Witch Doctors

A mad bloke, so mad he killed someone said:

to police, as reported: ''I believe in chiropractors … I think they're witch doctors.''

Now he's dead right, of course, chiropractors ARE witch doctors...and just as effective!


10 Solid Lessons

There, a good solid ten lessons for teachers (see previous posts). Teaching is a tough job, I think everyone knows this, that’s why we agree to compensate teachers by paying them. We also know that most teachers are committed, which is why we agree to give them charge of our children, although they suffer the same frailties as we all do. This article aims to help them understand how their frailties might bring harm, and to get aware.


What Parents want Teachers to Know: 11. Got!

Got: I know this is number 11, but I’m on a roll. Got is an English word. Its use is legitimate, its banning is simply silly. What other words are you going to ‘ban’ psittacine, transmogrify, floccinaucinihilipilification?


What Parents want Teachers to Know: 10. Modelling

Modelling: A lot of this comes down to modelling: what teachers do will tell children what adults do and how therefore, life works and what they should do; children will watch how teachers treat other children, each other and parents. Mostly they will see interactions between teachers and children and what they learn may stink.

A child may be singled out for scorn, inadvertently; that sets the child up as a target of scorn by other children.

A child might be excluded from an activity in a travesty of discipline: here’s a target for playground exclusion.

A teacher may disregard a child’s earnest complaint about another child: that models the behaviour ‘your concerns aren’t important’ to the child, and ‘the teacher won’t do anything’ to whomever is perpetrating: the seeds of bullying sown in a few distracted moments!

What Parents want Teachers to Know: 9. Communication #2

Communication #2: The teacher is the power, the authority and the point of reference for children at school. I think teachers know that. So do children, because children come to teachers for assistance, clarification, and by way of learning to develop judgement. So children ending up ‘dobbing’ from time to time, and for a whole range of reasons: to be petty tyrants, to ‘get someone in trouble’ and to defend the rules they comply with, but others don’t. So they simply want to see justice done in a uniform, equitable and disinterested manner.

That’s fair, and what’s wrong with it? Nothing, of course, until teachers apply the apparently random filter of ‘dobbing’. Ah, you find out as a child, some reports of wrong doing are themselves wrong. So now a child, rather than err on the side of caution and provide opportunities for teachers to help them develop judgement, will probably err on the side of self-preservation and reduce their contact with the teacher to below a safe threshold.

Let me see, will I risk telling the teacher on duty that some children are trying to erect a flag on the assembly hall roof, or will that be dobbing, after all, they’re not hurting me?


What Parents want Teachers to Know: 8. Irony

Irony: How often teachers must forget Piaget’s work (and I know other research has extended his work, but, fair go!), and this might only be a small issue, but if we stamp out sparks we prevent fires: one teacher announced to the class, on about day one of the year: a class of 6 and 7 years olds, that he was ‘the meanie’. Well, tell that to a bunch of adults and they’d either detect the irony (if there was any), ignore it, plot their counter-attacks, or refuse to shout beers that afternoon. Tell a bunch of infants school children, and they’ll believe it!

So we had to explain to our child that ‘he probably didn’t mean it’, but that did not convince and we had to re-coax interest in school which had, until then, been exuberant. Of course, the educational process has elements that dull down exuberance (some of them are listed here), but that’s incentive to turn them around, not give in!


What Parents want Teachers to Know: 7. Defence

Defence: Do not fight. Its one of the big rules at school. However, this rule can’t stand alone, it has to be part of a coordinated set of responses to aggression. And, as aggression is a frame of mind, its overt manifestation in violence is the end of the road, not the beginning!

If children can’t seek help when being made uncomfortable in the classroom, or when lining up, or when playing, when can they? I’ve had experiences of my child being actively prohibited from raising the alarm and then thinking he was ‘in trouble’ for attempting to report another child’s aggression against him during class!

Should I train my child to forget the rules and retaliate? My own experience says…well, yes. As a child I was victimised by a larger boy who didn’t seem to understand ‘no’. There was no culture of dealing with bullying in the 1960’s so it was a tough time. However, I found that one vigorous knock on the konk with my recorder did wonders: (a) it broke the recorder so I didn’t have to play it for a while, and (b) I experienced absolutely no aggression from anyone at all for the rest of my primary school life! All I can say is, if teachers don’t get involved, a child is left with retaliation; and while it can work, it is dangerous and its results can be patchy.


