Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Am I about to be Novopained?

It's the term break. I've got the car serviced, sorted some insurance for future circumstances, and I've been working on probably the biggest decision personally and financially I have made in my life yet!

Tonight I've arrived at the beach to spend time with cousins and catch up with old work colleagues and friends. I was at quiz and I thought, during a break, "I'll check that Twitter message that came while I was driving. "

Everyone was talking about Novopay. I checked my email. No payslip.

I asked if others had received payslips.

Someone retweeted a message to me saying that the payslips would come out at lunch time tomorrow but we'd still get paid on time.

I bank with Westpac.  While other banks may show you the money on Tuesday night, Westpac don't - well not in my account they don't.

I write this just before 1:00am on Wednesday morning. As of yet, my bank account does not show a deposit.

Is it my turn to be Novopained?

What new bug means that we haven't had our payslips yet?

Why now?

The anticipation is killing me.

I could well wake in the morning to find the usual deposit in my bank.

Or I might awaken unable to pay my rent, insurances, loan and bills.

What will happen remains to be seen.

The next morning: whew! Pay went in.

But for many others it did not.   My mate Beven can't even buy a $4 box of tea this morning.  His card declined.

This has gone on long enough.

The Novopay issue is well below standard.

Man up Steven Joyce and dump it.  We want Datacom back.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Beware the bullies who don't want you to excercise your democratic rights

This post is all about exercising your democratic rights to speak freely, to have an opinion and the right to express that opinion.  But before I get to that, I need to explain some other stuff....

GERM (Global Education Reform Movement) was a term coined by Pasi Sahlberg, leading educationalist from Finland, to describe the reforms touted by neo-liberalists to fix education systems they claim are in crisis.

Since the 2008 election campaign National has been claiming that New Zealand has a broken education system.  That the system is failing with 1/5 students leaving school unable to read and write or do basic maths without NCEA Level 2

National and Act having been ramming these "facts" down the throats of the electing public for nearly six years now.  Do you know where they got these facts from?

Below is a screen shot from The Daily Blog where you can read more about how National pulled the wool in regards to education:

So here we have National manufacturing "facts" to get National Standards legislation through parliament with little regard to the truth, and this has set the tone for what we have now: a government trying to force through yet another piece of legislation (Charter Schools/Partnership Schools/Hourua Kura) which was not even mentioned in passing in the 2011 pre election manifestos by either National or Act and yet they claim they have a mandate to do so!

Earlier this week Save Our Schools NZ posted a poll asking several questions gauging how successful you think the Charter Schools policy will be.  This poll was advertised on the SOSNZ blog, SOSNZ facebook page, and then shared on other group facebook pages and by supporters. 

Voting on the poll was tracking a long.... and then a certain oily blogger found out about it.

As you can see from the screen shot above (and I am not supplying a link to this bully's page) he called it a "union organised opposition".  The commenters were venomous and downright bully-like with their comments, then they went on to vote in the poll, and then made every effort to have the blog and facebook pages for SOSNZ reported and labelled as spam in order to stymy the debate and derail opposition.   

Let me assure you that the person who runs the SOSNZ blog is a stay at home full time mum of a pre-schooler who is deeply concerned about the direction of education in New Zealand.  She is also a qualified teacher, is a member of NZEI as she does the occasional bit of relief teaching, but is currently focusing on being a mum, and until the class size issue last year was not paying a lot of attention to education issues.

But one of National's mistakes last year was to announce increasing class sizes.  If one thing is going to upset parents it is the idea that their child will get even less attention from a teacher than what they already do.  Parents did a great job of making themselves heard over that issue, and it means that they are now paying more attention to education issues all round.  It has also ignited more organised opposition from not only parents and teachers (and their unions), but from grandparents, aunties and uncles, and just plain concerned citizens.

And now the Whale and his followers have ignited even more opposition due to their behaviour this week.

We live in a democracy.  One of the basic tenets of a democracy is free speech and the right to protest.  My disclosure statement at the top of this blog explicitly says that these are my views that I am expressing because I live in a democracy.  I am open to express my views and to protest against those things that I do not agree with.

I believe that I support the right for all people to do the same.

