Monday, 2 May 2011

Supporting Low Attendance Rates

After this May Day long weekend, last week's Easter & ANZAC 5 Day break as well as a week of School Holidays I can truly say tomorrow we are back into it! Most of our Indigenous students have had a 3 week break, compare to the 1 week holiday for the rest of the school.
This is a common story - that Aboriginal students head home to remote communities for extended amounts of time (whole terms even) and it can be very confronting for teachers who work to a term planner & want their kids to meet all deadlines!

Low attendance rates (or literacy, for that matter) do not come from Aboriginal people being unable to complete schooling or learn, they are simply experiencing a different set of expectations and commitments to the one within which we teach.
If our model does not effectively cater for Sorry Business, hunting trips, ceremonies and family expectations we are fundamentally preparing them for the wrong thing - an unsuccessful assessment of their education.

In supporting Indigenous students through their journey to their NTCET we have to allow for their sense of timing, travel and commitments. Being a Non-Indigenous teacher in the Indigenous section at school requires a commitment to re-examine how we view success - and this can be especially challenging in terms of attendance.

So tomorrow as I head into school my challenge is: how do I work with the student who has arrived back after being away for 9 weeks unexplained?
How will I view those who have had an extended three-week holiday compared to those who came back in Week 1? With flexibility and grace to find a way, or through a punitive lens ("you'll never catch up mate, it's not worth it")?

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