Janine Rees 24th November 2016
Sparkt was founded to help schools to become communities based on respectful relationships. A school should be a nurturing, supportive space where each person is equal and has a voice; where students, parents and teachers collaborate for the greater good. A place where diversity is celebrated. A calm and inclusive home away from home where adults model what a respectful relationship looks like. A place where each child has the opportunity to develop self-respect and a strong self-worth. A place where each child, parent and teacher can utilise and develop their unique gifts and talents and work from their strengths. A place where each child can learn of their responsibility to others and to give back to the world.
How different our world would be if everyone had a good start in life. Current research tells us that the building blocks for happiness are laid down in early childhood. Good parenting and holistic early childhood education are the pillars upon which a good and functioning society rests. If our government were to realise how important a good start in life is to the economy, I’m sure we would see children and their carers getting the support they need. High quality, free early childhood education would save us billions in the long run.
Mainstream education is stuck in the Industrial Age, still training its students to be good workers for the factory. The trend towards high-stakes testing and a year level centred curriculum is central to the problem. Critical thinking is tested out of the children from a very young age. The individual is lost in a sea of reporting and data. Teachers are drowning in red tape and have had their autonomy and creativity stifled. The amount of teachers leaving the profession is at an all time high with job satisfaction at an all time low. As teachers, we are not given the support we need for the children in our care. Most schools are run in an autocratic fashion. The bureaucrats are completely out of touch with the young children of today, handing down directives to those at the coal face.
We have entered a period of rapid development like none we have ever experienced in the history of humankind, yet our schools are exact replicas of those from the inception of public education. We have never catered well to the individual, you go in one end a child full of potential with the innate drive to learn and you are squeezed through the sausage machine. If you survive, well and good, if you thrive you are extremely fortunate. In my experience, with all the best intentions as a teacher, I’d say possibly 20% to 30% thrive at school, 50% to 60% have an ok or fairly ‘meh’ experience and around 20% to 30% are terribly damaged by their experience in the mainstream education system. Very sadly our current education system is quite literally killing people. Not good enough! Everyone should have the opportunity to thrive at school rather than survive school.
If you are a parent of a child who is thriving at school then… as you were, you need not read any further. If you are a parent of a child who is struggling then there are thousands of teachers out there crying out to the system to garner help for your child. Our cries are falling on deaf ears though. I have done all I can as a part of the system to help those in my care. My frustration levels have now grown too high to be contained. I can see small, inexpensive changes that would bring about massive improvement for those children who are struggling or floating adrift. What we need is a grassroots movement led by like-minded parents, teachers and students to advocate for change. That is what Sparkt is all about. I have been sparked into action through sheer frustration as a teacher.
As parents and teachers we want our children to have the opportunity to reach their full potential. We want equity in education. We want education that encompasses the whole child not simply driven by NAPLAN scores. We want our children to have many and varied experiences not many worksheets. We want our children to have a developmentally appropriate and explorative curriculum not a one-size-fits-all year level based curriculum. If you are ready to learn long division at age six then go for it, you do not have to be horizontally extended for three more years and by the same token if you’re not ready for long division until you’re twelve then not a problem you are not broken or incompetent. We want a system that acknowledges and celebrates our children’s strengths and compassionately supports and strengthens their weaknesses. We want a system driven by respect. We want our children to be respectfully mentored to become well-rounded, self-confident, happy and ready to give their gifts to the world whatever those gifts may be.
Through action research Sparkt has developed a framework for schools to implement changes that support an inclusive, equitable and respectful environment for all. We will be delivering workshops early in 2017 centring on Creativity in Education and Strengths Based Schools. The workshops are for parents, teachers and principals and focus on systemic changes principals and teachers can make to deliver huge, measurable gains to their students. These changes do not incur extra cost to schools but rather focus on reimagining our spaces and a reallocation of human resources.
Please contact Janine Rees for details and to register your interest.