I have had a fantasy for some time now about a new TV program, come research project, called teacher swap. In this fantasy a team of teachers/leaders from a high end school – preferably the best – the A team, swap places with a team from a remote Indigenous school for a term.
Before they commence all team members of both teams write down their expectations, their beliefs about remote /high end schooling and their ambitions for the period. Both get interviewed throughout the process as part of the filming.
At the end of the term, the two groups are brought together with a team of wise critical friends to help them debrief and offer advice to each other and to Government.
The final event would be a small publication in the style of Richard Elmore’s book which is called “I used t think …And now I think…..” http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news-impact/2011/09/books-i-used-to-think-and-now-i-think/
Why do I want this? Well I only visited a small number of schools in remote NT. But my overwhelming feeling was one of outrage.
- Outrage at the poverty of the school infrastructure – huge mud puddles in the middle of the pathways between buildings, no water fountains, libraries that would have looked bad 20 years ago, broken playground equipment, no ramps for children in wheelchairs, very few dedicated spaces like home economics, or science facilities …..
- Outrage at the lack of specialist teachers that were available in abundance in Darwin schools – properly trained ESL and literacy specialists, careers advisors, home liaison officers, counsellors, early childhood trained teachers, remedial teachers …..
- Outrage at the lack of access to proper child assessments to determine students special need adjustments
- Outrage that classroom displays did not show rich and varied classroom activities and investigations but phonemes, spelling lists and sound charts.
- Outrage that the NT policy of funding schools MODIFIED by attendance selectively robbed these schools of quite a few essential teaching resources – resources that could have supported strategies to increase student attendance.
- Outrage that one of the few high profile interventions is in the area of male sports and that almost no schools receive funding to target girls in a similar way.
I could go on ….
Now this was over 3 years ago and it is quite possible that some things have improved. The BER will almost certainly have had an impact. But some things have not changed – the school staffing policy being but one.
But on top of these concerns I also picked up a sense that the staff at the school were not outraged. The situation seemed normal – just the way things are.
onTeachers who teach at our top schools could provide a much needed perspective on the things that these schools lack. They could also underscore how challenging it is to teach in such a chaotic environment.
Now if I had a bit of the Gates billions for equity in schooling in Australia this is one investment that I would prioritise. What do you think?