Tag Archives: Education

The Conscience Takes A Back Seat

Unknown-2     The most rewarding role in my life is that of mother and educator. I have been blest with three children who give my life essence. My daily thoughts are on helping these children become “decent”, well respected and well loved, empathic human beings who have a strong understanding of what is right and wrong.

But to do that is to assume that a person’s values are shared by all and this is not necessarily the case. What I value in life someone else may deflect its relevance in their own lives. And worse still, deflect its value as being important in my life.

The difference to me, as a mother and educator, is not just morality, i.that is right and wrong based on rules or “norms” but awareness of our conscience.

A conscience, is upon personal reflection, morality’s effect on others. An effect or a by-product of our choice of values, norms or rules.

I distinctly remember being taught about my conscience. Phrases such as “using my conscience” is part of my upbringing at home and school. This thinking was impossible unless I was “trained” to think about the effects my moral decisions had on others.

I worry that conscience is being shadowed by morality on its own. It is very easy to discuss “right” vs “wrong” with children, and let’s not be ill informed, many adults could do with a discussion on morality and the conscience. But do we give enough credence to thinking about our conscience. Do we “train” our minds alongside our hearts to think about how our words and actions will effect others especially if they do not share our own value system.

Morality can very easily play kingpin in life but the conscience allows us to steer our moral values so that we are able to look at ourselves in the mirror and live with our decisions, words and actions. The conscience is a reminder that the world does not exist to satisfy our own self or our own needs at the detriment of others. A person could assume their moral understanding because they know right and wrong in their own value system but if it isn’t shared by others we need another factor i.e., the conscience to level out the field.

As a child I was informed about the body, the soul and the mind and thankfully, I had the wisdom of educators who taught me the dimension of the conscience. This allowed me to reverence the idea that I may need to miss out because others’ needs are just as important.

There is an integrity to the value system when the needs of others are served before the needs of one person are catered for. The conscience, as I say to my own children, is your best friend to help you make solid, integral decisions and processes. The conscience, unlike morality alone, emphasises the person’s desire and accountability to do right rather than just the thinking of what is right and wrong.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s used their conscience today at all?”

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Neo-Liberal Agenda and How They Present Three Important Challenges to Catholic Leadership.

Neo-liberalism refers to the adoption of private and social enterprise approaches to publicly funded education systems, often referred to as the new managerialism.

(Jim Gleeson, Australian Catholic University, Brisbane) 

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In this post, I reflect on three issues emerging from the neo-liberal agenda and how they present important challenges to Catholic leadership. This reflection is based on the work of Jim Gleeson “Critical Challenges and Dilemmas for Catholic Education Leadership Internationally” which is currently still In Press.

 ISSUE 1: Erosion of the Importance of Values in Catholic Education

The first issue is that of the erosion of values based existence and direction in schools and their effect on the purpose of Catholic schools. In our Catholic schools, our vision, our mission, our purpose, our identity and our culture are enveloped in Gospel values that personify the words presented to us by Jesus. Neo-liberalism has shifted the focus onto the legal ownership and development of a commercial / economic background and existence. Gleeson refers to the “market-driven neo-liberal values”. It is very difficult when governance from “above” ie Governments, State and National, are driving the implementation of expectations in learning to a degree that the values are less intended and applicable to “market success education”. Parents are expecting more of our schools, and with the less faith based committed clientele and secularisation of Catholic Education, the stress on values is lessening to be taken over by the need to succeed in a political, legal and economic world.

Gleeson states that “the emphasis is on performance indicators” and this is evident in present NAPLAN and through globalisation such as PISA tests and high stakes testing. Values are not “performance indicators” even though they contribute immensely to the common good and when these collective attributes are disintegrating the “corrosion of character” (Sennett, 1998) is fast tracked. A school is undeniably an economic engine in the community and are more recently seen as a production line of capable citizens. The problem is defining “capable” and its relationship in a Catholic school. If we go back to the ministry of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop and that is to ensure every child had an education particularly those whose families worked in the coal mines and couldn’t afford the money or time to educate children. Is this still not reflective of our modern day where a great majority of the Catholic school population is not lower income families because the education in Catholic schools is considered to be “high standard”. Catholic schools are often mistaken for private schools as opposed to independent and the expectations from many parents is that, because it is not State school then it must be private. This is a definitive understanding that is carried through to the expectations of the results of their students.