What Parents want Teachers to Know: 6. Instructions

Instructions: Children by and large seek to do the right thing. I say this as having observed many children, from many different backgrounds working as a volunteer in community child services organisations (hands on stuff, not mucking about with the printers in the office). So when I hear of a child penalised peremptorily for apparently not following instructions, I bristle.

Listen, teacher (to quote Pink Floyd), if there’s miscommunication, it is the sender’s fault, not the recipients. That’s a basic rule of any communication. If your message hasn’t gotten through that illustrations on blue paper won’t be part of the Christmas display, and you don’t guide a child to the right paper (given the waves of excitement that might be distracting, the noise that’s prevented understanding, or the long queue for the red and green paper piles)—and why do you have the wrong colour paper available anyway—you’ve muddled your message.

To then let the child do their work on the wrong colour paper and announce their exclusion after the fact, you’ve modelled a strong message that ‘we’re here to trip up, not to help’. Wait for that to play out in real life!


What Parents want Teachers to Know: 5. Co-operation

Cooperation: Schools seem bent on fostering a crazy level of independence, when at the office I’m working hard to build cooperative teams where people work with each others’ strengths, assist each other to overcome individual deficiencies, and together advance a common cause.

If you cooperate like this in the class room, schools apply their technical term and say it’s ‘cheating’. But John Sweller (UNSW education researcher) tells us that people learn by seeing things done properly and then, with gradually reduced supports, practicing it themselves. If the teacher is not giving the appropriate support, then, heck, why not seek it from classmates?

If nothing else, this is an indicator that the educational process has let a child down: teacher’s problem, not child’s.


What Parents want Teachers to Know: 4. Stickers

Stickers: I don’t know who invented stickers, but they had an inside running on what delights children. More strength to them on that front, I say. It gotten out of hand at school though! Stickers for this, stickers for that, badges, stars, stamps, you name it, there’s a reward for everything (and don’t make me repeat my disdain for food rewards: treating children like circus animals). Occasional recognition of achievement might be in order: but for things that are worth rewarding, and through which the child will learn that some things are really special and meaningful. The others are cheap shots that avoid the intellectual effort of designing programs to foster internal satisfaction and a sense of achievement.

Oddly, (some) teachers spend so much time on extrinsic rewards they undo children’s internal growth. Research indicates that if people are rewarded for doing things that they actually enjoy, or gain satisfaction from, they are DE-motivated. Imagine if his art pals gave Rembrandt a stamp on his hand, a sticker for his workbook and a star to wear on his smock because the Portrait of an Old Man was really cool! I’m sure he’d toss his brushes on the floor and walk away in disgust at the diminution of the satisfaction he’d had in his achievement.

The better rewards? Class room privileges: roles (properly rotated) in helping in the classroom, and participation in class meetings (oops, I don’t think children get to participate in their class planning…another anti-lesson in cooperation, responsibility, planning and achievement)


What Parents want Teachers to Know: 3. Destruction

Destruction: Teachers seem to have a slender grasp of the law on criminal damage. An educational technique used by some involves noticing that a child has erroneously used (a) the wrong writing medium or (b) the wrong piece of paper, or (c) the wrong exercise book, or (d) didn’t properly comprehend an instruction delivered too quickly, out of context or unclearly.

This technique, which must take lots of instruction, thought and practice on the teacher’s part, then involves sneaking up on the child, ripping the improperly used paper from the book and destroying it; wrecking the child’s day, publicly humiliating them, distressing other children and modelling rage as an approach to social intercourse!

Criminal damage to my child’s work is unacceptable (particularly if I’ve purchased the book), as is the modelling of destruction as a means of exercising power or of communicating to correct a misunderstanding! Or if the teacher is wanting this type of interaction; should parents then rip up the teachers’ report at the parent-teacher meetings?


Earth Hour

The farcical 'earth hour' is coming up.

I for one am going to turn on as many lights as I can!


What Parents want Teachers to Know: 2. Homework

Homework: Oh joy! Parents look forward to their child’s returning home from school so they can share the delights of homework. And little children, after their six hours of effort, naturally come home full of enthusiasm for more of the same. Not!

And it appears to be universal: the disruption of helping a young child with homework, when they are tired and distracted; while attempting to prepare the evening meal, provide snacks, help unpack the school bag, check on lunch consumed (or not…thanks school for your diligent supervision), have light conversations with them, settle sibling disputes, perhaps arrange for a play with friends, or even to do some little chores around the house makes a fair crack at homework complete family drudgery.

