Reflecting on what I saw at TIGS Library yesterday

Or should I say Research Centre?

First, my now eBook enthusiasm did lead me a while back to wonder whether the age of the weighty backpack could be over. I can ALMOST envisage teaching English today with no – or very few – traditional books.

Compare this post: Textbooks of Tomorrow.


Click to see the full picture, as that is just a taster.

Also of interest — A Teacher’s Guide To Web 2.0 at School.

By way of contrast with the rather privileged air I breathed yesterday, but not without resonance in this whole transformatory perspective including what technology offers, see Charles Waterstreet in today’s Sun-Herald.

He begins with an account of getting lost on the way and having to be guided in by mobile phone. Really? Whatever, it’s a nice hook…

But the guts of his account is very moving.

… Edgeware School offers that miracle or the prospect of one. These kids are not to be handled with kid gloves. Their first language is swearing and their alphabet begins with F and ends with C. They have worn out their welcome at traditional schools and Edgeware is the last stop on the educational journey before jail. We arrived at the school via mobile phone with the school principal, Rod Clayton, tag-teaming with our driver.

I was there to launch a hardcover book of photography reflecting on the school’s achievements in 2010-11. It’s impossible to describe how hard and grinding a teacher’s load with these children is, and impossible to believe the joy it gives them when something goes right, as when a student stays at school all day without absconding. Teachers at our schools are the unheralded saints of the social spectrum, but at this special school they are guardian angels of children who behave like devils. And it is working.

This year the school had 31 students, 80 per cent of them male. Classes can have up to seven students but are not structured according to year levels but rather consider individual student needs and the implications of academic, behavioural, developmental and environmental factors. In many ways Edgeware is a selective school, relying on results in emotional difficulties and those demonstrating a wide variety of challenging behaviour. The state has really pulled its weight in these schools. It provides students with an opportunity to develop their potential in a safe and supportive environment. Fairness is the fundamental fibre in our national character. These kids know bullshit when they see it but the one thing they do respect is fairness.

The evening’s program had been put together by the assistant principal, Lubow Nedanovski, and gathered in the school’s foyer were a couple of dozen teachers, community workers, citizens and carers. Rod Clayton welcomed me to the school but it was noticeable that the event was to be boycotted by the students. You know this is a tough school when no student turns up to celebrate at a function dedicated to their achievements. Such is Edgeware School and others like it around the state.

During the middle of my speech, a brown smiling face appeared at the door, earphones threaded through her curly black and highlighted-yellow hair. The whole room lifted as if the prime minister had walked in. Gillian had arrived, an instant celebrity, braving the peer group’s gang rules and shyly bent over as her teachers fussed over her. She signed my book and I signed hers. She had broken through and recognised that Edgeware is a friend indeed.

These challenged and challenging children are the by-product of severed families, drug and alcohol abuse by parents and fragmented social systems, and need to be treated as children without borders. Their uninterrupted trajectory would be from the streets to the prison unless that pathway was interrupted by something sensational such as Edgeware. Their past might be battered and bruised but their future won’t be predictable if Clayton and his dedicated team of wrangler teachers can possibly intervene. A girl such as Gillian, like all the Edgewareans, needs and deserves every ounce of energy the state and its education system can throw at them…

See the school site.

Kudos. ONLY in the state school system will you get something quite as excellent, quite as courageous.