Publicity in The Australian
The edition of The Australian for today, Tuesday, February 23, contained another attack on ETAQ, this time in the editorial. The piece can be found on the paper’s website at http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/give-english-students-a-break/story-e6frg71x-1225833196285
This seems to be part of a campaign and I anticipate that there will be more to come. The letter-to-the editor that I have sent in response is as follows:
Double change wasteful
Your leader writer has misunderstood, perhaps deliberately, information on the English Teachers Association of Queensland (ETAQ) website (“Give English students a break”, 23/2). Our concern is not the introduction of the national curriculum in general but that some Queensland high schools may be required to reorganize their Years 11 and 12 English work and assessment programs twice in two years: first to change to a new version of the Queensland Studies Authority’s senior English syllabus, and then potentially again in the very next year to accommodate the senior component of the national curriculum.
Such unnecessary double change doesn’t strike us as a sensible use of teacher time and effort which could be more productively devoted to actual teaching. This is particularly the case as schools will already be busy producing programs for the K-10 section of the national curriculum in English which is scheduled to be implemented first. A sensible solution would be for the QSA to allow schools to remain on whichever version of its senior English syllabus they are currently using, given that both are due to be replaced by the national curriculum in a relatively short period of time.
Annual General Meeting
Members are reminded that the AGM will be conducted on Saturday 13 March in conjunction with the seminar at Stuartholme School. Further details and a committee nomination form can be found on the ETAQ website at http://www.etaq.org.au/?page_id=193
If there are members persuaded by the negative depiction of ETAQ in recent items in The Australian then now would be the time for an alternative nomination for the position of president to come forward. A written nomination would need to reach the Secretary by 6 March.
Below is a letter-to-the-editor that the fine people at The Australian chose not to print in full this morning.
The weekend edition included a report that a retired linguistics academic had written to school principals in Queensland about some material published in the journal of the English Teachers Association of Queensland (ETAQ) in 2007 (“Grammar guide ‘an educational disaster’ “, 20-21/2). The material was previously the subject of a coordinated trio of items (news report, editorial and opinion piece) in this paper in June 2008. I do wonder how this matter is still seen to constitute news.
During his working life as an academic, Emeritus Professor Rodney Huddleston showed virtually no interest at all in the application of his discipline to teaching at school level. It is therefore somewhat strange that he should now be devoting a good deal of his time in retirement to a self-imposed crusade to protect teachers from what he sees as the harmful effects of some journal articles published more than two years ago.
The opening paragraph of the report described Professor Huddleston as “one of the world’s most respected authorities on grammar”. This description may well be justified, I’m certainly not qualified to judge, but many readers may not be aware that linguistics at university level is not a unified camp. There are a variety of approaches to describing the structure of the English language and not all are of equal value in helping school students to read and write more effectively.
In addition, few readers would be aware that Professor Huddleston’s approach to grammar might not completely accord with what they would consider appropriate. For instance, the listing of parts of speech in the work on which his reputation is largely based does not include the common grammar term “conjunction”. If this year’s NAPLAN tests include an item asking students to identify the conjunction in a given sentence they would be marked wrong if they used Professor Huddleston’s alternate classification.
Professor Huddleston’s recent communication to principals is based on a false assumption. He claims that ETAQ has issued a teaching guide. This is not really the case. Like many subject associations, ETAQ publishes a journal for sharing ideas about teaching practice. The ETAQ Management Committee approved the use of space for a series of articles mainly written by Dr Lenore Ferguson. However, the committee did not consider in advance, nor endorse, the content of the articles. That’s not how we run the journal. Members read articles that interest them and make their own professional judgments about what ideas, if any, they will incorporate into their own practice.
Even though Professor Huddleston is not a member of ETAQ, we responded to a request from him and an article of his, 41 pages in length, is currently published on the association’s website. Any members who are interested can read the material there.
That said, Professor Huddleston misrepresents what Dr Ferguson was trying to do in the series of articles. It should also be noted that Lenore Ferguson is highly respected in English teacher circles in Queensland for her contributions to the profession over many years. By contrast, irrespective of whatever he may have done in the field of linguistics, Professor Huddleston has never made any positive contribution to school level English teaching in the state.
Even if it were true that English teachers in Queensland needed to be warned about material published in the ETAQ journal more than two years ago, this paper has now done that on two separate occasions. The circulation of The Australian is significantly higher than that of any of ETAQ’s publications.
Greetings, fellow English teachers. With two weeks of the school term now gone I imagine that most of you can no longer really remember being on vacation. Please note the items below.
Garry Collins ETAQ President Date: Friday, 12 February 2010
Seminar in Brisbane – Saturday 13 March
Our first seminar in Brisbane for the year will be conducted at Stuartholme School on Saturday 13 March. This activity will constitute 3 hours of the CPD (Continuing Professional Development) now required by the Queensland College of Teachers.
