Wednesday, 6 May 2015

What is old fashioned in Ireland?

What is old fashioned in Ireland the actual Leaving certificate or the Teaching Strategies? What about teachers who have been teaching for twenty years - when do they get opportunities to develop their own skills or build on their own professional development? When are they shown how to transform their teaching using modern technology - is this form of continued professional development evident anywhere in Ireland. This is what the Government need to invest in.

Please think back to when you were in school - Are these statements too dramatic?

Greater emphasis should be given in the Leaving Cert to assessing “higher order thinking skills”, an independent report has recommended. The study into the predictability of the senior cycle exams by researchers at Oxford University Centre for Educational Assessment and Queen’s University, Belfast, found that the issue was “not very problematic” across six subjects investigated.

I was absolutely startled as I read another 'sweeping statement' made in the Irish Times again today. Is the Leaving certificate being criticised for not testing the pupils, for not ensuring that higher order questions are asked? May I please ask you the question, were you nervous with regards to the leaving certificate? Weather it was the meticulous amount of detail that you required for English, a comparative study, the five or six poets with around four poems each, a Shakespeare play or the creative writing paper that did not get you thinking? Or were you an honours maths student who had to spend tedious amount of hours learning off copious amounts of  maths equations? Yet, is this statement saying that we are not stretching our students?  We need to put more stress on them?

Higher level questioning is something the students need to reach on their own, there does not need to be a dramatic change to the leaving certificate.  The classroom teacher needs to ensure that she or he teaches to those intense levels. The higher order questions should be born from  a natural sophistication or from students that have studied and are capable to reach this level- is this not how we separate the Bs from the As. This is why the Irish Leaving certificate works, for example, take a Doctor, they need to achieve nearly 600 points in the leaving certificate and this mirrors the level of work they must repeat throughout their six years of college. The leaving certificate teaches them, and yes it may be stressful, but it still teaches them that to become good in this career, they are going to have to work tremendously hard. They will have to research an d bring their own initiative of higher order questions into their own degrees. The Irish Education system does teach higher order questions- nothing is simple - it is an exam system that embeds the fundamental message of hard work. Are they implying that when we took the Irish exam and we had to complete the comprehension questions, as they progressed, did not become significantly more difficult? Unfortunately, that is the exact reason why I remained on a C grade.

Further on in the article, this audacious statement was published, ' “an unwritten understanding in the education culture, and in society more generally, that the examinations will not contain major surprises, as commentators used this as a point of evaluation of the examinations”. The course itself in the leaving certificate has huge, heavy content associated with it. Major surprises - the questions change every year - no student knows what is going to be asked.  It absolutely baffles me why things have to be made more complicated. I would rather see facts and figures, I would rather see exactly what they mean, how will it benefit our students. This article worries me as they have conquered the junior certificate and now I fear that the leaving certificate is next.

This week, I spoke to a principal in Abu Dhabi, he is an English principal working over there, he told me that he loves Irish graduates, he thinks their work ethic is amazing, their subject content knowledge is admirable and they are very worthy candidates for the jobs. My school alone, has over 30 Irish teachers, a huge majority of them in senior management roles. What does this imply about system - that it produces fantastic workers and admirable professionals. Why do we feel the need to dramatically change this? It is the teaching strategies, the questioning and it is the Department of Educations' professional duty to ensure teachers go to CPDS (continued professional development) throughout the year to build on their own subject knowledge- I think these slight changes will add to higher order thinking not a completely new system where children feel lost and unsure and so do their teachers. 

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Irish Teachers should be exceptionally proud of themselves....

Teachers are the Perfect Role Models

A quote published in an article in the times today stated, 'Good, open relationships between teachers and students are essential. Teachers are role models, and so are older students, who may and should be involved in prefect, mentoring and “buddy” structures in schools. Immigrant-origin students often remark on the closeness and friendliness of Irish teachers, especially in Deis schools.' 

