with hunger and told ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,’ it somehow implies that the awful thing you are going though is not only okay but is good for you.

I call bull on that kind of thinking.

Sure, if something awful happens, it pays to make the best of it.  You can’t turn the clock back, it can’t un-happen, so using positive thinking about it can help you face it.  But that’s not the same as accepting it happened for some mystical reason in order to help you grow as a person.  It didn’t – it happened most likely because someone made a poor choice and you were on the receiving end of it.

Think of some of the dreadful things that happen every day:

Got hit by a speeding driver? ‘It happened for a reason.’

Job paid poorly? ‘It happened for a reason.’

Burgled? ‘It happened for a reason.’

Beaten by someone? ‘It happened for a reason.’

So hungry it hurts?  ‘It happened for a reason.’

happened for a reasonNo!  No, it most certainly did not.  It happened, sure.  But not for some ethereal reason.

You might learn from whatever happened, and you might grow from it, but correlation does not equal causation, and to imply it does is cruel to those who are actually crushed by whatever happened to them.

No-one deserves to be a victim. It is not for a reason.

So please be careful when reacting to someone who’s had an awful thing happen to them.  Please, no platitudes and no memes.  Instead, listen to them, take their feelings seriously, and ask what you can do to help.

~ Dianne

If you need support:


Kidsline is New Zealand’s original telephone counselling service for all kids up to 14 years of age. Kidsline operates from 4pm to 6pm Monday through to Friday. When kids ring they will speak to a Kidsline buddy – a specially trained teenage telephone counsellor.
P 0800 54 37 54
W is external)


Need support or want to talk? Contact Youthline.
P 0800 37 66 33 or Free Text 234
W is external)


Lifeline’s telephone counselling service provides 24 hour a day, 7 day a week counselling and support. Calls are confidential and free and you will speak to a trained Lifeline counsellor.
P 522 2999 (within Auckland)
P 0800 543 354 (outside Auckland)


0800 726 666



Nowt so queer as folk – #28daysofwriting day 2

I have many passions in life. I’m mildly* obsessed with apostrophes, love board games, am fascinated by physics despite knowing next to nothing, am addicted to online Scrabble, and like a goodly dose of sci-fi.

train spottersOther people’s interests fascinate me.  How do people get into dominoes to the point of making world record domino runs?  What leads someone to stand on train platforms and jot down train numbers?  Why did that person fall in love with all things Just Bieber?

It’s intriguing.  It’s also a stark illustration that we humans are complicated and often confusing wee critters, and that it’s nigh on impossible to work out what makes another person tick.

I think we grown ups might like to ponder on that more often, especially when dealing with our little people.

There’s an implicit sense in many grown ups that we are ‘expert’ over and above the youngsters, but it pays to stop and consider that really what we are dealing with there is two humans with different experiences and different thoughts on things.  Whether the other person is 5 or 55 is often quite beside the point… yet so often we grown ups talk down to children and are condescending and disapproving about what they like, believe, feel.

How many of you harrumphed when I mentioned Justin Bieber back there?  I admit I gave a smug “pshaw” myself.  And yet I distinctly recall adoring the Bay City Rollers and David Cassidy back in the day.  Was I wrong to like them?  Am I a better person now I like The Wellington Ukulele Orchestra and Moby?  I’m older, that’s for sure.  Wiser, not so much. Better, absolutely not. (I was fab then, too!)

Here’s an idea: Perhaps we could be more open to other people’s likes and obsessions?  Hell, we could even go out on a limb and show an interest ourselves – we might even learn something. And if showing an interest means possibly coming away with a new bit of knowledge and leaving someone happy that they got to share their passion, it can only ever be a win.

So, next time you want to guffaw when someone tells you they adore One Direction or Twilight or rock collections or apostrophes, instead take a deep breath and give them their 5 minutes in the sun.

You don’t have to understand it or like it yourself, you just have to appreciate the other human thinks it’s awesome.

Right, I am back off to Facebook to lose at Scrabble and wage war on apostrophe misuse. If you see me there, be kind.

~ Dianne

* very, very, very obsessed

nowt so queer as folk

Writing for joy is a gift that should never be wrapped in a marking scheme – #28daysofwriting day 1

I have exactly 28 minutes to explain why I teach. It’s both too little time and too much.  I can sum it up in this: because to teach is to learn, and to learn is the best thing ever.

So there, I have told you why I teach, and now I have 27 minutes and a fair few seconds left to fill.  It’s at times like this that I wish I typed more slowly – the speed equivalent of putting your essays in a larger font so it seems like you did more.  But I’m a teacher, and I know I’d be rumbled in a New York second if I tried that, so I’d best stop trying to fudge the system and do what I signed up to do, which is write for 28 minutes per day for 28 days in a row.