However I do not agree with bullying and telling blatant lies and not checking your facts.

The Whale however is known, in my opinion and the opinion of many who have been oiled, for all these things.

He has been to court for breaking suppression orders for at least three cases (although I actually agreed with him on this count) so we know he isn't that worried about breaking the law.

Last year when the Ports of Auckland dispute was at its zenith he released the personal details of one of the wharfies, lambasting him as being a malcontent who earned an exorbitant sum of money (exaggerated by the Whale), had had mega amount of leave (the man's wife was dying of cancer) and accused him of all sorts of things.... and it turned out he had accepted money to champion the case of the Ports of Auckland.  If you want to read more of this behaviour critiqued in regards to this issue click here.

Whale has a long history of targeting individuals.  I know of two principals who were very active in opposing the GERM.  One has since withdrawn her activism in order to protect her professionalism, school, community and family.  The other has increased his activism and retired from the teaching profession.  Why should one man's vitriol have so much influence?

And now I look at the lead up to NZEI's day of action and his lack of accuracy:

I have blanked out the names and pictures of the people concerned.  They have suffered enough from this bully.

The second person was particularly upset to be oiled.  For starters, her profile picture at that time included her grandchild and she did not think it fair that the Whale publicise the child.  Secondly, this lady is not, nor has never been, a teacher.  She joined the page because she is a concerned grandparent and worries for the future of education for her grandchildren in Christchurch.  Since she is not a teacher (or teacher aide or any other kind of support staff) she does not belong to a teachers' union.

Did the Whale stop to check his facts?  No. 

In the course of writing this blog I have messaged several people who this blog mentions to check facts and mostly to get their approval to write about them.  It is the ethical thing to do.

When the second person from the Whale's post above commented on his blog with corrections and to ask that the picture be removed, she received no apology and another unsubstantiated accusation was laid against her.  Also in the comments section was an accusation against one of the people shown in the Whale's post supposedly outing them on a personal matter.  I haven't included a link or a screen shot of that because I do not want to cause further unnecessary pain. 

The point that I want to make here is that not only is the Whale a bully, but he encourages his followers to do the same, and he does not moderate.  The abuse on this post and on the post about the SOSNZ poll was horrific and personal and defamatory.  The SOSNZ administrator has been advised she should seek a legal opinion on the comments made.

On the 27th of March I watched Media3 (after Nightline on TV3 Wednesday nights, repeated late Saturday mornings).  On this episode they were discussing the possibility of a new standards authority for media, including blogs.  Currently blogs do not fall under any standards in regards to media and broadcast.  The Whale appeared as his real self, Cameron Slater, and stated that he would most likely join the new authority.

I immediately gained the impression that this new authority would have even less teeth than the current authority governing media, because his blog definitely does not meet the standards that newspapers currently have to meet!

Earlier this week on that bastion of current events, Seven Sharp TV1 7pm Monday-Friday, Jesse Mulligan gave some great advice on how to take the piss out of Colin Craig without getting sued for defamation.  Click here to view.  So I am going to take a leaf out of Jesse's book an I am going to tell you some truths about the Whale.

Everything I have said above is the truth.  I've done exactly what Jesse said I should to avoid a defamation suit.  And did you note that I had done a google search or two to get the evidence?

This next part is just something I want you to consider about bullies in general:

"Bullies were also at higher risk for mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and hostility....  Bullies tended to hold a negative view of themselves, suggesting they pick on others to feel better about themselves, and they may especially single out those who have trouble fitting in for other reasons."  Sourced from: http://www.livescience.com/11163-bullies-bullying.html

"Q: What about a child who has been a bully?
Studies have shown that bullying in childhood is often a “gateway behavior” that leads to serious problems later in life, including:
  • truancy
  • school failure
  • law-breaking behavior
  • substance abuse
  • destructive personal relationships
  • difficulty maintaining employment
  • cruelty to animals
  • violent crime
In fact, a study of 3,913 children published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that aggressive children had 8 percent more medical visits as adults compared with their peers, 10 percent more injuries and hospital admissions and 12 percent more Emergency Department visits. Aggressive children also experienced 44 percent more lifestyle-associated diseases as adults.
For all of these reasons, it’s imperative that a child who bullies others receives immediate help."
Sourced from:  http://childrenshospital.org/az/Site2912/mainpageS2912P1.html

You connect the dots.

