Friday, March 27, 2009

The Surface

I commented to one of my new colleagues the other day that I feel I have been 'tunnelling along' and have only just managed to stick my head up and have a look around during the past week or so.

I am working with good people, but in a flawed system.

Still, I suspected that would be the case before I even arrived in the country.

This past week has had a heavy assessment focus- year 8 assessments using very rigid (and frustratingly narrow) app criteria for 3 classes with a one week turnaround, and a day of moderating GCSE (year 11) coursework. This was a very 'quiet' day, and I missed the discussions over benchmarking that occur in my school back home. Still, they have a lot more to get down over here- whole folders of coursework have to sent off for external moderation (the paperwork alone seems ridiculous) and it is important to get them 'right' before they go. I found out today that things will shift again in 2011 when all coursework will be required to be completed in classtime under exam conditions. The UK did the right thing by getting rid of SATs this year, but they seem to be counteracting this move with even more rigid assessment practices in the GCSE. One step forward, two steps back.

My mind feels so alive at the moment- like waking up after a long sleep. I feel that I am thinking more thoughtfully, critically, about my own work and education in general than I have for a while.. but at the same time I am wondering what is the point of it all. Since my head has managed to pop above the surface, I have noticed all of these 'gaps'- missing pieces of my subject knowledge that I have taken for granted in Australia. Like multimodality... critical literacy... alternative readings... where have they gone? Where is their place in this strange, CS Lewis Wonderland of an education system?

I keep getting frustrated at myself when classes don't go the way I planned, or when it is taking longer than I would like to forge positive relationships with some of my classes, or when I feel lost and inadequate trying to make sense of an app grid... but then I have to stop myself from taking it out on me all the time- there are so many systemic reasons why these things are happening that aren't all my fault, that may in fact have very little to do with me. Everyone is very helpful, but trying to figure out what the right questions are to ask sometimes to get the answer that you don't yet know you need can be tricky, particularly when you don't recognise the pitfalls in a system that is not (thank God) your own.

Anyway, now that my head is above the surface, at least some of the time, I am going to work on feeling like my old 'teaching self' again.

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