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'If students can't learn the way we teach, we must teach the way they learn' (Ignacio Estrada, via Tomlinson)

Be the Revolution? If only there was one!

Posted by Lisa Hill on November 27, 2009

What on earth is going on at HQ in the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development?? Have they lost the plot entirely?


I came back to school after Cup Day feeling tired but pleased with myself.  Everything was under control, I thought. The reports were done, and we had amended our Strategic Plan to take account of developing a new Student Engagement Policy, a huge task that came out of the blue and was assigned to all schools late in Term 3.  It’s  due to region by the end of this year but we had set aside an hour a week to work on it so that we could get it finished by the deadline.  (Anyone who is imagining that this could be a one page A4 document had better think again.  This so-called policy is going to run to about 30 pages, and is really a full-scale program). 

Anyway, I had developed a draft of the Annual Implementation Plan V1 from the amended strategic plan and it was almost ready for circulation and feedback.  The Professional Development Team had sketched out a Professional Development Plan V1.  We had made our plans for the three curriculum days at the beginning of 2010 and the staff doing the presentations were organised to undertake some preparatory PD.   I thought I could focus on getting the library stock-take organised and correcting the projects that Years 3-6 were due to finish in Weeks 7 and 8.  

But then I checked my email….

First there was a demand for a School Performance Summary.  Data to be provided to us on November 6th, and the finished report due to region on the 16th.  Yes, that’s 10 days to do it and I had to miss a morning’s classes to attend PD to find out what it was all about.   It turned out to be an ‘enhanced’ version of the Rudd government’s so-called transparency agenda.  I dutifully provided a profile of our school etc to go on the State Government’s website which will duplicate the league tables data which the Feds are setting up.  I did this knowing full well that no one will look at it once the league tables have been published in The Australian and all the tabloids (who have, no doubt, already organised their journos to sort the data, once it’s available, into the format that they want).

Then there was some stuff from region, inviting us to Be the Revolution.  I waded through the world’s most irritating website (I’d add the link, but I can’t find it on SMR’s website LOL) to find that there was an 88 page manual to read.  I decided to read the summary instead, but that was 14 pages long. I printed out the wretched thing and stuck it in my bag to take home and read later.

I did that at the weekend.  As I suspected, Being the Revolution involves a lot of work.  Most of what we have to do rehashes the Curriculum Plan that we did in 2007, (yes, that’s only two years ago) but there’s also some fanciful stuff about dreaming how we might redesign our school spaces to teach in the 21st century.  Even if there were some prospect of having the money to do this, isn’t this an architect’s job?  Are they really expecting teachers to design buildings??

Whether it’s an absurd waste of time or not, my estimated time impact of the Be the Revolution stuff, that is, how much teacher time is needed to deal with it,  totals 13-19 hours + 4-6 weeks research + unspecified time for the ‘catchphrase’ & ‘road map’  + 4 x ongoing time allocations + unspecified time for reflection, based on advice in the 88 page manual:

Section 1: Dreams 3-5 hours+ ongoing unspecified time for the ‘catchphrase’ & ‘road map’;

Section 2: Invest 2-3 hours + 4-6 weeks research

Section 3: Design 7-10 hours +ongoing;

Section 4: Share: 30-40 mins +4 x ongoing time allocations + unspecified time for reflection

I have no idea where this time is going to come from: planning, preparing for and correcting student learning, I suppose?  Integrated Unit development?  Preparation of resources?  After school professional development?? Consensus moderation of assessment tasks?  All the other initiatives we have in our strategic plan?? Anyway, I set my doubts aside and added it to the list of things we’re going to do in 2010 in our Annual Implementation Plan V2, and added it to the Professional Development Plan V2  as well.

23.11.09 (Monday)

Circulated draft Annual Implementation Plan V2 to Leadership Team.

25.11.09 (Wednesday).

