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Category Archives: collegiality

Maralyn Parker at Mascot Public School

The Daily Telegraph today gives the NSW state school system some much needed positive publicity. Mind you, Maralyn Parker often says sensible things.

Why more kids are now at public schools

The Daily Telegraph’s education writer MARALYN PARKER was principal-for-a-day at Mascot Public School. Here’s what she found in the classrooms…

Mascot is a thriving public school almost under the flight path near Sydney airport. It is a shining example of all that is great about NSW public schools and why enrolments in public schools across Sydney are increasing. There are now 228 public schools and 159 private schools in the area bounded by the Sydney CBD through to Port Hacking, including the eastern suburbs and Mascot. It is unique in that there are so many private schools concentrated in the area.

After decades of private school growth, Sydney families began turning back to public schools about four years ago. In 2004, 84,789 children were enrolled in Sydney’s public schools. In 2008, there are 87,908.  One of the many reasons for the turn, according to Sydney regional director Phil Lambert, is the myriad connections public schools have with their local communities.

Such a connection sparked what can only be called a magic public school moment, about half an hour into my Mascot principal-ship. Having already greeted and chatted to many parents, about the tenth who stopped us as Ms McKeown showed me around the school was Ruhal Ahmed. He is also general secretary of the Bangladesh Association of Australia.  The association uses the school premises on the weekend to hold classes for Arabic and Islamic studies. Mr Ahmed wanted to tell the principal that he could easily move the classes around to accommodate the Maori Christian Church services, which are also being held there on weekends. As the weather was getting colder, Mr Ahmed said, he was happy to share the warm inside rooms with the church.

I had an instant vision of Mascot primary Maori children singing their four-part harmony Christian hymns in a room next to Mascot primary Muslim children reciting the Koran in Arabic ; and everyone thinking that it was all just normal. Only in an Australian public school. No need for inter-faith days or cultural exchange days for children at this school. Most children enrolled in Mascot are actually from a Greek background.

Others are from Turkish, Islander, Bangladeshi and Aboriginal cultures…

I would love to tell you about each class I visited and each teacher I spoke to. I have to say I was stunned by the standards being reached by Mascot PS children. I tried to read a book, Reading Makes you Feel Good to some kinder children and they ended up reading it to me. I noticed among the stories written by Year 1 children one including the word laughable; spelt correctly.

Reluctantly I left my school for the day. Ms McKeown had told me, “I don’t go home any day thinking I have finished. There is always something more I wanted to do.”

By then I knew exactly what she meant.

That is what gets lost when politicians and talk-back hosts and academic critics with bees in their bonnets, axes to grind, or knickers in a twist get into the act. Remember this column. It could be replicated from many other state schools…

I saw Mascot, and around ten other schools in this area, for myself fifteen years ago when engaged in a research project on reading; it, and the others, mightily impressed me with what they were doing and the sheer dedication and intelligence they brought to their tasks. (I allude to that project in my essay on literacy.) It seems that what I saw then has been quietly going forward despite all the flak shot up by the pollies and commentators.


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Interlude 2: Marcel’s teaching experience

My fellow WordPress blogger Marcellous has written a funny and honest account of  life as an English teacher, even if he hints at a darker side. I can relate only too well to “scheming against a female head of English” as I saw that (and the reverse: a head of English scheming against the English staff) on at least three occasions. On the other hand I have also worked in English Departments where the harmony was very strong and few situations can be more pleasant. Unfortunately the reverse of that can be unbelievably stressful and destructive. In my case this even at one time led to as near to a breakdown as I would ever want to get. It certainly led to my leaving teaching for a period.

Marcellous went on to become a barrister. I didn’t…

But let me quote part of his post, and I hope he writes on this theme again:

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Posted by on October 5, 2007 in collegiality, other blogs, reminiscences, stress of teaching, teaching