29/04/2020 - 11:15

A little appreciation makes a difference

29/04/2020 - 11:15

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The share market has been battered by the COVID-19 crisis but the stock we place in our teachers is soaring to record highs.

In the early childhood and primary levels particularly, teachers become partners in parenting. Photo: ThisisEngineering RAEng

The share market has been battered by the COVID-19 crisis but the stock we place in our teachers is soaring to record highs.

As many parents struggle with the transition to temporary home-based schooling for their children and the required daily levels of expertise, patience and dedication, they are discovering a newfound appreciation for the teaching profession.

Having to play the role of teacher, principal, playground supervisor and canteen manager concurrently, many parents have quickly discovered that taking care of learning does not come naturally. There are lesson plans to prepare, materials to gather, feedback to offer, assignments to review and online platforms to master.

And with many children treating their parents as long-suffering relief or substitute teachers, discipline issues will need to be dealt with.

What has become clear through this home schooling experience is that teaching involves more than just the three Rs of reading, writing and ’rithmetic.

Equally clear is that not all parents are cut out for teaching. 

Unsurprisingly, parents have taken to social media in droves to share their highway-to-hell home schooling experiences and detail how they are coming to grips with just a fraction of the daily challenges faced by teachers.

Compelled to take on the teacher’s role, we are finally fully appreciating the profession.

So, after years of effort by school leaders to try to build a culture of appreciation in our community, it has taken a pandemic for us to reach the conclusion that teachers are among the everyday unsung heroes.

Earlier this year, Monash University researchers completed one of Australia’s largest surveys of teachers and found that 71 per cent of classroom educators felt underappreciated.

Teachers also cited a lack of respect for the profession, excessive workloads and a heavy focus on data and testing as the biggest challenges facing their sector.

The results led to researchers launching the #ThankYourTeacher campaign.

The reality is it has been too easy – and too common – for many of us to unfairly blame our children’s teachers for every problem in the world at the same time as pushing more and more parental responsibilities onto them. 

Claims the teaching profession is being dumbed down because students with low Australian Tertiary Admission Ranks (ATARs) scores are being admitted into university education courses have done nothing to build appreciation for the thousands of talented teachers working with our kids.

These contextual factors have conspired to thwart attempts by school leaders, professional associations and teachers themselves to help the broader community appreciate the work done in and around the classroom every single day.

Yet the reasons for valuing the work of teachers are extensive.

In the early childhood and primary levels, your child and their teacher spend a great deal of time together. Truth be known, teachers become your partners in parenting and should command your utmost respect.

Teachers also work long and hard, with the lengthy breaks over summer offsetting some of the work done when school is in term. 

During this current period of home schooling brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents will be challenged by being an individual learning coach for one, two, three or more of their own children. These children or adolescents are likely to be at different stages of development and with differing learning styles.

Consider that a teacher has to deal with 20 learners or more – daily and in one large room – and you rapidly discover a newfound appreciation for the work involved.

Teachers also often achieve success against the odds. 

The challenges faced by teachers include large class sizes, increased accountability, socio-economic constraints, a lack of professional development matched to individuals’ needs, a paucity of resources, stringent testing regimes and difficult parents.

Yet teachers continue to do what is necessary to meet the needs of their students. They eat, drink and breathe new ways to engage and serve all students.

And talented teachers perform a dual role; they must be subject experts and be able to pass that knowledge on to their students. Many of them are now also moving that knowledge transfer into an online environment.

As parents, we should view simple recognition and appreciation of the important work that teachers do as a worthwhile investment in our own children.  

Teachers who receive regular recognition are likely to end up being more productive and engaged at work, and more likely to stay with the profession for the longer term.

Next time our teachers are up for a salary rise, let us view them as superheroes and worthy of extra pay.  

And while pay rises in this pandemic environment may be unrealistic, that is even more reason to acknowledge that teachers deserve to be better recognised and appreciated more for their work.

In the meantime, make sure you thank your children’s teachers for their efforts.

 

• Professor Gary Martin is chief executive officer at the Australian Institute of Management WA

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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