So…our federal Education Minister has just announced the appointment of six ‘maths and phonics experts’ to advise on new reforms and a ‘shake up of phonics teaching’ due to the fact that Australian children are falling behind in their ability to read.
Hang on – excuse me – I’m a real phonics teaching expert and I haven’t been invited to take part in this ‘shake up’.
Oh, that’s right…I’m old and a ‘has been’.
The fact that I successfully taught hundreds (maybe thousands?) of small children to read fluently using the (old!) phonics method is of no interest to any expert advisors.
Possibly one of the most unwelcome phrases to hear during a conversation, second only to ‘when I was a child’ is ‘when I was a teacher…’.
But, but…..WHEN I WAS A TEACHER….there, I’ve said it. When I was a teacher of prep children, I used phonics as a major part of my teaching and the children loved learning that way – and learn they did.
BUT, as the late 1980s and early 1990s came, newer, younger teachers, with smarter sounding degrees, scoffed at what ‘my’ children were doing. These new ‘class practitioners’ (yes, some called themselves that!) introduced the now infamous ‘whole language approach’ to the teaching of reading – a method that was never going to work well.
We older teachers were all but ignored. One new teacher told me that my methods were ‘archaic’, despite the evidence that the ‘archaic’ methods were obviously working extremely well.
When I retired, I wrote a 50 page booklet entitled, ‘A Literacy Guide for the First Year of School’, in the vain hope that I could convince teachers – or those purporting to train the teachers – to heed the advice of experience and dump the unworkable method.
Later, in the cold light of day, (as they say), I realised that although my love of teaching and my enjoyment at seeing little children light up when they ‘caught on’ to how words and sentences were made, I accepted the fact that my little book would be of no interest to the new breed of educators.
So, here my book stays in my computer, too expensive for me to self-publish, and no one to read the simple story of how to achieve that joyous experience of teaching preps to read…
But, ever hopeful, I’m awaiting the phone call from the (other) phonics experts. You know, those people on the new advisory panel.
lick here to edit.
Horrified to read that a new wave of ‘anti-vaxxer' sentiment is appearing, both here and in the US, I feel the need to re-post what I wrote on the subject in April of 2016.
It is my personal message to anti-vaxxers.
(‘Anti-vaxxer - a person who is opposed to vaccination, typically a parent who does not wish to vaccinate their child’).
When my youngest sister was a tiny baby, she contracted whooping cough.
(‘Whooping cough - or pertussis – is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.’)
It was a long time ago now, but I still remember her little face turning bright red, then maroon, then purple, then blue, as my mother raced out the open door, seeking a blast of cold winter air to (hopefully) shock the baby’s tiny body into taking a clear breath; a breath unaccompanied by the alarming strangulating ‘whoop’ that we heard and saw. It was truly awful and we as older siblings sometimes cried with fear at the sight of this small baby struggling to breathe in the arms of our frantic mother.
The baby girl survived and for that we were (and are) eternally thankful.
The following year, when I (as a nine-year-old) was hospitalised to have my tonsils removed, a cross-infection occurred and I received a ‘nasty’ dose of measles.
(… ‘Measles is a highly contagious infection caused by the measles virus. Initial signs and symptoms typically include fever, often greater than 40 °C (104.0 °F), cough, runny nose, and inflamed eyes.’…)
Of course it was nasty – there is no other sort of measles. I remembered my young brother’s earlier experience of the disease where the lights had to be dimmed and he was not allowed to venture out in the sunshine as the measles affected his eyes so much, there was a real danger of blindness.
My experience with the dreaded measles did not so much affect my eyes but crept into the inner parts of my ears.
Each night I woke screaming with searing ear-ache and each morning my mother had to deal with the brown pus that had stained the cloth on my pillow after yet another abscess had burst.
This went on for some weeks until the pain and rattling sensation of ear drums bursting finally subsided.
Ten years later, after finishing school and applying for a teaching studentship, I was informed that the measles-induced damage to my ear drums had affected my hearing to such a degree that I was unacceptable as a trainee teacher.
For a while I thought that my life-long dream of becoming a teacher was at an end and I was devastated.
But, never to be one to take ‘no’ for an answer, I appealed and, after testing by several other state-employed doctors, I finally found one who judged my desire to be a teacher to be greater than my inability to always hear perfectly.
What followed was a teaching career that was long, successful and extremely enjoyable – but one that nearly wasn’t.
Some years ago, I finally succumbed to what I saw as being a ‘cave-in’ and accepted hearing aids fitted for both ears.
I am fully accustomed to them now, but would rather not have ever had the need for them.
But for the awful experience of measles, my life would have been filled with more of nature’s beautiful sounds – of all sorts.
I escaped easily – some children of my generation suffered much more than I did.
Some others suffered more than my baby sister; some died.
So, I am telling my story in an attempt to reach parents who claim that a healthy life-style and a so-called 'sensible attitude' alone will protect their children from these truly ghastly illnesses.
It is not so.
I had my children vaccinated against the diseases. My grandchildren are similarly protected from illnesses that are once more appearing in our world.
It is utter foolishness to say that vaccination causes more trouble and disability than the diseases they prevent.
Anti-vaccination believers need to listen to stories like mine to understand that these totally preventable childhood diseases are not simple things. They are able to maim and kill.
