by Mal Booth
I was gardening yesterday and I was delighted to see that my “neglected” orchid had buds, very much like the photo above. It was not really neglected in the sense that these plants like to be outside, in dappled light…and obviously it was happy enough to flower!
That was the good news. The bad news was that I broke the bud cluster (or whatever they’re called). Yes, I broke it and my heart broke…a little. See, I wanted to bring it inside the house in the flower pot it vacated after flowering years (yes, years) ago. So, I thought I’d tidy it up a little and pull out some of the weeds and get rid of some snails. When I was done, I looked up and wondered where the flower buds were; they were on the ground….broken off. Aargh (did you hear me then?).
Now, I know this story is RICH and full of potential metaphors but the first thing that came to my mind was – kids; and I thought that as a parent and a teacher. We want them to flourish in optimum conditions and when they flower, we want to celebrate it and to be honest, glow with pride (yes – show them off…perfectly human, I reckon).
But not all kids survive such process, sometimes we break them. This is not necessarily due to the extremes of neglect or over-attention (can one love too much?). In fact, I’m more inclined to think it’s when kids disconnect (break off, so-to-speak) for which there could be many, many reasons.
My train of thought (yes, this was all still part of me grieving the broken buds yesterday) led me to think about my choice to only have 2 kids and my preference for smaller class sizes. To connect with kids, we need to get to know them and that takes time and effort. Hats off to parents with more kids and teachers who can handle many students. Me? I sort of know my limits.
So yes, it worries me when a politician says class sizes are not important and harps on too much about teacher quality. Doing my Grad Dip Ed, The Importance of Teacher Quality (2002, Rowe) really hit home. What really struck me then was that there were more differences in schooling experiences and outcomes between classes (not between schools, genders, SES, etc) …. which then got credited to teacher quality.
Little did I know that as a teacher, the experiences of my students would differ even during the same school year, i.e. my “quality” is not that consistent.
There are so many variables when people are concerned. Dynamics are important. Yes, relationships….which, as mentioned above, need time and effort. And time and effort, we must expend (as teachers and parents) because ….we might break them (kids), even with good intentions.
So is it really teacher quality that makes the biggest difference or is it a combination of factors? Frankly, I’m a little confused now.
Many have said that our education system is broken. Or is it our society that’s broken because we’re all a little confused (not for lack of information but the glut of conflicting information, more like). Anyway, I have no solution. Is it to make classes smaller or give performance pay or give more strategic Professional Development or mentoring or selecting “high achievers”? Hey, maybe it’s none of the above or all of the above and more besides.
What we must remember is this….sometimes we break them. Sometimes, we notice straight away and can ameliorate but sometimes, it is too late….and that is tragic.