September 17, 2009
What an exciting time we are having! We are in preparation for the Consult and Collaborate Joint Conference 2009 at the Brisbane Conference Centre on the 18th and 19th September and we are almost leaping and squealing with excitement! It is our honour to be satchel sponsors – but what we are exceptionally excited about is the launch of our In the Garden Literacy Package!
Filled with innovative and exciting resources for teachers, this package is not just the culmination of hard work, but an absolute celebration of the value of dedicated and committed professionals collaborating to create a resource of best practice across so many domains. We will be thanking the wonderful people who have collaborated with us – from Sarah Amies (Author and illustrator), Anne-Maree Garcia (Multi-media guru), Patrick Mitchell (narrator and story-teller), Tina Kriedemann (The Purple Jam Studio / Brisbane), Angie Sublime (Sublime Music Studio/ Brisbane) and Iris Wesling (St. Eugene Catholic College, Burpengary), these people have given blood, sweat and tears to make this launch on Friday a spectacular success.
The Literacy Package consists of 7 in the Garden student texts, a Big Book, some visual processing Mystery Sheets, a CD of music suitable for assembly items (and tapping into another sensory learning pathway), a DVD of supported reading modes, and a teacher resource book, jam-packed with black-line masters, strategies and activities suitable for develping higher-order thinking. What can I say? We are justifiably proud of it, and hope many of you are able to join us at the launch.
Hopefully we will also see many of you at the conference – we are just so excited about being there and renewing friendships with those who attended the last conference – and meeting new conference participants.
March 15, 2009
What a busy time it has been at 5energies!
We farewelled Rochelle, our admin officer extraordinaire, as she has embarked on a new adventure home-schooling her children.
We have also welcomed Gemma, our new Speech Pathologist, and she too is a valuable asset to our team. Gemma will have a lot of fun working for 5energies, and we are very pleased she has joined us.
November 23, 2008
What a week this one has been!
On Sunday, 5energies staff and family enjoyed the inaugural Bocce Tournament and Christmas party. Some 27 intrepid souls battled it out for supremacy in a game that many had never played before, but the eventual winners were Graeme Henry (Open Winner), Zachary McGuire (Junior Winner) and Angie Datseres and Claire Culley won ‘Best and Fairest’.
However, as the tournment was coming to an end, the fierce black storm clouds signalled that a storm was on its way, so most families departed to try to get home before the storm hit. Tales have since emerged of where each 5energies person was during the storm, with some driving in the thick of it, and watching trees with roots fly past the bonnet of the car, to others taking shelter in the middle of the house, away from glass and potential flying debris. Unfortunately, Alexandra, Graeme (IT Guru), Patrick (actor / reader of our DVD stories), Anne-Maree (film-maker and Technology Guru) and families saw the big tree in Alexandra’s front yard come crashing down (see photo), pulling the electricity connection right out of the house, taking out the power grid for the street, and keeping them inside the house, without power or telephone, for 48 hours. As baby James, now 9 weeks, was also with them, nappies became an issue. In a wonderful commentary on community spirit, the neighbourhood soon found supplies and fortunately there was sufficient left-over meat and salads from the Bocce Tournament to provide a street gathering and debrief after the storm, on the back verandah. Mel, our Occupational Therapist, ended up driving through the worst of the storm, but her parent’s house in the Gap, one of the worst hit areas of the storm, also received significant damage. Fortunately power has now returned to all residences, and things are returning to normal, albeit with a lot of cleaning up to do.
However, as with any natural disaster, these are just stories. We all survived the big storm (and the two other storms that decided to visit this week), and fortunately all families were fine. However, the inaugural 5energies Bocce Tournament and Christmas party will long be remembered as the day that 5energies created a storm!! May the immensity of the storm reflect where we are next year – huge, determined and getting wide-spread coverage!!
September 13, 2008
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (4221.0 Schools Australia, 2007) results there are some 428074 primary aged students in Queensland. The news reports from yesterday indicated that approximately 12% of those students did not achieve benchmark in literacy and numeracy. While the testing occurs in selected grades, it is safe to assume that in between the testing grades, those students are likely to be experiencing ongoing learning difficulties. To put a face to those students, that 12% who were BELOW the benchmark equates to some 51360 young people who are struggling with their learning.
