With the new school year only days away, I know that most teachers are busy preparing classrooms, resources, planning documents and a host of other things, in order to at least start the year feeling on top of work. I also know that it won’t take too long for the administrative duties, meetings, emails and phone calls to start to erode that feeling preparedness and control.
On top of all this, I know how a lot of teachers feel when they see something like this:
Despair. A lot of teachers feel despair. That all the hard work and energy they put in to this incredibly challenging, and rewarding job, really boils down to how the kids perform in NAPLAN. This was a display that confronted me at the entrance of Costco today!
The sad reality is a lot of schools do teach to the test. They know that parents will be looking on the MySchool website and if the school up the road has better NAPLAN results then those parents will choose that school. Forget the fact that the kids at the school up the road may hate writing, because it’s so prescribed, or may feel no passion for reading, because they can’t choose what to read. That all comes a distant second to NAPLAN results.
It really has just become a tool for comparison. School comparison. And I can see the principal’s are stuck in the middle. They may dislike NAPLAN as much as the rest of us but if school enrolments drop, then classes are cut, and teachers lose their jobs. It’s a very sticky situation.
All I can say is this: stay the course.
- Keep teaching students in a way that makes them love literacy (and maths if that’s your jam).
- Don’t start teaching to the test. That is a sure fire way to suck the joy out of learning.
- Keep using your writer’s notebook and modelling what excellent authors do.
- Keep immersing your students in different ways to write genres so NAPLAN assessors don’t read thousands of persuasive pieces that all read: firstly, secondly, lastly.
- The ‘ideas’ component of NAPLAN is worth much more than spelling or paragraphing for a reason!
- Remind the students that this test fails to show what truly matters; their love of learning, compassion, and persistence, among other things.
NAPLAN doesn’t help teachers one jot. By the time the results come back (many months after the test is taken) they are no longer relevant. Students have learnt so much in that time, their marks from a test months ago are completely redundant. We know that in order for feedback to be of any use it needs to be timely and NAPLAN is far from that.
It’s a shame that it is still in operation but while it is we have to manage it.
Good luck to all you glorious educators out there as you in to the 2020 school year. You do an incredible job that isn’t given half the recognition it’s due. But when NAPLAN rolls around again, don’t despair. Stay the course and remain true to your teaching philosophy. And if it ever all feels too much – have a cup of tea (or several). xx
Cartoon Courtesy of Cathy Wilcox