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.
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