Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


A letter to Jeremy Rockliff: I am appalled …

The Hon Jeremy Rockliff

Minister for Education

25 January 2017

Dear Mr Rockliff,

I am writing to you as a past President of the AEU and a teacher of over 40 years.

I was handed the attached page from a Hobart state primary school report by a teacher who was angry but too frightened to do anything about it herself.

On reading it, I am absolutely appalled that such a document could be approved by a principal, seen by the teacher, and presumably sent home to parents. This requirement for an eight-year-old child to report on their teacher in this way is unethical and highly inappropriate.

A child should not be asked to report on a teacher’s skills and abilities and comment on how these can be improved and certainly not asked if the teacher “has favourites” in the class.

A teacher’s skills are a matter for the principal and possibly the TRB but NOT the child. It is not hard to imagine what sort of effect a child’s comments could have on any teacher’s self-esteem but particularly on an inexperienced teacher.

I am led to believe by other teachers I know that this sort of reporting has become quite common in our primary schools. If so, it is an appalling indictment of the quality of current principals who are overseeing it.

I intend making this report public through the Tasmanian Times website because I strongly believe the public should know what is going on in our schools but I am also informing you so you will be aware.

Your sincerely,

Jean Walker

*Jean Walker was born in Yorkshire, England. Jean migrated with her parents to Tasmania in 1951. She taught English, Social Science and Special Education in Tasmanian high schools before working as Field Officer for the state branch of the Australian Education Union and as full-time State President from 2004-2008. She was a Civil Marriage Celebrant for twelve years. She has served on several Boards, including Council for the Ageing (COTA) and the Annie Kenny Young Women’s Shelter. She is President of U3A Glenorchy and of the national U3A Online, a “virtual” U3A where all courses are done online. Jean has travelled widely and has taught in the UK and in Sweden. She has three adult sons, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

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  1. John Francis

    February 7, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    #13 As a former teacher in the Tasmanian school system from the 80s-90s, I fought the neo-liberal agenda in whatever way I could as it was imposed on us piece by piece. What needs to be remembered here is that this agenda was imposed on us all via the Washington Consensus (so-called). I am not interested in blame (I know who is responsible and accept my part as well) and still commit to the values I have held since my youth. By the way, I still enjoy the struggle fuelled by the perspective that middle age brings!

  2. I Carver

    February 5, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    Thanks for your reply Jean. Having received my formal reply from the Minister, and not having my specific questions and concerns addressed, let alone answered, I shall consider this approach next!

  3. Jean Walker

    February 4, 2017 at 11:18 am

    #14 – the reason I sent this to the Minister and to this site is that it is the only way to avoid any such matter being ignored or swept under the carpet or deftly side-stepped by obfuscation. The teacher concerned did not want me to take it up with her school principal as she feared being identified and suffering retribution – that, unfortunately, is the culture in our system. A principal who puts out this sort of rubbish is hardly likely to listen to an opposing view from one individual. Anyone who asks an 8-year old to say if a teacher has favourites in a class needs the attention of their superiors. The same applies with going to the bureaucracy, whose main job is to keep the Minister happy.

    I wanted the Minister to be aware of this type of reporting and, hopefully, ensure that it doesn’t happen in any of our schools. The main objective of any Minister is to be re-elected and to this end they do anything to avoid public embarrassment. Sometimes this is the only way to get anything attended t or at the very least, receive a formal acknowledgement for the records.

    Good luck with your mission!

  4. I Carver

    February 3, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    Hello Jean, as a parent and advocate for youth, I find this practice inappropriate also – not so much from the teacher’s position but the child’s as it appears that these ‘reports’ are not anonymously filled in.

    Of greater interest to me, is that you have written directly to the Minister (and publicly) and so raising it as a matter of priority and urgency? I would have thought that contacting the school concerned would be the first step myself?

    I raise this, simply because as a matter of priority and urgency (to youth health), I have been raising the concerns around Sex and Relationships Education in schools, the Minister actually being my last port of call as I was hoping that relevant departments would have answers that I am seeking.

    Having now received formal replies, I shall continue the process of my qeuryies, but I wonder if you or your readers might have any suggestions for a more efficient process?

