Tag Archives: education

Where the rubber hits the road

Secrets to organisational change …

No I’m not talking about a big corporate. I’m talking about a school.

When I worked in corporate communications, I saw how successful organisational change requires the CEO’s enthusiastic and visible ownership. Senior management walking the talk. Structures and systems in place to reward desired behavioural change.

But the crucial piece was changing the attitude and thus the behaviour of the front line. So there were many organisational restructures and staff changes, where people were “let go” because they didn’t fit whatever the the corporate culture was.

So if we apply similar concepts to the school yard, please tell me what to do.

All the big public education kahunas are on-side with my modest expectation that technological learning supports and training should be supplied as needed by teachers and schools to students, one of whom happens to have a physical disability and is my son.

From the CEO down, everyone says they agree with me. They comment kindly on my “extraordinarily articulate” examples and proposed solutions (amazing for a mere parent). I tell them it’s easy to write convincingly when your child’s life hangs in the balance. OK that’s a bit over the top. But I do have strong views about the role education and technology plays in enabling people with disability to make the most of their life.

So education senior managements gets it. They funded a report which recommends learning technology support and training. And they’ve funded the technology and teacher training. Too easy you’d think. But where the rubber hits the road – the school – well that’s a different story.

Relatively simple implementation of training recommendations and software installation still has not happened, 13 weeks after the school year started. My son is still being given ancient, badly photocopied handouts to work on, instead of EVERYTHING being on computer. He is still sitting in class watching the teacher do maths, without the necessary software to do it himself. By himself. Not with an aide scribing.

One teacher even reported that my son did not bring the “required equipment” to class. That would be his laptop (which is always in his class). Possibly she believes he should bring to her class a plastic covered exercise book which he can’t write in.

The latest incident was where a teacher couldn’t be bothered allowing my son to present his “talk” via a power point presentation he had laboriously typed with one finger for 3 hours. No amusing sound effects or images that say a million words or imaginative key points that enable my son to share himself with his classmates. Nope. Just sit in your wheelchair and read your talk to the class. Bet the class was enthralled.

One the education execs whom I totally respect phoned to tell me he was “incandescent with rage” at this latest educational setback inflicted on my son at his public school. He loved the powerpoint preso my son did. This education exec is blessed with imagination, empathy and a cool vocab. I wish he taught my son.

Why can’t all teachers be willing to use whatever it takes – such as basic computer software – to engage kids with learning? Why is education so monumentally boring? Or are we just very unlucky with some of his teachers and inadequate school organisation?

Organisational restructure, redundancy, “letting go” staff – now it means something real to me. My son’s education and self-esteem is being damaged by the attitudes of people who no longer care, and see no need to change their attitude or behaviour.

It’s time they were “let go”.

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School gets in the way of education

The link below is a newspaper report that a teenager with cerebral palsy is suing the Queensland State Government for discrimination after allegedly being told to avoid certain subjects at a Brisbane government high school due to his disability.

http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,23307111-3102,00.html

The newspaper reports that the student’s mother was allegedly told that her son’s English was only at a Year 3 level and “to go home and bring him up to a grade 4 level”. However, her son had just received a B for English in Year 10.

When the student moved to a private school, he performed better in English and German in his final year than previously. He wants to be a lawyer.

It seems the government education system judged this young man’s intellectual capacity based on his physical disability and cortical vision impairment. His disabilities make it hard for him to read, write or type because of being effectively blind during exams and being unable to control his arms.

So why couldn’t he use alternative methods to demonstrate his knowledge? Maybe provide oral assessment tasks or use voice recognition software to convert speech to text for assignments and assessments.

There is a huge variety of learning technology to let us step outside the tired old square of writing our opinions/reports on bits of paper. The State education exam markers are surely capable of assessing the academic or other value of a variety of work, even if the process did not include the physical act of writing words on paper?

As we have said before and will no doubt repeat many more times, the education systems need to stop incorrectly judging students’ learning abilities based on their medical diagnoses. Instead they should ask one simple question:

“What educational supports or tools does this student need to be able to learn?”.

And then provide them. It would enable many more students with disabilities to leave school with the skills to gain meaningful employment or undertake further study. And we do need more skilled workers, don’t we?

I guess this young man will excel in law. And we need him.

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The funny tummy family

By Activevoice1

Today is my son’s first day of high school and my daughter’s first day of her last year of high school. And my husband started a new job. We were a household of “funny tummies” this morning …

We arrived at high school without knowing who the aides were, if indeed they had been hired. Even worse, my big 12 year-old was in his manual wheelchair which horrified him, as with immaculate timing his power chair has died. At the end of the welcome assembly parents were politely dismissed and I asked if the school had uh you know actually hired any aides.

And lo and behold they had hired the two aides I requested when I helped interview for the role – a confident young woman with 4 brothers who my hormone-ridden son will fall in love with by the end of the day, and a fit, sporty bloke in his 40s who will not complain about OH&S crap. My son beamed, stood up (with my help) offered his hand to them both and welcomed them to “his” school. And he’d only been there 45 minutes.

Two diverse aides were was just one item on my list of requested supports, many of which the Ed Dept has never done before. Let’s see how the school goes with managing the technological supports and “left field” inclusion options which were recommended at my request.

So thank you God and principal, and Paul and Michael in the Ed Dept for listening to my views on what support at school kids with disability really need, and making it happen. I came home and cried tears of gratitude.

I remember when my daughter started high school: shy, anxious, knowing few other kids. I just wanted her to feel happy, safe and welcomed. That’s all I want for my son. He just needs different supports from my daughter because he can’t walk like she can. They’re both special, and equal.

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