Link to Article -

There are hundreds of Irish teachers, who will wake up tomorrow morning, go into work and change the lives of many young people. Teachers play such an important role on the lives of young people. They nurture, develop and care for their students academically and emotionally.
Ireland has changed dramatically over the last few years - it is a nation that is changing culturally and schools are the perfect place where the younger generations are learning about the cultures around them and respecting each other. It is the teacher who ensures this is carried out on a daily basis, and I  for one am exceptionally proud to say that I am a teacher in Ireland.
We ensure independent learning takes place every day, we ensure that children are given the best opportunities and it is thanks to many teachers why there are over 25000 graduates graduating every year on Irish soil.

An nì chì na big, ‘s e nì na big.What the little ones see, the little ones do.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

A Sweeping statement - Who is being insulted here?

Another sweeping statement published today in The Irish Times. I have been recently listening to many news reports, radio broadcasts and reading many articles regarding the new reform, and there are too many sweeping statements being made. For example - the statement that was made today, “The case for reform is overwhelming and is supported by parents, second level students, school principals, business and international experts. It is too important to be derailed by misguided industrial action which shows no regard for the quality of our education system,” he said." 

Article -

Do you agree? Is there an overwhelming support from everyone? Does everyone know the truth? Who are they insulting with this statement? The unions? The teachers who do not agree? The parents who are misinformed?

There are many voices in Ireland that are simply just not heard and how can we expect them to be heard when even the unions are being discredited for doing their job? Look at the dedicated teachers who are trying to let their voice be heard through the unions but instead they are being questioned about how they value the education system. 

There is no yes or no answer to the reform but there needs to be solutions - the flaws that will definitely arise need to be tackled now. That is why I think a very good solution would be to have designated markers in every school. Every school and every department has a designated marker- they are trained even further than the classroom teacher and they are given all the coursework to mark- they must be paid extra, obviously. They receive the pupils' coursework on a number basis, children remain a number, this makes it more fair and just and she or he gives it a grade and just like when teachers mark the leaving certificate, they liaise with someone superior to them. This will ensure that teachers are not put under extra pressure, it also makes the process more fair. It will remove the bias marking. Please do not think I am not questioning a teacher's ability to mark, I am rather questioning  a teacher's compassion she or he has for her pupils. The pupil that works tremendously hard all year, puts in 150% effort but their project is still at a low b - a teacher's compassion kicks in and an unfair grade is awarded to the pupil.

As aforementioned, the new curriculum that Ireland is adopting is the exact same as the system England currently has in place. As of 2016 England is completely stopping their education system. They are adopting the Irish system so why is Ireland not learning from our neighbor's mistake? Why are we not learning from them? I wonder if parents, principals and secondary school students knew this - would that statement still be published today?

Please feel free to leave any comments

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Are they implying we never mark? - Please read the article below!

An article was published in the Irish Times today that truly outlines the huge flaws with the new reform. Please understand that I am not against the new reform, I think it will benefit the students but I do feel expecting classroom teachers to mark their own work is bad idea and it will have serious effects on students that sit before teachers every day. Please read this article, I think you will find it very interesting!

John MacBeath, Professor Emeritus of Educational Leadership at the University of Cambridge, who is speaking at a conference in Dublin on Wednesday, said that “no teacher can teach effectively without assessing the impact of their practice”.

In response to the article published in the Irish Times today, I would like to firstly begin by saying what an ambiguous statement. Is this statement implying that we do not assess our own pupils? Is this statement trying to suggest that we do not teach effectively? Is there any teacher in the entire country that does not mark copious amounts of Christmas and Summer assessments? What about the abundance of class tests that take place on a weekly basis. I think it is fair to say that Irish Teachers are more than equipped to deal with the marking. The key issue is the fact that teachers or anyone for that matter will find it hard not to be bias towards their own students when it comes to state examinations. We assess our pupils for three years of their school years and two are assessed by the state and I for one think that is completely fair. I also think it is fair that the department should pay for the other two. It is not that much to ask for. Please read posts below to understand why. teachers are going to find it impossible, in such a small country to be fair when the parents of their pupils are neighbours, friends and relatives. That is the problem with the classroom teacher marking their own work during exam years. Every teacher wants the best for his or her pupils so how can you not be bias?