I can’t quite remember when I first thought I might fancy becoming a teacher.  I’d done a fair bit of voluntary work with children through university and various jobs I’d had, but one day it apparently occurred to me that I should teach.  Me.  The very person who faffed around at school, never did homework, only wore uniform on one single day in the 4 years I attended secondary school, and who left school with a dodgy list of uninspiring grades in even more uninspiring subjects.

Now I am a teacher, I think those dubious credentials have actually been my best asset.  I know what it’s like to be disengaged. I remember not understanding stuff and fearing to try lest I fail. I know for sure that no-one ever succeeded in conveying why any of it was important.  “It” being school.

And yet I quite by accident found myself drifting back to night-school. First for one subject, then another, and another. Then a one year foundation course for uni – what the heck!  And before I could say mortar board, there I was sporting the world’s dodgiest perm, on stage getting my degree.

So, I am able to tell students in all honesty why education matters. I can tell them hand on heart that failure is fabulous so long as you learn from it. I can sympathise when they cringe at the latest maths strategy or the new spelling words.  And I can tell them that all effort is bloody marvellous and the best thing in the whole world is trying your hardest.

I have two stock phrases that serve me well in life:

meme - YETThe first is “Yet.”  When anyone says they can’t do something, I reply with a smiley “Yet.”  When they say they don’t like something, I say “Yet.”  Soon enough they start saying it, too. And man alive, it’s liberating.  Not being able to do something yet is way less burdensome than not being able to do something Full Stop.  Yet…  Try it.

The second of my favourite phrases is “What do you think?”

When my son asks me a question, that’s my stock reply, and he often blows me over with his replies.  If I didn’t ask him, I might well assume his knowledge was far less than it really is. And I certainly would miss out on some hilarious pondering. I use it with students too… it’s the best way to find out what they know and where any misunderstandings are, as well as being happily surprised regularly at the depth of their knowledge on topics.  Let them surprise you – ask “What do you think?”

It just struck me that I should really whip the phrase out a lot more with adults, too. I talk too much – maybe asking “What do you think?” would be good for both me and for the person asked.  I have just decided that this is my goal for the week.

Wow, this stream of consciousness writing business is quite liberating. It’s about as good as the word ‘yet‘. No wonder James Joyce, Toni Morrison and William Faulkner were such fans.

Before retraining as a primary school teacher, I very briefly dabbled with teaching high school English.  Oh man, how depressing I found that. Teaching An Inspector Calls to kids who couldn’t write a legible sentence or spell basic words seemed so upside down. All that red pen.  I had to change to green pen after a few weeks, but as you can imagine, that did little to change the feeling of swimming through treacle.

The joy of primary school is that I can more easily personalise students’ learning. I don’t have to ask them to run before they can walk. And I can let them write for creativity – I can leave my metaphorical red pen in the drawer for another time when we are looking at proof reading and editing, spelling and grammar.

I tell my students that accuracy is important but it is not ALL important.  That even famous writers make mistakes. That if they ever become famous themselves they will see that there’s a whole raft of people there to proof read and edit for them.  So they should try hard to learn to write accurately – absolutely – but that is quite a separate thing to writing for joy. Writing for joy is a gift that should never be wrapped in a marking scheme.

So, for one month, I will write for joy. For myself.  I’m very sorry if my aimless ramblings turn out not to be to your liking, but, well, to be honest, I am writing for me this time, not for you, so I will continue.

And with that I see that I have 1 min 17 seconds left to bid you farewell until tomorrow’s instalment of #28daysofwriting

Phew, just in time for Broadchurch.


#Whatif parents and teachers spoke up with #OneVoice ?


No to privatisation of schools and early childcare.

No to unreliable teacher evaluations.

No to pointless testing.

No to untrained and poorly-trained staff.

No to ideology.

Yes to good teacher training.

Yes to differentiated learning.

Yes to education that is free-of-charge.

Yes to proper support for all students, including those with special educational needs and those with exceptional talents.

Yes to listening to parents and educators.

Join the 9/10 January 2015 Thunderclap here.

A Christmas Carol | Marking was dead time-consuming: to begin with.

Totally fabulous – do read it all. Merry Christmas 🙂

“Stave One: Marking’s Ghost

Marking was dead time-consuming: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. But then the new marking craze was embraced by all, despite Ofsted’s protestations that it had nothing to do with them. New marking was born: triple impact, verbal feedback stamps, dialogic, five different coloured-pens… the list went on. Old Marking was as dead as a door-nail.