This is also clearly obvious from the time parents write up a Kindergarten application form for why they want their children at Catholic Primary schools right  through to Year 6. An enrolment form for Kindergarten often reflects a parent’s desire for Catholic “values”, a Catholic “education” and Catholic “environment” but the discussions change by the time they are preparing for Year 7 and it is more about how well they achieve individually on test scores, whether they will be accepted into the appropriate High School or whether they are gaining any scholarships. This is reality. I don’t believe that parents’ completely “throw out” values bases in their child’s education but I do believe that they become less evident in their reasoning for their child’s education.

For me, the concept of values in the school is based on our moral purpose and responsibility of education and that is to provide the most valuable form of education for each individual student; to respect their rights to a “good” education; to present our best practice for the well being of the students and to act as an agent for Catholicity in the school. To support the development of human capital with a Catholic intention and philosophy.

ISSUE 2- Neo Liberal Policies and Education 

The second issue is on the measurement of education practice. Gleeson states that “Curriculum is seen as product rather than process, something that a teacher must deliver, rather like the mail or milk”. I don’t believe that Catholic education should be less competitive as an institution to any other school. The question is how much of an impact is the standardised testing having on the local school curriculum and addressing the needs of the local community? So long as education is linked to Government funding and comparison, the pressure is on schools, including Catholic, to publicise their abilities and standards of teaching and learning. The concern is the pressures on staff and students to “come up to scratch” compared to other areas which clearly don’t always share the same socio, economic or political sphere. This concerns me when a student’s education is now a political, governing and funding frisbee.

ISSUE 3 – Faith Based Education and the Neo Liberal Agenda

In many Catholic schools, the ideology is that religion is not simply an extension of the current curriculum as if to say it was an “extra”. Catholic schools embed the philosophy, the values and the intrinsic of our faith within the culture, the curriculum and the community. The reality though is that neo-liberalism is putting weight on religious education within the curriculum. Is it a stand alone subject; is it embedded within the curriculum, culture and community or is it cross curricula where other key learning areas are integrated? The integrity and purpose of Catholic education is clearly founded on the principles of providing equality in education for all yet Gleeson states statistics of “one in three low income Catholic children in Australia attend a Catholic school as against 60 per cent of children from higher income families. This is a stark comparison and questions the Catholic School and Church’s role in providing opportunities for the poor. Where is the relationship of neo-liberalism and the common good. It appears that one is dividing the purpose of Catholic education further from its central heart of common good.

Conclusion

Neo-liberalism will always be a past statement as each year unfolds a “new” neo-liberalism which will come to light. And with it, the debate as to the impact it can and will have on Catholic Education and its leadership will continue. Leadership is challenged to face these changes, economic, social and political, and at the same time respect the dignity of each student and the impact each individual will have on the overall common good. A confronting time for Catholic school leadership that I believe will present as continuing trials in Catholic education in the future.

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Filed under Catholic education, Catholic Schools, common good, moral purpose, neo-liberalism, standardised tests values Joshua Katz, values

Creativity and Imagination is Just Simply Learning in an Genuine Environment

ImageFor a couple of months now, I have been reflecting on the role of creativity and imagination in education (CIE).

I have looked at definitions and understandings by the experts and by the students. And I keep coming back to the same thinking..it is simply Learning in a Genuine Environment.

When we talk about creativity in education we don’t expect the master to come up in the equation. We don’t expect students to be gifted in some way particularly in some artistic way. But we do expect to see words which just seem like second language in a student’s natural world.

Are not words like risk taking, discovering, passions, motivation, flourish, innovative,engagement, collaboration, confidence , words of great capacity; words of great excitement; words of great authenticity?

These words are purely words that exist in a child’s real world. They exist in their everyday. Students may not be aware of ways to develop creative thinking or ways to format their innovative thinking, but the fact remains that creativity and imagination is not just in education but in the everyday world. Formal education is simply a means to develop and exercise this creativity. This exercise can lead to greatness in having an “original idea that has value” (Robinson, Sir Ken, 2013).