Basically, I am saying that the Whale is below the standard for how he runs his blog.  His research skills are below the standard.  His comprehension skills are below the standard.  His critical thinking skills are below the standard.  His behaviour as a human being towards other human beings is below the standard.  His understanding of how a democracy works is below the standard.  You failed the standard Whale Oil.

Friday, 12 April 2013

NZEI's Day of Action & the Education Amendments

Today, Saturday 13th April, NZEI members up and down the country will be making a stand in the
NZEI Day of Action.  I will be attending two events.  My branch has organised a mini-march in our town at 9:30am, and then I will head into a bigger march in Hamilton starting at 11:00am where I will be a marshal manning a red light at an intersection!!  Oh, the power!

So why are NZEI members doing this?  For the following reasons:
  • the Ministry of Education is not acting constructively in the negotiations over the Primary Teachers' Collective Agreement (PTCA).
  • there are a number of claw backs in the MOE's offer, and most disturbingly is their assertion that the Secretary of Education be granted new powers, which could affect our Collective Agreement without any negotiations.
  • The direction of education policies by this government that are directly linked to GERM (Global Education Reform Movement) such as: National Standards, standardised national testing, the messing around with assessment tools we previously trusted, the development of PaCT (Progress and Consistency Tool), league tables, Charter Schools/Partnership Schools/Kura Hourua, unregistered/untrained teachers, performance pay......
  • Changes to the Education Act that are contrary to good practise and are being implemented despite thousands of submissions which oppose a number of amendments.
  • The ramming through of school closures and mergers in Christchurch despite the Ombudsman investigating the process of consultation and decision making.
  • Teachers know this government has no respect for them.
While all of these impact teachers in some way, they also impact on the students we teach. 

National Standards were not researched and trialled.... and yet they have been forced upon our students, with no opt out options.  Even schools with severely disabled students are forced to assess their learning against the National Standards.  These are labelling students in a way each student is very aware of.

We are worried about the possibility of standardised national testing - which has not improved outcomes for learners in countries like the UK, USA or Australia.  The development of PaCT that has the power to over rule a teachers' OTJ (overall teacher judgement) is most concerning.  Since when does a computer know better than a teacher how a child is achieving?  Who will have access to that data and how will it be used?  And towards the end of last year, Kelvin Smythe revealed how our trusted tools like STAR and AsTTle have been tutu-ed with causing some alarming so called improvements to student's achievements that experienced teachers and principals were very concerned about. 

If teachers' are over ruled in how they assess their students by a computer and we can not trust our assessment tools, plus a standardised national test makes a mockery of our well researched and trialled curriculum and teaching to the individual needs of each child..... well, can you see how that impacts on each and every student?

Finland has no national testing regime until the last year at secondary school - and they are top of the world rankings for education.  That is not to say their teachers do not test their students - they do.  But the testing is used to the benefit of the individual learner's learning journey - not to big note dodgy politicians.

PaCT also brings in the concerning issues of performance pay for teachers and another angle on league tables, which were brought into our education sphere last year despite the data from National Standards being, in PM John Key's words, "ropey".  PaCT data could be used by the MOE to identify "top performing" and "failing" teachers, and apply performance pay or other sanctions that fall outside the PTCA.  This method would not take into account the cohort each teacher has, the personal learning journeys of each individual student, or outside impacts (i.e. an earthquake....).

In Finland there is no performance pay.  Teachers are treated with the utmost respect and teaching is a difficult profession to get into as only the best are accepted into teacher training (I do think NZ could do with some tightening up on who gets into teacher training).  Performance pay comes with so many fish hooks, for example, teaching to the test, personality conflicts with the person who makes the decision, "cooking the books" when it comes to student outcomes, fewer teachers will want to work in 'under performing' schools.....