Scrooge’s name was on all of the department emails and he worked his department to the grindstone.

But it was Christmas and, at length, the hour of shutting up the school arrived. With an ill-will Scrooge dismounted his stool, and tacitly admitted the fact to his expectant department, who instantly packed up their marking and put on their coats.

“You won’t be finishing that marking over the break, I suppose?” Scrooge said to his second in department.

“No, sir. I have family coming to visit,” came the reply.

“A poor excuse. Humbug. Make sure you are in early on the first day back to make up for it then.”

The second in department promised he would be; and Scrooge walked out with a growl.

Scrooge took his melancholy dinner in the usual melancholy Greggs; and having read all his emails, and beguiled the rest of the evening at home with some more data analysis, went to bed…..”

Read the rest by clicking below.  It just gets better and better.

~ Dianne

Othmar's Trombone

Stave One: Marking’s Ghost

Marking was dead time-consuming: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. But then the new marking craze was embraced by all, despite Ofsted’s protestations that it had nothing to do with them. New marking was born: triple impact, verbal feedback stamps, dialogic, five different coloured-pens… the list went on. Old Marking was as dead as a door-nail.

Scrooge’s name was on all of the department emails and he worked his department to the grindstone.

But it was Christmas and, at length, the hour of shutting up the school arrived. With an ill-will Scrooge dismounted his stool, and tacitly admitted the fact to his expectant department, who instantly packed up their marking and put on their coats.

“You won’t be finishing that marking over the break, I suppose?” Scrooge said to his second in department.

“No, sir. I have family coming to visit,” came the reply.


View original post 2,172 more words

Another teacher bites the dust

teachers drugsIn the UK, USA and New Zealand, good teachers are leaving the profession. Talent that our children need is walking away and saying no more. Why? The post below, from UK teacher Paul Jenkins, sums it up for many.

Why would I turn my back on a profession that can fill you with such simple, no holds barred nice-ness?

Well, it’s simple.

I am too tired.

I have been doing this now for eleven years. That’s 55 parents evenings, 11 open nights, 161 sets of monitoring data, 22 observations, countless referrals/phone calls home/detentions and most importantly – 2 breakdowns.

And number three was on its way when I finally threw in the towel and said last month that enough’s enough.

Read the rest of Paul’s words here.  The specifics may differ from teacher to teacher, but in the end it amounts to the same – teachers are being run ragged and blamed for all society’s ills, with little to no respect from those in power.

Thank you to Dita De Boni for reminding Kiwis that teachers are working for the children. Almost all teachers are doing a good job. They work hard. They care.

Teachers work within a system that is broken in many ways, especially when it comes to children with special educational, medical or emotional needs, and yet they battle on, doing what they can.

Paul puts it best when he says:

My real reason for going can almost be boiled down to my experience of one child.

The pupil in question comes from an extremely difficult personal situation and has suffered from severe bouts of ill health during her primary years. She has missed cumulatively around four years of her early education and as a consequence is as close to illiteracy as you can get. The cat as they say in learning support is barely sitting on the mat.

Her target level, which is as low as can be for my subject of drama is still too high for her to attain as she will need to demonstrate a basic competency with a provided script.

We have been prompting, learning by rote and generally getting round things in best way that we possibly can. I have seen her develop in twelve weeks from a physically inward and mute young girl, into a nervous but committed young girl, who always gets on stage with her group, smiles her way through the lesson and has begun answering carefully structured questions that allow her to achieve without worrying about something as pesky as being able to read.

And her report from me? A letter and a number. She is a 2c. She is red. She is underachieving.

Her work, effort and progress have been encapsulated into a figure in a column. And I’m ashamed of that.

Her parents didn’t attend parents evening so I was unable to explain their daughters apparent ‘failure’ to them in person. I phoned them to explain but to be honest it felt hollow. That was when I knew I was in the wrong job and I went to see our head to tender my resignation.

I understand that you need standards, I understand that pupil progress needs to be measured and I know that in order to build a society that is founded on a strong sense of achievement you need to be rigorous in your approach. But I honestly believe that we’ve forgotten the the very essentials of what it is to be a teacher. It’s not to create hollow vessels that can hold a mountain of information ready for an examination. It’s much, much bigger than that.

Any system that reduces all children to mere data, ignoring all else that they are, is a broken system.

Parents, surely this is not what you want? Please speak up, because only your voices count with politicians, and it is they that push these broken systems and failed ideologies.  Teachers, we have learned the hard way, count for nothing.

Finally, Paul, if you read this, you sound like a wonderful teacher and a very caring person. I wish you well.  Kia kaha – stay strong.

~ Dianne

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