By MEAGHAN COOK
Miles (6) skipped out of his classroom yesterday holding aloft a yellow envelope with his name typed on the front. “It’s my report!’ he hollered to me as he met me at the school gate. “What does it say?” he asked, as we tore it open to read it.
“Um, I’m really not sure,” I said.
As part of the Australian Education Union’s (AEU) fight with the Victorian Government, teachers have been instructed not to write comments on our children’s reports. So what we held in our hands was a piece of paper with a series of dots that was supposed to tell us how Miles had gone in his first year of school.
“I think it says that you, um, have dots in all the right places,” I offered.
He was as baffled as I was.
I know the Premier promised to make Victorian teachers the highest paid in the country and is yet to deliver on that promise. I watched teachers rally together to give a single voice to their plight. I was roused to see them standing up for what they believed in, and hope that they succeed.
But I question this particular method of protest, the withholding of information from parent’s about their children, as one that will help the cause of teachers.
How does not telling a parent about their child’s learning convince Mr Baillieu to deliver on his promise?
Not getting a detailed report for Miles is not just so that I can have a record of what he has achieved in prep (although that’d be nice too). It’s so that I can learn more about my child. I want to know if Miles is a visual learner, if he enjoys group work or prefers to be on his own, if he responds well to his success or is weighed down by his difficulties. The dots tell me that he’s at ‘’the expected level of achievement’’ for reading, but how did he get there? Did he have initial struggles but overcame them, or has he breezed through?
Teachers talk about continuing our children’s learning at home, but how can I do that if I don’t know what’s been happening at school? We have not been in those classrooms to find out for ourselves, and I trusted that the teacher would tell me what had been happening.
I feel I know a little more about my kid because I’m fortunate enough to have some time in my week to help in Miles’ classroom. I’ve seen a little of Miles in action, and have a tiny insight into his learning. But what about the parents who aren’t able to get to their child’s school to help out? What insight do they have now? A series of dots that’s no more helpful than if the child had drawn them there themselves.
This course of action by the AEU seems irresponsible and misdirected.
The message it sends to me as a parent is that comprehensive recording of information about my child and the communication of it to parent’s is unessential. Unimportant.
If they felt it to be important, they wouldn’t be using it as a pawn in their battle with the state government.
I’ve been handed a meaningless report. I told Miles the truth about his report. “It doesn’t really say anything, just that you’re a little bit dotty.”
Meaghan Cook is a writer, photographer and mother of two children. You can find more of her writing on her website here.