And then there is the Charter School, or whatever they are calling them this month, issue.  Charter Schools are classic GERM.  This involves tax payer dollars going to private enterprises to start their own schools.  The government would prefer these schools started in underprivileged South Auckland and earthquake devastated Christchurch first.  The government are helping clear the way in Christchurch by closing down a number of schools.  These schools will not have to follow the NZ Curriculum or assess and report according to National Standards (unlike your normal state school), will not have to have community representation, will not have to respond to the Official Information Act, will not have to employ registered teachers - or even trained teachers!

Again the fish hooks are huge!!  There will be no oversight as to what these schools will teach due to them not having to use the NZC.  For all we know, these schools could be teaching children that mushrooms grow on the moon!!  And if they are not assessing against the National Standards (as much as I detest them), how can you compare achievement in a Charter School against achievement in the nearby state or integrated school?  And as for allowing unregistered and untrained teachers to be employed by these schools, well that down grades the professionalism of teaching and all the theory of how to teach.  It puts children at risk in more ways than I care to consider.

The US, UK and Sweden have gone the way of GERM infected Charter Schools.  Finland does not have Charter Schools, and very few private schools.  Under our Tomorrow's Schools model (being rapidly eroded by GERM) there is ample opportunity to have a school with a special character, although I note in last weekend's Marae Investigates that road blocks have been put up for this in an effort to pave the way for Charter Schools, forcing schools that want to integrate into the state system to go through the Charter School process.

Yesterday the Education Amendment Bill for the second reading in parliament was released after submission were made to the education and science select committee were held in February.  Well not a lot has changed as a result of thousands of submissions opposing Charter Schools.  The one obvious change is that the Ombudsman will be able to have some oversight into Charter Schools - in regards to suspension/expulsion/disciplinary issues - but not achievement, not how they are using tax payers' dollars (check out this example of abuse of Charter School funds in the US).

People who have participated in the submission process on this Bill are furious that all the evidence and submissions that were presented have been ignored.  It makes a mockery of consultation in the New Zealand democracy.  It's that old attitude of "let's give it a go" despite evidence to show how detrimental it will be to childrens' learning.

So when teachers and the academics who study education are so blatantly ignored, is it any wonder that they feel the need to take to the streets and show how they feel, to share with the public what is happening?

Despite the fact that the consultation and decision making process of closing and merging Christchurch schools in the post-earthquake shake up is being investigated by the Ombudsman, the Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, is pushing ahead with the unrealistic timeframe.  Warnings have come out of Christchurch that the reorganisation forced on them by the minister is a blueprint for what will happen to other communities, despite denials by Parata.  The thing is, it smacks of what happened in Dunedin during Anne Tolley's tenure as the Minister of Education, and the discussions now happening in Auckland to accommodate the current bulging rolls in certain areas that are set to increase with infill housing under the proposed Auckland housing plan.  The common denominator is all these reorganisations is the lack of listening skills by the minister (past and present) and her officials when it comes to consultation.

All of the above consolidates into a definite lack of respect for teachers and the education community.  We are branded with the "self-interested" slogan.  That we are "blindly following the union's propaganda".  According to our old friend Cameron Slater of Whale Oil fame, we are bullying people to participate today and are having to "rent a crowd" (has he not heard of humour?).  Even Michael Laws has slammed teachers for standing up for their beliefs and informing their school community (this begs the question if we should include information about healthy eating and exercise in our newsletters for fear of politicising the issue).  It was obvious that Laws didn't read the pamphlet because his opinion piece was full of holes.

I really do have to wonder why they think anyone teaches.  I could possibly get paid more.  I could possibly get a job where I don't fork out so much of my own money so I can do my job.  I could get a job with way less stress and work that impinges on my time when I am not at school.  I could get a job that would involve not being exposed to so many germs, and, on the odd occasion, the odd violent parent or student.  I could get a job where I had more respect.

But I don't.

I don't because I love children, I love learning, and I love the fact that every day is different with the potential to for not only my students to learn, but I learn too!!

Again I will have to assess against the standard.  I find this government has failed the standard for consultation.  I find this government has failed the standard for listening to and comprehending sound research and facts.  I find this government has failed the standard to uphold and resource a quality public education system.  I find this government has failed the standard for doing what is best for our learners - the people who are our future.