Unless there is investigation into why these children are not able to access the curriculum, unless there is some in-depth knowledge about the factors underpinning their learning capabilities, it is going to be difficult for these children to become functionally literate and numerate, even if offered the $750 per student in additional tutoring. It isn’t just five or ten children; it is 51360 children, and their lives being affected… Some of these children will be identified as children with learning disabilities, but the bulk of them are children of normal cognitive and operational function who are trying exceptionally hard to achieve. It seems completely logical to 5energies staff that the focus – politically and educationally - should be to identify these children early, early, early and to do that by screening each child in the key areas underpinning learning from a developmental perspective. The relatively small amount of money poured into finding out WHY they are unable to access learning in the same way as their peers, and then into intervention programs that actually assist them long -term, seems a good investment in the future of Australia.
How can we help these 51360 children further? Who do we need to contact politically to ensure these children have both advocates and a ‘voice’ in demanding a change of focus, funding and assistance?
August 31, 2008
As I write this post, I am grieving quietly… I have listened this week to the political announcements about schools, teachers and teaching, and have been grieving for my profession. Along with so many in teaching, I have given my life to education. The majority of teachers are committed, genuine, hardworking, thoughtful, reflective and determined professionals. This week I waited in vain for a genuine acknowledgement of these teachers and the difficult role they play in today’s society.
I fear that this grand policy, announced with much gusto and fanfare, will serve to alienate good teachers further. I am also perturbed about how easy it is to kill the messengers – for it is teachers and school staff who honestly facilitate the testing regime and originally had great faith in its ability to identify the children who needed genuine help to achieve functional literacy and numeracy. Have teachers been sacrificed at the alter of political convenience?
I fear this is the year that the use of benchmark results has taken on a life of its own. What was originally touted as a ’snapshot’ of student abilities will be the future standard for principal and teacher sackings and for comparisons between schools (a process similar to comparing chalk and cheese). Someone please correct me if I am wrong in my interpretation. Will this year also go down in history as the start of a mass exodus of teachers who have submitted to the imposition of arbitrary guidelines judging their quality - yet industrially are amongst the lowest paid of professionals, are still battling for simple things like permanency of employment and all the rights inherent in that status, and are stil responsible for fundraising in fetes and cake stalls for essential equipment for their schools…
I acknowledge that there are an increasing number of children failing to achieve minmal literacy and numeracy benchmark standards. At a conservative estimate of 15% of children in any school – but estimated by many teachers to be as high as 65% in some schools - 77000 children is a significant statistical figure who are failing to learn, and therefore failing to achieve the minimal level (benchmark) of literacy and numeracy acquisition… And let’s not mince words here: right now, today, there are at least 77000 reasons why the Federal government feels they need to take this action.
But where are the analyses of every single one of those children as to WHY they are failing? Where are the interviews with parents about what they know about their child and his/her learning potential and struggles? Where are the health (physical, mental and emotional), eye-sight and hearing tests of these children? Where are the assessments by the occupational therapist (gross and fine motor skills, visual perception and processing, crossing mid-line, etc) and speech pathologist (receptive and expressive language, phonological awareness, auditory processing and perceptual skills, etc)? Where is the teacher notation about the child’s first language of home and community, the child’s previous learning history and potential for achievement of functional literacy and numeracy in English? Where are the social workers’ comments about the family, and its potential to support a child to achieve literacy and numeracy? All far too hard…
An analysis of the testing regime itself might have been appropriate to gauge if the guidelines, content, administration and analytical processes are just, fair, valid, appropriate and adequate. Does a quantitative process adequately explain the qualitative nature of schools, teaching and learning? Are 77000 children the direct result of inadequate, faulty and poor teaching and inept teachers?
We spend a lot of time at 5energies building up a picture of each child, long before the test takes place: the earlier the better. We look at ten domains (on a fifty point scale) to see why a child cannot access learning and we work darned hard to ensure that teachers, those in the front-line, have this information for themselves. It really need not be that hard, to find ways to upskill teachers and make sure they have the evidence to show improvements, and the strategies to cater for the genuine needs of each child.
Is it only me who was so saddened this week?