Given that the research base on homework shows no discernable beneficial effect and plenty of detrimental results, please, just don’t bother with it. If you can’t teach effectively in 6 hours, change jobs. If you want me to help you do your job, then pay me.

On the other hand, given that research can’t identify any benefit, I’ll do it in a few minutes. Then our family will have a reliably pleasant evening instead of one fraught with tension. The calm evening will help prepare for the next day of school, and the teacher can mark work done by someone with more degrees than they have.


What Parents want Teachers to Know: 1. Food

A while ago I read in a parenting magazine a teacher listing 10 things she wished parents know: to make her life easier.

Now the boot is on the other foot and here are 10 things I wish teachers knew about looking out for my child.

1. Food

Food: I will feed my child. I do not need or want the school to think that it can force into my child’s body on the pretext of class programming hydrogenated fats, artificial colourings and flavourings, sugar, refined grains or any other concoction, no matter what (unless it wants to pay my medical and dental bills), whether for ‘rewards’, as part of curricular activities, or to introduce children to weird cuisine.

This has come to a head for my family when my child was excluded from food-in-class activities because of her medical dietary restrictions.
• She had to watch while toast was prepared and cut (this was to teach ‘quarters’) then consumed. Teachers: there are other ways of teaching ‘quarters’.
• She also had to resist a completely misguided parent who tried to force her to eat soup she’d prepared for the class. I mean resist. She was insisting that she consume something that was effectively poison for her, despite us advising the school of these needs. Happily she won and we were spared a visit to the children’s hospital that evening.

It has taken me a year for the school to understand its responsibility under the Disability Discrimination Act to not exclude from education programs on the basis of a disability (chronic illness in this case), while they kept pumping out the pointless food events (not Canteen, or other organised things that parents can manage, but ad hoc class based ‘surprises’).

I’d also suspect the food preparation environment in a class room, and a teacher’s capability to ensure food safety practices were used. Even restaurants have killed people with lapses here, so what’s the risk when amateurs tinker with food?



No, not what you thought:

I was at an opening of a community centre on Aboriginal 'land' the other day.

We started with the silly hi to elders, then went into a smoking ceremony.

A smoking ceremony, it was explained, was to scare away the bad spirits and keep the good ones. How pathetic: I felt like asking how they knew the good spirits weren't scared of smoke, and the bad ones attracted, or how on earth smoke could affect spirits...and what were spirits anyway.

How gullible Australians are to tolerate such stone age bullsh~t: and why does the government allow itself to support these weird religious practices: maybe someone should take them to the High Court and put a stop to the timewasting sop to primatives.


Family Homework Policy

As we approach the new school year, its time to review your family education policies. You don't have any? Well, maybe you should. The school you send your children to will, so you may as well too.

If you’re lucky, the school will have a homework policy. Odds on it is not going to be family friendly.

Given that traditional homework in infants and primary school brings no benefits (see Kohn’s website and books), and is of dubious use in high school, here is a policy that you can share with the school, right after they share their non-evidence-based ‘that’s the way we do things’ policy with you.

Family Homework Policy

1. There will be no routine assigned homework.

2. If there is homework, the [name] family will not support it being marked.

3. If there is homework, it will take second place to:
a) enjoyable afternoons for children
b) stress free afternoons and dinner times for family, and
c) peaceful evenings when we can read together, play games, explore questions of genuine and productive interest

4. If there is homework, we are not either trained or paid to be teachers, we use the school for that service, so we won’t be participating as proxy supervisors: if professionals can’t get learning to happen in school, we’ve got no chance.

5. Homework will not be attempted if the child is:
a) tired
b) frustrated with it (because there’s no benefit)
c) not getting anything out of it intrinsically
d) able to do it easily (because there’s no point)

5. If homework doesn’t get done, we’ll write a note to say that we had better things to do.

The basis for this policy is:

If the child cannot complete the homework through lack of understanding then it has no benefit.

If the child can easily complete the homework because they understand the work, it has no purpose.

If the child can move through the homework albeit finds it challenging, there’s no teacher to gauge the learning, so it has no educational point.

If they mark the homework, it's not educational, but a ratings contest. Better for the teacher to work with a child on their areas of difficulty...which they would have picked up if they'd bother to do the work in class.

The school has the child for 30 hours a week. If it cannot manage to stimulate, excite and encourage learning in this period, then it certainly is not going to intrude on family time for no compensating benefit, value or real educational purpose.


