We all like a surprise, right?
Well, you might say, that all depends on whether the surprise is a good surprise or a bad surprise.
A surprise is simply something unexpected, and everyday life is full of surprises; some so little they go almost unnoticed, others of larger more life-changing proportions. Some are pleasant and others far less so.
What got me thinking about surprises this week is the flash fiction prompt posted by Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Communications.
Charli’s challenge this week is to
In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows surprise without using the word.
I have been thinking of all sorts of surprises I could write about but decided to maintain my focus on education.
There are many opportunities for surprises to occur throughout one’s education, which is not limited to (but probably, dare I say, by) one’s schooling experiences.
- Discovering you can read a book, all by yourself
- Discovering an author whose work you just can’t put down
- Finding a solution to a problem that had seemed insurmountable
- Achieving a favourable result in a dreaded test
- Being offered a place in the course you were wanting
- Having work accepted, valued and receiving payment
There are many situations in which the surprise could go either way.
- Being called to the principal’s office
- Having a parent-teacher interview about your own child, or student
- Receiving exam results or course placement offer
- Meeting a new teacher
- Working in a group to solve a problem
Being a lover of stories, especially picture books, it is rare that a situation doesn’t trigger a thought connection to a story or book I have read.
Thinking about the good surprises and bad surprises that could happen in some of these situations made me think of a book I had read to my own, and classes of, children years ago. Maybe you will remember it also.
The book is What Good Luck! What Bad Luck! by Remy Charlip and relates a sequence of events alternating between good and bad.
It appears, from what I can find out, that it was first published by Ashton Scholastic in 1964 and sold for 60 cents.
Today Amazon has used copies on offer for $34.99 or $122 and a collectible as high as $157.70.
What good luck, I used to have a copy.
What bad luck, it is no longer in my possession.
I was at the stage of mentally composing my story with my fingers itching to get to the keyboard to translate it into print when I glanced at the morning paper1 and came across this headline:
Lesson 1: Bad teachers = bad results
As a teacher who is passionate about education but also critical of top-down force-fed schooling institutions, headlines/comments like these have me vacillating between defiant self- (and professional-) protection and agreement with the criticisms.
Teachers come in for a lot of criticism, some of it deservedly so, other of it not so much.
One quote I love is “Teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions”.
On the flip-side of this is “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”
While I take offense at this one, sometimes I am inclined to think it alludes to an important quality in a teacher. Frequently those who are expert at something, find it difficult to break a process into a series of steps that would enable an explanation to be easily understood by others. If one has struggled to master a task, the process can seem clearer and easier to explain. However there does come a point below which knowledge and experience must not fall or effective teaching cannot exist.
In her article Bad teachers = bad results, Kylie Lang says that
“C-grade teachers will not produce A-grade results”.
“Too many mediocre minds are becoming teachers. Universities usher them in, these academic underperformers who fail to qualify for courses with higher entry requirements.”
She says that
“A federal education department report shows a rise in the number of school leavers with poor grades being offered places on teaching courses. This year, 55 percent of Year 12 students that were allowed to undertake teaching degrees had an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank below the average . . .”
It is a bit scary, isn’t it?
She also says that,
“If we are a nation that values education . . . we must attract brighter, more creative thinkers to classrooms.”
I couldn’t agree more. However I wonder where they will get those creative thinkers if higher order thinking skills, creativity and innovation are sacrificed in the relentless quest for scores on academic tests which require students to spit back information forced upon them in hours of didactic instruction and rote learning.
It’s no surprise that anyone who maintains the ability to think outside the square would rather not return to it!
And so to my flash piece for this week, which comes with a warning – there’s no rhyme because there is no reason:
No books, no talk were in the home.
He was happy to play on his own.
School began when he was five.
Learning from flash cards, how hard he tried.
“My boy can’t do it!” his Mum once wailed.
With ‘forged’ test scores no child would fail.
Leaving school, the options were few.
Teaching was the one he could do.
Uni years flashed by so fast.
Number requirements meant he passed.
Then into the classroom he unprepared went.
No future joy for any student.
What bad luck!
I always enjoy reading your comments. I invite you to share your thoughts.
1 Courier-Mail, Sunday May 25 2014
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