Also, this statement actually goes completely against everything that our education system stands for. The pupils that sit before teachers all over Ireland are some of the finest independent learners in the entire world. It has been embedded into the Irish people that you do not get anywhere in this world without hard work and it is not up to the teacher to do everything for the student. If that student wants to do well then they work hard, they study, they go home, make their notes and they do well in their exams. It is too audacious for any system to look at grades and allow them to reflect on the teacher. What about an English teacher who has a class where English is not their strength? What if they want to go on and be a maths teacher or a builder or a hairdresser or a scientist? Just because a large majority of pupils got Cs- should that teacher be criticised because she did not get as many As? I am not saying that we should have low expectations and I genuinely do believe that teachers in Ireland have extremely high aspirations for their pupils but my point is that grades do not always reflect a teacher's ability. If this is introduced into our system then this is when coursework will not benefit anyone - as over helping students will creep its way into the classroom and it will destroy any independent learning.  It will eventually begin to seriously harm an amazing education system.

Please feel free to leave any comments below

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Micheal Martin does exceptionally well representing Irish secondary school teachers

Micheal Martin does exceptionally well standing up for the secondary school teachers in Ireland.

Letter to a TD who supports the new reform

Dear *****, 

I am currently listening to your opinion regarding the new Junior Certificate. I completely agree with your statement that you cannot judge someone on one exam at the end of third year but ****, I do feel that you are not addressing some of the huge issues that are going to develop from the new Junior assessment. Firstly, I would like to explain that I am a senior member of staff in a secondary school in the UK, I work in the English department, and I think it absolutely vital that, as a nation, we look at what is occurring in the system over here. The English education system, as it is, is being discontinued because they are aware that it does not work, they are aware of the flaws that exist within it. This is why England are completely changing their education system and adopting the Irish education system. As of September 2015, every school in Britain will follow the new GCSE program, a program which completely mirrors our own education system. This one act alone proves that there are huge flaws we must consider. Now, may I draw your attention to the simple fact that England has over 53 million people in it, Ireland has under 5 million, that is tenth of the population. How can anyone expect a nation with such small number to be able to introduce a non-bias system of marking. The schools in Dublin may not have this problem but look at the 400 secondary schools that lie outside of the Dublin area- where everyone is linked, everyone knows each other, and it is no myth that you cannot go anywhere in Ireland without knowing someone. This is the stepping stone to destroying one of the greatest education systems in the world. It genuinely saddens me that this is what we are about to do. As aforementioned,  I do completely agree that there needs to be something done, and I personally feel that the coursework is a fantastic idea to introduce but to expect classroom teachers to mark it is unfortunately absurd. Teacher student relationships will take a serious effect and it is with complete confidence that I say, issues with this new system will eventually make its way into communities all over Ireland. 

It is offensive that the teachers in the UK have been forgotten, we are only across the pond and it was not a choice that made us come here, it was necessity, as much as it was a necessity for fathers to leave on the ferries  during the 1930s.  But there are no excuses today as communications are exceptional and we are forty five minutes on a plane. I have set up my own Irish teachers network and I think it is imperative that we are asked questions and guides, as we are the people who have become professionals at this system, and we are the teachers who can help when looking at the what issues may arise.

Lastly, I would like to draw your attention to the statement you made, 'let the learning lead the way,' this is a true and favourite expression of my own but with such heavy focuses on coursework, there is going to be a clear separation between students and their financial backgrounds. How will the department justify the 33% of families who are suffering in Ireland and now with house property tax and water charges being thrown at them, they will not be able to afford extra educational benefits for their children. Also, what about the families who will have the money to pay for tutors, who may practically do the work for the students. Bring in coursework is going to really ensure that a class system is introduced into Ireland as I fear that this will definitely raise its head in the Irish classroom system but with external markers for this, we could eliminate this.