    Thanks for sharing so far also, regards.

  5. Simon Warriner

    February 1, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    re 9, This neo lib agenda has been present in the education system for years and nary a peep from the left or the right. Why start now? Because it has finally become egregiously stupid, or becasue you think you can blame someone who has had nothing to do with implementing it?

  6. Clive Stott

    February 1, 2017 at 4:03 pm

  7. TGC

    January 31, 2017 at 10:27 pm

    #9 Donald Trump has come in handy for you.

  8. TGC

    January 30, 2017 at 10:15 pm

    “I am (absolutely) appalled” a classic ‘Yes (Prime) Minister’ line!

  9. John Francis

    January 30, 2017 at 9:24 pm

    No comprehension of the psychological development of the child here….children are not developmentally mature enough to make these sorts of judgements and this approach could be seen as a form of child exploitation. This approach is an example of New Public Management (i.e. neo-liberalism) gone berserk-‘customer’ feedback, etc. Anyway, with the rise (and hopefully soon, fall) of Trump and other right wing nutters, at least we can have some hope that this plunge to the depths of ‘deep’ (read ‘superficial’) capitalism, may have reached its nadir!

  10. T Keane

    January 30, 2017 at 6:51 pm

    Sounds like The Cultural Revolution to me.

    Clowns to the left of me, clowns to the right of me …

  11. Clive Stott

    January 30, 2017 at 12:57 am

    Thank you Jean for making this matter public.

    I think it is pretty appalling. Fancy asking the children to undertake a task that obviously those higher up can’t manage these days. Then sack them!

    I would imagine there are many decent teachers and principals that would agree this type of document is upsetting to a child and the parents.

    I am not sure what type of training those who think it is OK to put out such an obnoxious document have had but they haven’t got their pupil’s interests at heart.

    It will be interesting to hear what the Minister has to say.

  12. Lynne Newington

    January 29, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    If parents are susceptible to data of their children to teachers why shouldn’t teachers be susceptble to data of children to parents in whatever form.
    I think David has it about right.

  13. Jean Walker

    January 29, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    John – my point is that primary/secondary students should NOT be reporting on a teacher in any way at all.

    Why is a teacher different, after three or four years training and a degree, from doctors, dentists, etc? As Mrs Smyth says, would it be appropriate, after a child visits a doctor or dentist to ask him/her to write a report on that professional’s performance and how it could be improved? We would consider that laughable so why is it OK to do it to a teacher?

    Are teachers asked to formally and publicly report on the performance of their principal and bureaucrats and minister in this way? I wonder why not!

  14. John Biggs

    January 29, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    I have mixed feelings about student feedback on teachers at tertiary level. If conducted properly it can provide useful feedback on issues of teaching the teacher may not be aware of. It can however lead to easy grading and playing to be popular; it can also be plain malicious. The essential things is that the quality teaching is addressed not qualities of the teacher.

    What is proposed here seems not to take the finer details into account and I seriously doubt that primary school students can make the appropriate decisions and distinctions that are vital if the rating is not to be just another KPI in the managerialisation of schools. That has certainly happened in universities at a terrible cost to teacher morale.

  15. David

    January 27, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    There should be no concern about receiving information like this. It is about the mindset of the teacher and the school in what to do with it. As a teacher that receives feedback on my work by students and colleagues I can choose how to address it, an example being that I thought students felt comfortable accessing my ‘open markbook’ however students provided feedback that this wasn’t the case. I changed my behaviour and language and the student feedback improved. In a healthy school environment, ‘data’ should be used for information not condemnation (paraphrasing Anthony Muhammad).

    Maybe the question about having favourites is worded poorly but probably done so to be in terms that students are familiar with and in my view hardly unethical.

    I would encourage all teachers to adopt a growth mindset, welcome feedback from all sources, and become better everyday which in the end only benefits students.

  16. Simon Warriner

    January 27, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    relax, Jean. If they pay as much attention to it as they do to any other constructive suggestions from outside the staff room it will be ignored if it does not fit the prevailing narrative. With that in mind it seems like pretty much every thing else in education at present. An exercise in window dressing. (/s)

    You know they are failing when they are confusing the roles being played.

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