Dumbo t-shirts

I'm sure you've seen them. I have: T-shirts that announce "Mary and the Sheep Road Crew" or "Dive Crew" or some other 'I'm in a crew' slogan.

Why do people advertise that they are part of a bunch of menials? Road Crew? Dive Crew? people who don't, as a rule, think of anything, they just push and carry.

The best slogan I've seen is:

"No I will not fix your computer."

Presumably worn by a computer scientist.

Here's another:

"No, I will not join your boring conversation."


"Go away, unless you are interesting."


"Don't be ordinary, have an idea."

Such are endless, and they get away from the 'I really want to be a hod-carrier' type of slogan.


Coffee worshippers #2

Thinking about the church in Annandale that worships coffee, I was wondering how other faiths might try to represent themselves to a modern Annandale demographic: I couldn't imagine Moslems having a banner with a big falaffel on it, nor Hindus with a bowl of pilaf, maybe I could imagine Zen Buddhists with a plate of sushi (that's way cool), but regular Bhuddists would show, I think a bowl of boiled rice.

This could change the face of religious Australia! But I think the other religions are a bit more serious about thier beliefs than the coffee club is!


Some viewers may be distressed

The Russians this time. During the ABC TV news, we were warned that the images of the Moscow airport bomb blast may distress some viewers.

They certainly got to me: it was typical, out of focus, rough pans, poor framing, too much 'hand-held' grainy, lousy edits...it was a shambles. I was very distressed!


Dog Moron

The only name for dog owners, such as this yokel, who can't read the sign that says 'no dogs'. He's walking these dogs at a lagoon that is popular with families with very young infants: such and dogs do not mix. In fact, check out the legislation.



I had a dig at a church a while back, so now, to maintain balance, I'll blast atheists, who are, by and large, a collection of pompous, know-it-all prigs.

Q: What's the difference between God and an atheist?

A: God knows that the atheist is just a pile of dust (or sh*t).

And who cares what dust (sh*t) thinks?



I went to Mirazozo at the Opera House the other day. On the website one learns that this is an earth-shattering transport to an experience that will change your life...well, it was nice; I'd call it trivially diverting, like most touted earth-shattering experiences promoted by artists, intellectual do-gooders and the chattering classes in general!


Summer Fun

I don't know if its dawned on anyone else, but summers have been so interesting in recent years: the South Asian tsunami, Victoria's bushfires, the Haiti earthquake, and now Queensland is underwater.

ABC TV has been treating the floods like a sports cast: live crosses, studio updates, etc. But Kym Landers has to take the cake: she was almost jubilant with the fun of flood reporting the other night. C'mon Kym.

Now I know Anna Bligh is under pressure, and probably doing a great job, but what's special about Qlders? Well, if they get knocked down they'll get up again! Anna, everyone's like that; everyone pulls together, everyone helps each other...its called being human.


Flood Lesson 1

Don't build cities in flooding river valleys.

Seems simple, doesn't it? It didn't occur to Brisbane's planners!


Just Don't

Here's the drill: don't fly single engined low wing monoplanes, don't ride old Honda mini bikes, no riderless horses without saddles allowed, don't drive '68 Camaros, no labradors(!), don't light smoky fires, don't use old Winchester .222s, and lastly don't use a golf driver to hit a cricket ball near a flag.

All pretty sensible, really.


Government supports Scientology

I knew that the NSW Government had gone crazy when it decided on the Exploding Waratah for its logo. Now its gone the full distance and decided to sponsor the Church of Scientology: an Australian Government supporting a religion, and a dimwit one at that!

I saw it on the ferry wharf at Circular Quay in Sydney: "Keep Clear".

Scientologists urge one to become/stay/strive for 'clear'. It means that the ficticious gremlins are out of your system. Now the NSW Government is in on it too.

Coffee Worshippers?

Spotted on a church notice board in Annandale: I've seen some completely naff church adverts, but this is close to the bottom (or top): as if there aren't a million coffee shops in inner Sydney; or do they think that a coffee cup is what's missing in people's lives?


The Exploding Waratah

The NSW Government has decided to adopt a logo, you know, just like any other consumer product. Well, it's chosen the exploding waratah, and now sticks it everywhere. This is  because it has not actually DONE anything that we would remember it by!

If only all public servants would wear it as a lapel badge (you know how I love these), we'd be able to tell when to use short sentences and simple words with people we meet.

The NSW Exploding Waratah