The theme of the activity is “Living with external testing: How to prepare kids for NAPLAN and the like and still deliver a balanced, quality English program”. The keynote speaker is Dr Jill Freiberg from Griffith University.
A flyer with full details and a separate registration form are now available on the Events Page of the ETAQ website at www.etaq.org.au Hard copies will also be included in the mailing you’ll receive shortly.
After-school forum on English Extension – Wednesday 3 March 4
An after-school forum on English Extension will be hosted at Kelvin Grove State College on Wednesday 3 March. A combined flyer/registration form is available on the Events Page of the website at www.etaq.org.au
Invoices for renewal of membership will arrive shortly in the first hard copy mailing of the year. Please help us out by paying promptly. English in Australia
Included in the mailing will be a copy of the AATE journal English in Australia. Good news on this front is that the ARC has recently upgraded the journal to an A rating. Members are encouraged to consider contributing articles suitable for a refereed journal to the editor, Dr Karen Moni, who can be reached at email@example.com
Items for Words’Worth
Our own ETAQ journal, Words’Worth, has a more practical, classroom-oriented focus and our co-editors are also keen to receive suitable copy. What about sharing your favourite unit of work or classroom activity via an article in Words’Worth? Material can be sent to Lynda Wall (firstname.lastname@example.org ) or Sue Grotherr (email@example.com ).
Annual General Meeting
Don’t forget that the AGM will be conducted in conjunction with the seminar at Stuartholme on Saturday 13 March. Please participate in the running of your Association by attending. You won’t be pressured into a job but volunteers are always welcome.
Like to feature in Women’s Health Magazine?
The message below was recently received by AATE General Manager, Wendy Rush. Perhaps an ETAQ member might be interested in contacting the journalist concerned. Her name is Karlie Jeffrey. Message: “I’m a freelancer for Women’s Health Magazine and am currently working on a story about things you should know in life, but might not. Maybe you learnt them at school and just can’t remember them or weren’t listening. So we want to provide this information again. Hopefully it will act as a fun guide to any dinner party conversation. I was wondering if I could speak to an English Teacher to help me out with a few questions. They include; 1. Explain the significance and importance of Animal Farm and 1984. 2. What is a Freudian slip?”
Greetings, fellow English teachers.
I trust that you all enjoyed a pleasant vacation and that the start of the new school year has been full of promise and professional satisfaction.
ETAQ President Date: Monday, 8 February 2010
PD Dates to note
Members are asked to note the following dates for Brisbane-based PD and other important activities:
1.1. Wed 3 March after-school forum on English Extension at Kelvin Grove State College
1.2. Sat 13 March seminar (“Living with external testing”) & ETAQ AGM at Stuartholme
1.3. Sat 22 May seminar at the Anglican Church Grammar School (“Churchie”)
1.4. 4-7 July AATE/ALEA Joint National Conference in Perth
1.5. Tue 27 July after-school forum on books for adolescents
1.6. W/E 14-15 August Annual State Conference at Churchie
1.7. Sat 30 October Spring Literary Breakfast
The ETAQ website has recently benefitted from a revamp under the leadership of Bronwyn Darben. Checking it out regularly will keep you up to date www.etaq.org.au
AATE/ALEA National Conference
The closing date for proposals is 26 February so there is still time to be involved if you are interested in presenting a session.
The conference website can be found at http://www.englishliteracyconference.com.au
Shakespeare Workshop in Rockhampton
ETAQ members in central Queensland are advised that Bell Shakespeare will be conducting a free teacher forum in Rockhampton on Friday 5 March. The program is entitled “Shakespeare Battleplan” and the venue is yet to be confirmed. Further information can be located at http://www.bellshakespeare.com.au/learning/professionaldevelopment/freeteacherforum
This half-day (1:00 – 4:30 pm) PD activity is funded by DEEWR and there is no attendance charge for teachers. If you can arrange release from school for the afternoon this is an opportunity not to be missed.
ETAQ AGM – Committee recruits sought
ETAQ’s Annual General Meeting for 2010 will be conducted in conjunction with the seminar planned for Saturday 13 March. For a variety of reasons, a number of members of the existing Management Committee are unable to continue and some new recruits (or recycled older ones) would be warmly welcomed. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are at all interested. It is necessary to be a personal member rather than just covered by school corporate membership.
Implementation of 2008 Senior English Syllabus
Some members in schools which are yet to join the trial of the 2008 Senior English syllabus have expressed concern that the current QSA plan will require them to amend their senior work programs this year to implement the new syllabus with Year 11 from the start of 2011 and, in all probability, again next year to accommodate the introduction of the Years 11 and 12 component of the Australian (ie National) Curriculum in English. The Management Committee plans to write to the QSA on this matter but is not hopeful of a positive response. Since it involves a workload issue, this is primarily an industrial matter and concerned members are advised to contact their union for support, the QTU or the QIEU as the case may be.
It is anticipated that invoices for renewal of ETAQ membership will be mailed this week. Attending to this matter promptly will save unnecessary administrative follow-up.