Thursday, June 12, 2003

School Curriculum needs balance? Life Skills and Academic Skills go hand in hand man

Back to school ... students arrive at St Edmund's College in Canberra

Under-fire principal explains he is taking a shot at cultural change

[Why are our teachers lost? Because the punishment is the crime.]

Colin Dwyer has no regrets about banishing 300 senior students from the school grounds for two days last week.

[But the power he used which is unequal in terms of the students power means that he will be less likely to get any form of obligation to change made by the students themselves.]

[Colin you need to be the students friends not their judge. Only when you can invite the students into the decision making process will you get an obligation by them to change their behaviour, because you Colin could lead by example and not by power.]

Speaking the day after addressing a 90-minute meeting of more than 400 parents, the principal of Canberra's best-known Catholic college, St Edmunds, said there was already a "marked improvement" in student behaviour.

But, he concedes, some might see his actions as "drastic". And, with hindsight, he probably would have done things a little differently.

"The meeting with the parents last night was very productive," he said yesterday.

"There was some hurt, there was some anger there amongst the parents. There was also a lot of positive support.

"But at the end of the meeting there were three outcomes - certainly one was that the parents generally were unhappy about the process. Now, I apologised to them for that."

However, Mr Dwyer, who is the first lay principal of St Edmunds, said the parents agreed very strongly that the culture of the college needed to change.

[But within the culture is the student's ability to relate to others in order to socialise with respect to everyone else. In short more Life Skills/Social Skills. Lack of these skills poses a threat to any form of Academic skills the students may attain.]

[A culture that had seen charges of bullying, vandalism, disrespect towards others, immature behaviour and poor work ethic is the result of lack of social skills. At the end of the day 5 percent of these kids will end up in jail.]

A suggestion that a cultural change consultant be appointed was yet to be considered. But parents made it clear at the meeting that they wanted to be consulted before future decisions were made.

Mr Dwyer said he had received incredible support for his decision, with e-mails popping up every five minutes from all sorts of people.

"I'm a fairly humble person and I didn't set out on this path to become the guru on cultural change in schools," he said.

"That seems to be something that's come after me for some reason. I'm just trying to do the best for the boys in this school."

Staff, parents and students would now embark on a process of "cultural redefinition", the principal said.

"There's no textbook on this, this is new ground."

"How do you change the culture of an organisation? They tried it with the NSW police. They've tried it with the defence forces," he said.

"Changing cultures is one of the hardest things to do, but we're having our shot at it."

By Ying Yang 12 June 03

THE PRISONER: Then have a shot at this! You don't make up a label (Cultural Redefinition) then categorise it and say, oh now there is no textbook do you? Why not choose a holistic approach? Social Skills and Life Skills must be balanced with Academic Skills within the curriculum. Then you have the root source of the problem, which is the inflation of the lack of resources (social skills) put into these children either at home or at school.

It's just a jump to the left! Collin! Do you know how many Social Skills there are? Contact Justice Action 02 9660 9111 and keep those kids out of jail by leading by example, because those kids can be your friends as well as your students. What are the benefits? Your friends are more obligated to learn and share ideas with you. In short, they like you. Incidentally we get more support from helping students to stay out of jail than we do from helping prisoners who are in jail.


NSW education professor warns further commitment needed
The author of a report on the New South Wales education system has urged the major political parties to do more for education in the election campaign.

Fiona Stanley, the children's crusader
It is all about prevention. As Fiona Stanley sees it, with one in five Australian teenagers experiencing significant mental health problems, there are just not enough treatment services to cope with the demand.

Parents call for feedback on social skills
Parents are calling for the same level of feedback on their children's social development as on their academic progress, according to a national survey.

The Seed
Respect, you only get out what you have put in. What about Life Skills, Communication and Conflict Resolution. Evolution, perhaps some children and adults miss the whole or part of the course. I did, and so how surprised do you think I was when I realised my parents missed the course as well. Things like Compromise, Win Win, Empathy, and Love. Invisible energy and other skills like public speaking, how to Relate, Assuming, Blaming, Forgiveness, Freedom and Discrimination. This is how I learned respect. If you don't know what it is then how do you relate?

The punishment: Is the 'crime'
The punishment is the crime according to retired chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia Justice Alistair Nicholson. "Smacking a child ought to be seen as assault".

Australian prisons are fast becoming the new asylums of the third millennium. The prison industry is booming, while Australia spends far less on mental health services than similar countries.