Throwing the baby out with the bathwater

What seems like an age ago now I was involved as a senior research assistant on a project at one of the big universities in another state. The intention was that I use this research to complete a masters thesis, write a couple of papers, present at a couple of conferences and build the academic side of my life – something I have come to truly enjoy. But as so often happens with these things, life intervened and plans didn’t come off – well not completely.

Tonight I have been re-reading much of my work, trying to selvedge some of the ideas and concepts which I was writing about. Primarily it was looking at change management from the perspective of students and if there was any student voice included in this. There had been some pretty major structural change at the school and we, my supervisor and I, were specifically looking at this site (there were six or seven involved in the larger scale project), to see what the overall effects of the changes had been. At the time I had something of a bee in my bonnet about student voice (still do, but it is a bit more refined now – mostly because I think it needs to be authentic, not just ticking a box).

A lot of what I was looking at was based on the Middle School thinking about student engagement through building relationships, but expanding many of those lessons to all of the year levels – not just the ones in the middle. At the time my supervisor was intrigued, I was working at a Middle School, one of the first ones in Australia, but there was very little of the “middle school ethos” present in what I described as my working environment. And yet there was.

Building relationships with our students is core to what we do as teachers. We know that our students learn better when they are connected to what they are doing and who it is they are learning from. I know that there are some of my students who refuse to learn from teachers they don’t like, or perceive that don’t like them. During my research I looked at different models of school organisation, how it is that schools figure out who looks after the kids; who it is that they turn to when they need assistance.

When we are considering school organisations and changing from one structure to another, there is a temptation to consign the old way of doing things to the past in favor of the bright shiny and new. But we need to find a way to not be throwing the baby out with the bath water and build on the past rather than dismiss it.

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