When a child picks up an insect in the garden and asks where it comes from and explores it environment are we not seeing real world creativity? When a student is driven to discover the amazing, the unknown and the known, the natural and the unnatural is this not creativity in learning in  our everyday, in our genuine environments?

To experience creativity a person needs to know creativity and when this happens, it will be obvious that so much creativity is simply using our senses to explore the world and engage our brain to respond in a non-linear manner.

It can be written in more documented form but the reality is Creativity and Imagination is Just Simply Learning in an Genuine Environment

 

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Culture’s Role In Transformative Learning

Let’s for this exercise define culture as a “geographical point on a map”. What makes this point different to other points and identifiable are its “landmarks”. These landmarks are recognised by their name and their description. Landmarks, such as literature, language, food, religion, clothes, politics, gender roles and others, as shown in the diagram below. Each culture, over a period of time, brings all these “landmarks” together in differing proportions and descriptions, as well as placing conflicting levels of importance on each. This is known as the dominant culture of the area at that point in time.

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The probability of having two culture points on the map with the exact expectations simultaneously in each of these landmarks is zero and hence the reason why so many cultures exist. But what if a culture joins another culture and tries to co-exist on the same point on the “map”? Continue reading

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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall- Reflection in Creativity and Imagination in Education

ImageThe term reflection seems to spring several understandings immediately. To reflect: to bounce back; to think about after the event; to evaluate; to question. All of which suggest an action after an event.

What about reflection within an event? Continue reading

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Letter of Request – Parents and Education

ImageDear Principals and staff of school,

Over the last twelve months, it has become strikingly obvious to me, as an educator and parent, of the importance of communicating with parents on their child’s education.

Any great percentage of us parents will tell you that the obligatory question to our children at the end of a school day, that is,”How was your day?” is usually followed by a monotone but confident “Good” response. Of course the next question to voluntarily slip out of the parents’s mouth is “What did you do?” and like every “normal” child the response is “nothing”!

“Nothing”…nothing? How could you do nothing five days a week each and every week and still be smiling, at least in most cases. Continue reading

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Please Miss, Please Sir…I Just Need Some Confidence To Be Creative

Unknown-1Sitting around the staff table for many years and hearing the itenary of staff meetings coming up for the next Term used to send me in a mild “internal meltdown”.

Literacy, Numeracy, more Literacy and more Numeracy. And before any Literacy or Numeracy Co-Ordinator  mentions how important they are, I already get that..I know they are the two “big gunners” of education but my question remained, every time, can we spend a staff meeting, even just one to start with, looking at some personal development in kids?

I am a firm believer in the notion that if we give our students confidence first and foremost, then they can reach goals that no curriculum outcome has even thought about. If a student asks “Can I?” is it not our responsibility as educators  to reply “Tell me how you can…or why you can…or when you can.”

Confidence allows for creativity which allows for invention, for initiative, for expression, for explanation, for so many wonderful, ideal qualities.

Confidence allows for celebrating success and accepting failure.

Confidence allows for self directed learning and capability of assessment and evaluation of one’s learning.

Confidence allows for ability to teach as much as it does to learn.

When a parent came to me with concerns about their child who was in any grade, my first educator’s words of advise was “Don’t kill their confidence and please don’t focus purely on what they can’t achieve according to school expectations”. One student stood out for me in my teaching life, as he was struggling from Day 1 in his school life with diagnosed learning difficulties. Limited reading and poor communication was this mother’s anguish. I asked the mother to simply accept that building his confidence and allowing him to find his “niche” is the answer. Allowing him to try things and accept “failure” as opposed to making him fit in the “classroom square”. Allow him to be creative.

This child simply needed to know he had the right and capability to speak up and try things out, success or failure was measured in the trying. His mother came back to my classroom six years later and knocked on the door and said, ” He had found his niche. He had studied landscaping and just received a state government contract for landscaping the Railway Stations.” This confidence had unleashed a landscaping creative entrepreneur!

I am as human as the next student, and realise that if I have no support system around me when I try things out in my learning, then I am reluctant to want to continue to learn. When the feedback is positive, supportive, constructive, freeing, then I will take just that one step further.

If every child on this planet was allowed to be confident; if every child was given permission to be confident; if every child was taught to be confident; my goodness, imagine the creative world we would live in then!

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