Current issues in my professional context
Socioeconomic status of the community.
The American Psychological Association (APA) define socioeconomic status (SES) as “a combination of education, income and occupation” (APA, 2016). The education area is further broken down into 4 categories, family resources, school environment, academic achievement and psychological health. All of these factors affect the students that come to my school each day.
There is no statistical data available to tell the socioeconomic background of the students in our care, only cultural and academic achievement. However, based on my reading of the APA (2016) report, this should consider this factor as well. APA (2016) cite research which finds low SES effects language development, overall reading skill, proficiency in numeracy, and higher risk of dropping out of school. Our school has a decile rating of 3 and while I’m unable to develop strong relationships with the students, due to my role, I’m able to identify those that come from a low SES background based on their skill level, and general persona.
The APA article was thought provoking as it broke down all the factors affected by low SES, and mentions that, as teachers, we also have a wide range of backgrounds. These aren’t necessarily catered for, and could be better utilised when building student welfare and academic achievement.
Organisational culture and professional environments.
Our motto is “I will not cease from mental fight” encourages students to be life long learners, to approach education positively and with a growth mindset. They hopefully will be ‘capable and confident learners able to take their place in the world’. (School vision) This manifests itself through the diverse range of opportunities given to students, examples include the range of specialist classes (6), talent time run on a weekly basis, sports classes, Maori and Pacifica classes and productions.
As identified in Stoll (1998), we have many factors influencing our direction, from Government and Community of Learning (CoL) initiatives, to senior management improvements, to self identified areas of learning. As such there are many things that start with a hiss and roar, only to fade after the initial push, leaving behind some elements that some teachers may still be using.
Another element (Stoll (1998)), is school maturity where stagnation can lead to problems with culture change. It’s hard challenging old assumptions, especially those of the staff that have been around a while, or are comfortable with ‘the way things are’. This is evident in some of our staff where they are happy with the status quo and unwilling to try new initiatives.
Issues around the SES of the community
Parental involvement is less than that of a higher decile school. This is evident in the parental turnout at school events, with the feeling that there is a ‘leave them at the gate’ mentality. This can lead to a disconnect between home and school. A reason I can see for this is the experiences of the parents during their schooling. They are unwilling to come in to an uncomfortable environment, or come with an ‘aggressive’ attitude.
To combat this, the school actively encourages teachers to contact parents for positive reasons, has a Koru system where students are rewarded regularly and at assemblies, and has systems in place allowing low SES students to attend events such as camps. We have also signed up for Kids Can.
Another issue, truancy, is counteracted through the ‘Rock Up’ programme run in conjunction with the community constable where at risk families are closely worked with.
Lack of whanau engagement can have a positive spinoff, with teachers able to try new initiatives, and programmes without parental reaction to not sticking to the 3 ‘R’s’. This, however, can also lead to teacher apathy where they feel the families don’t care, so why bother.
Issues around school culture and professional environments.
Our teaching culture is a mix of 3 of the 4 teaching cultures identified by Stoll (1998). Some work as individuals, some in spontaneous collaborative groups, sometimes we are given groups to work within. Sometimes I work in isolation being the sole digital technology teacher, sometimes I’m working with my specialist team and sometimes with self selected peers on interest projects.
Norms of Improving Schools
Stoll (1998) identified 10 factors that influence norms for school improvement. I have highlighted those that I believe our staff use to foster a positive school environment, and italicised are those that are happing for some staff, but not all.
- Shared goals
- Responsibility for success
- Continuous improvement
- Lifelong learning
- Risk taking
- Mutual respect
- Celebration and humour
Here we can see the main factor missing is having shared goals. This can account for the disconnect between staff and the community at times.
APA. (2016). Education and Socioeconomic Status. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/publications/education.aspx
Stoll. (1998). School Culture. School Improvement Network’s Bulletin 9. Institute of Education, University of London. Retrieved from http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/Culture/Understanding-school-cultures/School-Culture