Email about online PD available for the three curriculum days at the start of term 1 2010.  I would have thought that all schools would be devoting at least one whole day to introducing the new Student Engagement Policy, and another whole day to progressing the implementation of E5 and planning for using it.  Anyway, we’ve already planned our three days…

26.11.09 (Thursday )1.23pm

Email from SMR about Ultranet AIP Guidelines suggesting ways to include the Ultranet in the Annual Implementation Plan.  Wary of committing the school to something we know very little about, I re-do the Annual Implementation Plan now V3 with undertakings to provide PD for staff and implement the initiative as information becomes available.  Make note to self about amending Professional Development Plan which will be V3.  Frantic efforts to share these amendments with the leadership team sabotaged by huge rainstorm.  The corridor is awash, three rooms are flooded, parts of the ceiling collapse under the weight of water, and it seems like a good idea to turn the computers off.  Oh, and everybody is too busy with mops and towels to chat about the AIP . 

27.11.09 Friday 1.25 pm

That deadline to submit the draft  Annual Implementation Plan is looming – rainstorm or not, it’s due to region on Monday.  Updated the Annual Implementation Plan Draft V4 to include more about the Ultranet, and sent it off by email to the Leadership Team for feedback.  Five minutes later, there were three new documents about the Ultranet in my inbox.  Ultranet Readiness documents they call them – as if schools can be ready for something about which they have had next to no information, no professional development and no money to provide the infrastructure.

At this stage my rebellious streak overtook my professional zeal and I decided that I’d had enough.  These incessant  demands from the department are unreasonable.  Clearly they are disorganised and have left everything to the last minute, and they seem to have forgotten that schools are busy with reports, EOY functions like Graduation, managing the Fed’s Building Program, preparing grade lists for 2010, interviewing staff for 2010 positions, library stock-takes and so on.  We’re still teaching too – I’ve got 18 classes a week; the other leading teachers who are classroom teachers get 4 hours time release a week.  How on earth are we supposed to collaborate on planning at such short notice (never mind the collaborating we’re supposed to be doing on the Student Engagement Policy as well!)

Whoever is in charge of the Department of Education & Early Childhood Development at HQ needs to get out of the skyscraper in the city and visit some schools to see the impact of these unreasonable demands.  Strategic planning for effective 21st century learning is too important to be ruined by such disorganised stupidity as this.  It saps the goodwill of hardworking teachers and it means that anything that does get done won’t be done properly. 

If we had a real revolution in schools, there would be respect for the work of teachers, there would be money to support worthwhile initiatives, and adequate time release would be provided for planning purposes instead of trading on the goodwill of the profession.

Update 2.12.09 More stuff came today, to be included in the Annual Implementation Plan.  Too late, o tardy bureaucrats, we’ve sent ours in already, as per the official deadline, on Monday last.

6 Responses to “Be the Revolution? If only there was one!”

  1. Medg said

    Hear! Hear! Well said Lisa, You have echoed the ongoing conversation we have had at our school over the last few weeks – different region, different initiatives – similar time frame. I wonder what they think we do with our students at this time of the year.
    I hope regional and departmental leaders have a link to your blog!

  2. Lisa Hill said

    What annoys me, Margo, is that *they* don’t seem to plan ahead the way we do! At my school, when we plan stuff, we pencil in all the things that make teachers too busy to be very responsive (e.g. concerts, report-writing etc) and work around them. But the timing of this avalanche of stuff dumped on schools in the dying weeks of the year is as if the bureaucrats have all got out their PDPs for the mid-cycle review and had a little panic about the things they were supposed to have done three months ago – which they’ve then inflicted on us!

    • Anau said

      Can’t agree more with above comments. If they want quality in any of the programs being rolled out they need to give adequate time and resources. Even if you want to implement these programs properly it’s just not possible while doing what we are meant to be doing – educating children!

  3. Lisa Hill said

    Part of the problem is that we are hamstrung by this insane idea of having three PD days at the start of the year. Everyone knows that’s not an effective model of professional learning…

  4. Sheila Rowland said

    Oh Lisa, Lisa. I have just read your comments re the running of the Education Department. Didn’t you know that this top heavy administration, and it doesnn’t matter which party is in, it’s jobs for the boys and they need to justify their existence, so you at the coal face have to do all their work for them?
    There is a life after school and I’m loving it. I teach occasionally at U3A and volunteer at the local Environmental Centre once a week. Retirement is great and I’m glad I don’t have to suffer fools any more.
    Come and join us.

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