(‘..experts say several diseases that are avoidable are making a comeback due to anti-vaxxers who refuse to vaccinate their kids..’).
There is no link between vaccines and autism.. .a fact well proved since 2011.
I read a quote once, attributed to the tennis player, Roger Federer, where he said, he liked to “play with respect and win with grace”
How nice life would be if we all ‘played’ like that.
There’s a certain discourtesy that seems to be infiltrating our daily life: We hear stories of ‘road rage’, rude shop assistants, impudent children and general disrespect for others - and others’ belongings.
It’s a sad state of affairs.
And, as the inauguration of Donald Trump looms ever nearer, I am drawn to the words from New York Times columnist, David Brooks, of over a year ago. In writing that he would miss Barack Obama mainly because of his ‘personal qualities’, David Brooks said, “Obama radiates an ethos of integrity, humanity, good manners and elegance”.
We could do with these qualities spread throughout our entire world!
How pleasant life would be if we all shared the attributes of “integrity, humanity, good manners and elegance”.
Life would not only be more pleasant, but would be easier in many ways.
But there’s a certain noticeable difference between the outgoing and the incoming POTUS.
I don’t think it’s necessary to list here the ‘personal qualities’ of Mr Trump but I fear that they do not match those of Mr Obama.
Interestingly, I read in today’s papers that on the day of the upcoming inauguration there is a planned gathering of (so far) 750,000 demonstrators who will line the streets of Washington in an attempt to paralyse the city to show their displeasure at D.J.Trump’s accession to the presidency.
These protestors will obviously not be displaying good manners in undertaking this action, nor will they be showing any signs of graciousness, but they are desperate and (at this stage) have few other ways to indicate their displeasure. So, how do we view this behaviour?
On one hand many folk in US may be wishing and hoping for grace and integrity, but on the other hand, when they see Donald Trump’s performance, and note his past indiscretions AND know that he is the one to be leading them into an uncertain future, what can they do?
Roger Federer’s notion of ‘playing with respect and winning with grace’ has certainly not been evident in Trump’s performance at all.
So, is it ‘gloves off’ and ‘anything goes’ now, as far as good manners and integrity?
Fairly grim reading in the newspapers lately.
Only a few more days until Donald Trump gains office in US and I am worried about the many (ridiculing) jokes being broadcast against him - and so much negative spouting of opinions that I fear he may retaliate once he gets to his new position, with a sort of “I’ll show ‘em” attitude. What mayhem he could produce! I hope there are enough safeguards in place.
Meanwhile, in this crazy world, here in Australia we are watching the unedifying behaviour of our ‘esteemed’ Health Minister as she tries to worm herself out of a scandal, explaining how she came to take several tax-payer funded trips to the Gold Coast, where, amongst other things, she and her partner happened to buy a $800,000 holiday apartment just on a whim.
No, of course she didn’t travel to the Gold Coast specifically to purchase this (negative geared, money making) apartment; she was there on official government business and just happened to take the opportunity to buy.
(Just what the government business was that she was attending to has yet to be declared).
This, to me is another indication of the ‘sense of entitlement’ that has infiltrated not only our politicians’ actions but in the lives of many people who have more money to spend than most. (And some without money, I might add).
While I am reading about politicians (and others!) who seem to think they are entitled to as much money and privilege as they can muster - by fair means or foul - without actually breaking any rules or doing much work, I am also reading a book by the English author, Alan Bennett.*
In a talk delivered at Kings College Cambridge (June 2014) Mr Bennett bemoans the fact that “…pragmatism…[is reduced to] the simplistic assumption that the basis of human nature is self-interest” and “…the only motive deserving of trust = self promotion and self- advancement”. He is naturally not in favour of this attitude, stating that it is very often a callous approach.
I have to agree.
Sadly, this self-advancement at any cost is now very much in evidence in many individuals and I fear for it becoming the standard approach to any endeavour. It certainly seems that a certain sense of entitlement is becoming common. It’s almost childish behaviour.
But, what happens when everyone (moneyed or not) has this attitude? Is this something that will cause more than a little dissension amongst both young and old?
Now, I can’t see too many really old people expecting to have everything given to them but how frustrating to watch as others display such self aggrandisement as their right!
And, while we are on the subject of the elderly…there are some disturbing reports lately of assaults in nursing homes. How dreadful is that?
But, to again quote Alan Bennett, “Profit is now the sole yardstick against which all our institutions must be measured” with “…profit taking precedence over any other consideration.”
Which leads me naturally to the subject of profit making aged-care business:
What a shame that it has come to this. That individuals and companies are making huge profits from nursing homes for the aged! It’s almost not surprising that there are assaults, with stress from understaffed, over-worked and underpaid situations being the norm – to ensure profits, of course, as against genuine care.
Have I done enough complaining and moaning and whingeing for today?
Donald Trump, greedy politicians and neglected elderly?
I could go on!
But one last note.
I have just read this in today’s news. It is Donald Trump’s latest comment concerning his upcoming inauguration:
“We are going to have an unbelievable, perhaps record-setting turnout for the inauguration, and there will be plenty of movie and entertainment stars," Trump said. "All the dress shops are sold out in Washington. It's hard to find a great dress for this inauguration."
Astounding in its ‘dumbness’...how shallow!
* 'Keeping On Keeping On', Alan Bennett
I choose to comment on social issues and write creatively on a variety of subjects - for a variety of audiences.